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What is the Best Batch OCR Software for My Office?

Document search has become a vital function in almost every business. Unfortunately, not all documents can be searched. That's where batch OCR software comes in. What exactly does batch OCR software do? What features should I look for? Is there a good, cost-effective choice? Absolutely. And it's FileConvert. We'll walk you through the features and key considerations you need to keep in mind when comparing batch OCR systems, and show you why we recommend FileConvert.

Article Summary:

  • What is OCR? Why is OCR necessary?
  • What is batch OCR software?
  • What features should I look for?
  • How can I know if my batch OCR software is working?
  • Is OCR the same as indexing? Can I search now?
  • Jump to our recommendation »

What is OCR? Why is OCR Necessary?

The key concept here is text. If you want to search a document, it must have text. But where people tend to get confused is in trying to figure out what constitutes text and what doesn't. A Word document, for example, has text. How do you know? Because you can copy it and paste it somewhere else. That's really the most accurate test. Plus, logically, you know it has text because you typed the text in!

A scanned document or a fax, on the other hand, typically does not have text. Even though you can see words, your computer can't. All that your computer sees is a picture, no different that any other digital photo. Which raises the key question: how do you search something that doesn't have any text?

The answer is OCR, or Optical Character Recognition. This special piece of software can look at a picture, decide if it has words in it, and expose those words as real text.

What is Batch OCR Software?

In the old days, if you wanted to OCR a document, you had to open it, run OCR (which could take upwards of a minute per page), then try to figure out what to do with the text it gave you back. Batch OCR software takes all of the work out of your hands. It usually runs on your server (though it can run on a workstation or notebook just fine). It runs silently on its own, looking around on your hard drive for scanned documents. When it finds one, it will quickly perform OCR on each page, then convert the whole document into a searchable PDF file that looks exactly like the original, but now has real text to search. It will continue doing this over and over for every file it finds, running silently and continuously. Of course, you can control where the batch OCR software looks, what kinds of files it should look for, when it is allowed to run, and many other parameters.

What Features Should I Look For?

Ideally, you want batch OCR software that gives you as much control as possible. Typically, the software will have you set up a "job" which is just a set of instructions. The best batch OCR software will allow you to set up multiple jobs, and it will give you an easy interface to use. Some batch OCR software requires you to type in commands and use manual programming. Avoid these.

You should look for software that lets you control where the job looks for files and what kinds of files it should look for. You should also be able to decide what will happen to the OCRed files: should they replace the original? Should they go back into the same folder as the original? Should they go into a new place?

A watch folder is a useful feature. In this mode, the software watches a specific folder for new files. When a new file shows up, it immediately grabs it and performs OCR. Offices that use network scanners tend to like this feature.

You should be able to set up a schedule for when the software will run and when it will pause. Why? Because during a busy work day, you probably don't want intensive OCR running on the server, otherwise your users may experience slowness on the network. Instead, you should be able to set the software to only run at night. You should also be able to run the software as a service, which simply means that it can run behind the scenes without anyone logged onto the server.

Finally, your better batch OCR software offerings will give you power features like automatic document separation, automatic document routing, and automatic document naming.

How Can I Know If My Batch OCR Software is Working?

When you open the batch OCR software, it will show you an activity log, including what files are currently undergoing OCR, which ones are finished, and if there were any errors.

Is OCR the Same as Indexing? Can I Search Now?

Indexing is different than OCR. Indexing is performed by the search engine. The search engine looks at your documents, discovers what text occurs in each one, and builds a database that it can use for quick lookups. This process is called indexing. OCR makes it so that your documents can be indexed, but you will still need to set up a search engine. Luckily, Windows Search is a free search engine that comes on all versions of Windows and Windows Server these days. It does a great job of indexing and searching.

Our Recommended Batch OCR Software

FileConvert goes out of its way to make batch OCR as easy and automatic as possible. It contains all of the power features described in this article, but comes to you at a price point that's just a fraction of what you'd pay for other options. With the ability to not only OCR documents, but convert many kinds of files to fully-searchable PDF, it is the perfect option for offices of any size. Download a free trial today!

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