The top performers in our review are Nuance’s OmniPage 18, the Gold Award winner; Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC, the Silver Award winner; and ABBYY FineReader Professional, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Why Use OCR Software?
Optical character recognition (OCR) software converts your PDF files, scans and other images into searchable documents and saves you the time of having to retype text and re-create documents. However, before you buy OCR software, be sure you need it. Top Ten Reviews has created several review lineups for software or products that you may already own, and most of them include OCR capability.
If you have a reasonably new scanner, for instance, its software almost certainly can convert your scans, PDFs or images of text into searchable documents. Top Ten Reviews also has a review lineup that features document management systems and OCR capability is usually a component of these systems. Additionally, if you have purchased software that converts documents into PDFs, and allows you to create, edit, combine and change PDFs into other file types, you may also already have access to the optical character recognition you need.
OCR recognition has come a long way since its inception in the early 1990s. The technology today recognizes characters more accurately and recognizes them in a variety of languages. OCR is now also capable of re-creating your documents' original layout designs, colors and font choices. In addition, the best OCR applications can now use an image of a document taken with a cell phone or tablet, replicate it and make it searchable.
OCR Software: How We Tested, What We Found
The most significant and time-saving attribute of OCR software is how closely it mirrors your original document and how accurately it duplicates the text. While accuracy percentages are often given by manufacturers, we ran tests to determine our own accuracy count for this OCR software review. In one test, we simply ran a page of previously scanned Times Roman text through each application and determined how many characters were converted accurately. In another test, we took a one-page flyer with text in several different fonts, multiple images and a table, which enabled us to assess character accuracy when dealing with a more complex page. For a third test, we photographed the same flyer on a smart phone, downloaded it to the computer and looked at its accuracy.
We found that Nuance’s OmniPage 18 and Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC, scored best in these tests overall. ABBYY FineReader Professional did exceptionally well when we measured overall accuracy but slipped a little in our ease-of-use tests. ABBYY PDF Transformer, Soda PDF Pro + OCR and Nuance PaperPort Professional also did exceptionally well on accuracy scores. The rest of our Top Ten Reviews did well, but not quite as well as these.
Whenever possible, Top Ten Reviews evaluates all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences you would have as a typical consumer. The companies had no input or influence over our test methods, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. In addition, results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Top Ten Reviews provides you with a side-by-side comparison of a variety of OCR software packages. Although each package contains the OCR function, some direct your scanner while others work primarily with PDF documents and previously scanned images. Some have other functions in addition to OCR, and others are primarily focused on converting your hard copy files into searchable electronic documents. In addition, you can find several articles about OCR software on our site.
Value: Does Paying More Get You Better Performance?
At first glance, the price range of the ten products we chose to review seems large. So, does paying more get you better performance? The answer is not straightforward. The expensive outlier is the full price of newly updated Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. And while you certainly do get far more functionality from this all-new version of Acrobat, the reality is that those who choose this more expensive program will usually be upgrading from an existing version. This affects price dramatically as the upgrade price is very much in line with our other product’s pricing. Four other products also have both full and upgrade pricing and others have different pricing for Macintosh versions of the software. With these considerations in mind, the pricing for these products is not a reflection of additional functionality and cannot be used to judge the quality of the application.
Performance: Do the Application’s Components Perform Their Tasks Well?
In OCR software, performance is everything. A program may have a number of features, but its primary function is to convert images into accurate, searchable text in a format that duplicates the original graphic design. Performance also measures how easy the application is to use and its accuracy. Is the software is easy to use? Is it straightforward to download? Is it designed intuitively so you don't have to spend much time learning to perform basic functions before you read the documentation? And, once you know how to use the software, is it effective in helping you get your tasks done? Can it enhance or adjust the scan to improve accuracy and make the process even easier? Because of all these considerations, performance was heavily weighted.
Features: What Specific Tasks Will the Software Perform?
We reviewed each OCR software's feature set to see which ones provide the functions that best fit your project's needs. Occasionally a specific feature, like the conversion of mobile phone photos, may be vital to you while not at all important to someone else. With or without a long list of features, the software still needs to perform well. So, while features are important, the ratings in this section have less weight than those focused on the software’s performance.
Integration: Does It Work With Your Most Used Applications?
Better OCR software works with the applications and storage methods you are most familiar with and allows you to take a PDF and convert it to an MS Office format like Word or PowerPoint. In this section, we let you know if there is simple way to integrate with cloud storage or Microsoft Office applications. We also let you know if you can save to popular eBook formats.
Help & Support: What Resources Are Available?
While you want your OCR software to be intuitive, you do want access to support materials when you need them to dig more deeply into other aspects of your OCR software. In the “Help & Support” section, we let you know if the software package you are considering provides easy access to support tools. Does if offer a user manual, tutorials, answers to frequently asked questions or the ability to contact a live person for either customer service or technical support? You can also check our OCR software review matrix to find out if the application you’re considering comes in a Mac version.
OCR Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
The best, most comprehensive OCR software packages we found allow you to get your tasks accomplished quickly and easily. They provide almost perfect OCR accuracy, while retaining the original layout, and a larger variety of features than ever before. OCR functionality currently comes as a stand-alone software or as part of a larger document-management package. The best packages save you time and money while giving you electronic, searchable access to your replicated documents.
The highest performing packages in our OCR software review include OmniPage Standard 18 by Nuance Communications Inc., Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and FineReader Professional by ABBYY. These programs more than match the criteria we tested for and reviewed. Depending on your needs, others on our lineup may be the perfect fit for your company. We invite you to read our findings about the strengths and weaknesses of each of our Top Ten Reviews optical character recognition software packages.