Free OCR Services

OCROCR is an abbreviation for Optical Character Recognition, conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. In other words, someone scans or takes a picture of a book or newspaper or printed piece of paper. The result is an image, typically a JPG or GIF or PNG or TIFF file. To convert that image to normal text that can be used in a word processor, an OCR conversion is required.

A newsletter reader wrote today and asked, “Do you have a suggestion for a free OCR program that doesn’t download a lot of “junk” onto your computer?” My answer is: “Don’t do that!”

Instead, use one of several available free OCR services available on the web. The advantages are: it’s free, it doesn’t require installing of software in your computer, it works on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Chromebook, Apple iOS, Android and probably other operating systems, it doesn’t leave anything behind in your computer, and… oh yes… it’s free. Several companies offer web-based (or cloud-based) OCR software without installation on your computer. They will recognize text and characters within scanned documents, photographs and digital camera captured images.

The downside is that most of the free services are limited in some way. Some will only decode one page or a few pages. Almost all of them will display an advertisement or two. After all, they have to pay the bills somehow! However, most of them are good for the occasional requirement to convert one or a few pages. If you have an ongoing requirement for OCR services, you will probably be better off installing a top-of-the-line OCR program in your computer. One warning: the better OCR programs are not cheap!

Most of the time when I want to convert an image into editable text, I use Google Drive. Instructions may be found at

Mocavo is a genealogy web site (now a division of that offers OCR conversions. See for details.

Here are some other services that offer free OCR conversions but please be aware I have not used all of them myself so I cannot tell you how well they work:

OnlineOCR at

Free Online OCR at

FreeOCR at

i2OCR at

OCR Convert at

To-Text at

Convert Image to Text at

A quick Google search will probably find more as well.

Before anyone asks: there is no computer program or service that will reliably read all hand-written documents.



Dick –

Do you have any recommendations for any of the computer-resident OCR programs?

I need more than a few pages.




Have you had any personal experience with either?

I have an old copy of OmniPage that I never had time to work with enough, and it’s most likely quite obsolete by now.

I’ve heard about ABBYY, but as you mentioned, these programs are not cheap.

I’d value hearing from anyone with personal experience with either of these “pay-for” programs, and I’m sure others might like to hear of experiences with the freebies you listed in your article.


    I bought ABBYY FineReader 12 Professional in July; as mentioned, it is definitely not cheap! I previously used ReadIris Pro v12 for a few years — I found it fairly good, but after much reading and contemplation decided I would try ABBY. It does work better for my purposes than ReadIris (I don’t know OmniPage at all). Every day I use ABBY to turn a PDF file of about 3 pages of newspaper obits (scans) into a readable PDF; it does a very good job on this. Obviously trouble comes when there is a low quality scan to deal with, for example from an old newspaper on microfilm at an archives. Manual cleanup is always going to be required in such situations, but I still find it worthwhile to create a .doc file first, using ABBYY FineReader.



I use PDF-XChange PRO by Tracker Software which I don’t think is particularly expensive at $80. I’ve used it for around 10 years in its various incarnations and thoroughly recommend it.. As well as OCR, it also makes PDFs from images, etc, and edits PDFs (rearranging pages, adding/deleting pages, adding annotations, etc).


Omnipage was recently available for $15 on an Amazon lightning deal. In my experience, Google works pretty well.


Every scanner I have purchased came with ocr software. I recently scanned and digitized an entire 400 page manuscript.


While I do not use any editing features, I use the app “Scannable” on both my IPhone & IPad it automatically captures your item and will send it via email to anyone you wish; my account is set up to send it automatically to my Evernote account.


I have omnipage and find it very functional. You can get it on sale at this time of year for around $100 or bundled with other Nuance programs for good prices. Before buying it, I tried a few of the online programs and settled on I find you often get a better program if you pay for it. At 10 cents a page, I’ve used them for German documents and have been totally satisfied.


I use Adobe’s Acrobat Pro (for work reasons) and am quite happy with the way it converts a PDF to a fully searchable document. So my process now is to scan to PDF not png or tif or jpg and then run it thru Acrobat Pro. I recently scanned a 155 pg book in this way.


I have FreeOCR downloaded on my computer and use it frequently with great sattisfaction. I also often use i2OCR as they offer many languages and are also excellent


I am a long time benefactor of your advice and news. My church is finally interested in long term preservation of both text and sound materials. I have read and saved many of your comments and suggestions, but cannot find them. One vendor is recommending using Tiff for paper files and gave no recommendation for audio material. Please tell me where to find your most current recommendations.
I have a large number of files already in Wordperfect format and some in .doc. Recently I have been preserving many of them as pdf. We would like to have the paper files saved searchable wherever that is possible.


    —> One vendor is recommending using Tiff for paper files and gave no recommendation for audio material. Please tell me where to find your most current recommendations.

    Audio files are generally a simpler problem. While there are many file formats available for audio files, by far the most popular format is MP3. Probably the second-most common format is MP4 which is simply an enhanced version of MP3. (MP4 also can include video as well as audio. See for details.) While some other audio formats are technically superior to MP3, they have not achieved as much popularity.

    MP3’s fidelity is also more than “good enough” for most voice recordings and similar items that genealogists wish to preserve. Audiophiles will quickly point out that other formats provide superior high-fidelity reproduction than does MP3 and they are right. The higher-fidelity formats such as OGG and Apple’s lossless AAC are better for high-quality music reproduction but that is typically not a concern of genealogists who are interested in saving older recordings of family members’ voices and music.

    Since MP3 is universally available and dozens of products are available to convert MP3 to other formats, if desired, I would use MP3 for long-term storage of my family’s audio files.

    If I was interested in saving a studio-quality audio file of a philharmonic orchestra or of the Rolling Sones, I would probably use OGG or AAC. However, for a baby’s first words captured on a handheld tape recorder, I would use MP3.

    Of course, like all other file formats, the saved files should be examined about once every ten years or so to see if they should be converted to some newer format that has become more popular in the past decade. That is true of audio files as well as digital images, videos, databases, web pages, and every other form of preserved digital files.

    Like portal is a completely free OCR tool that allows for free data conversion. It recognizes 44 languages and has support for lot of data formats.


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