If you want to quickly and accurately OCR scan documents on your Mac, here we’ve taken a look at the best OCR software to accurately scan documents on your Mac. The best OCR apps like ABBYY Finereader Pro are incredibly fast and accurate at scanning documents, instantly digitizing them and making them searchable by keywords. Here then we list the top 10 OCR software for Mac of 2018 in order of ranking.
ABBYY Finereader Pro for Mac is one of the most highly rated and specialized OCR programs on both Mac and PC. The developer claims it has an accuracy of 99.8% and although in reality this depends on the quality of the original document, the overall accuracy of ABBYY Finereader Pro for Mac is easily the best on the market. It certainly does an excellent job of preserving the original formatting of the scanned document including text size, font styles and layouts.
The FineReader Pro user interface is fairly straightforward. To get going, simply select the source of your scan which can be from your Mac, iPhone or Scanner. The Mac and Scanner options are self-explanatory but note that FineReader Pro for Mac only supports ICA compatible scanners including Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners – it does not support TWAIN. The iPhone option allows you to scan documents, receipts and other notes that you may have taken photos of on the move. To speed things up, FineReader Pro uses Quick Conversion and Quick Tasks to help simplify the process of scanning documents.
When you’ve selected your source, ABBYY FineReader will detect any documents that can be scanned. It will automatically detect the scanning language but you can choose to scan in 180 different languages or a mixture of several including Arabic and Hebrew.
It doesn’t matter how long the document is as there’s no word limit imposed on scans although the longer the document, the longer the scan will take. However, one page takes no more than a few seconds to scan so even pages that run into hundreds of pages shouldn’t take long. You can also select specific text on a page to scan if you don’t want to scan the entire document.
In general, Finereader Pro is very good at recognizing all types of fonts and accurately digitizing them. The accuracy of any OCR software often depends on the quality of the original document but Finereader Pro is remarkably good at detecting text on older and less than perfect text quality in documents.
For optimal results, ABBYY recommend using Grayscale/color mode with a resolution of 300 dpi and a font size 10 or larger and 400-600 dpi for smaller text. On a clear PDF document, you can expect almost 100% accuracy and only a little less on other documents unless they are in really bad condition or the text is barely legible. This means less time having to manually edit or correct documents afterwards which is usually one of the biggest problems when you OCR scan a document. Note that like most OCR software, FineReader Pro cannot recognize hand written text.
In addition, FineReader Pro for Mac is the best we’ve tried when it comes to preserving the format and layout of the original document. FineReader Pro uses it’s own proprietary ADRT (Adaptive Document Recognition Technology) scanning engine which can detect everything from tables and headers to footnotes and page numbers. This even includes native formatting attributes meaning it’s easy to update or modify tables afterwards just as if you were editing the original document.
If you don’t want FineReader Pro for Mac to detect element such as page numbers, headers, footers and pictures, you can tell it to exclude these from scans so that you just get the raw text.
When it comes to what format you want to save the scanned document in, FineReader Pro for Mac also allows you save scans in most major formats including Word (DOCX), OpenOffice Writer (ODT), RTF, Excel (XSLX), Powerpoint (PPTX), PDF & PDF/A, HTML and eBook EPUB/FB2 formats. You can also export scans directly to other applications such as Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Apple Numbers etc. To open a scanned document in any of these applications, make sure you select the “Open after save” box in the “Save” dialog box.
One of the most popular reasons for using OCR software is to reduce paperwork. ABBYY allows you to create scanable archives of your documents in PDF format. The problem with PDFs is that they can take up a lot of disk space but ABBYY compresses them in PDF/A format while still allowing you to search them for text.
Other PDF export options include the ability to create tagged PDFs that are optimized for mobile devices and create PDF outlines for faster navigation across documents. Note that ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac cannot edit PDF documents. It’s designed purely for OCR scanning and if you need to be able to edit the original PDF file before scanning, you’re better off going for Adobe Acrobat Pro (see review below) which edits and performs OCR scanning although the OCR feature is not as good as in FineReader Pro. In addition, it can only convert password protected PDF documents if you know the password.
One of the most useful features of ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac is the ability to scan photos that you’ve taken on your phone. This is ideal for archiving receipts and other documents when you get home or back to the office. The application analyzes and corrects the image before scanning to ensure that the scanned text is as accurate as possible. Even on blurred or photos taken in low lighting, this works surprisingly well.
If the scanned OCR text isn’t very accurate after scanning an image or photo, you can also manually adjust the settings to try and make it sharper:
Another useful tool is the ability to convert documents into eBooks which you can read on iPad, Kindle and other devices which support the EPUB and FB2 format.
If you need to OCR large batches of documents on a regular basis, you can also use OS X Automator and AppleScript to automatically run OCR scans using FineReader Pro. For instance, you can specify a folder to drag and drop documents into that will automatically OCR scan any documents in it periodically. This takes a little configuration and setting up but it’s a great time saver as it doesn’t even require opening FineReader Pro – you can just drag, drop and forget.
In general, there’s very little to fault with ABBY FineReader Pro for Mac but there have been some useful features removed in the latest version for no apparent reason.
For example, in the latest version, the ability to preview or edit a page before exporting has been inexplicably removed. Unlike the PC version of ABBYY FineReader Pro, you can’t edit any text until you’ve exported the scan which is a bit frustrating as it’s more convenient to edit errors at source rather than in the final document. It’s therefore recommended that if your document contains unrecognized or unusual symbols, you highlight them before exporting for easier detection and manual editing afterwards. Pattern training and custom user dictionaries are also not supported in the Mac version.
More recently, FineReader 14 for Windows was released and there are some features that are unique to the Enterprise and Corporate edition that are not available on Mac. These include the ability to compare documents and automate OCR scanning of multiple documents. There are several other differences between the Mac and PC version of Finereader Pro and we recommend you check this Finereader Pro Mac and PC FAQ for a full overview.
In summary, in terms of OCR accuracy, format preservation and overall features and control over OCR scans, ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac is the best we’ve tried. The real test of OCR software is how it performs on documents with low text quality or images in poor lighting and ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac seems able to accurately read whatever you throw at it.
ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac usually retails for $119.99 but ABBYY is currently offering 25% off FineReader Pro for Mac until March 19th 2018 meaning it costs $89.99 which is a real bargain considering what you get. Students and educators can also get a 30% educational discount. Although you can buy it through other vendors, we recommend buying direct from ABBYY as you will get updates to the software much quicker. Support is included in the price of FineReader Pro for Mac and includes localized phone support. Note that ABBYY also make FineReader Express for OS X 10.6 ($60) which only works on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard but doesn’t have as good character recognition and is very outdated nowadays.
At one time, Adobe Acrobat was one of the only ways to do OCR scanning on Mac. As you can see in this article, nowadays that’s completely changed although Adobe Acrobat Pro DC still features a very good OCR tool. Adobe invented the PDF file format and there’s certainly no doubt that it’s the most powerful PDF document editor and still the most popular way to convert, sign, send and manage PDF documents. Acrobat allows you to create PDFs from almost any source, edit or export PDFs to office, edit scanned documents, add video and audio to PDF files and edit them in mobile app. If you want to sign and send document after scanning it, Adobe Acrobat is also one of the most popular apps on Mac to e-sign documents.
It’s not exactly obvious that OCR functionality is included in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for Mac because it goes under the name of “Recognize Text”. To access it in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, you must open the PDF you want to scan and then go to Tools > Enhance Scans > Recognize Text > In This File. You can also add multiple files if you want to OCR more than one document in one go. Note that all documents must have a resolution of at least 72dpi (Dots Per Inch) in order to scan in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC which is a fairly low requirement and should cover most modern documents.
When Adobe Acrobat for Mac scans your document, it then creates a layer of text that you can then copy, paste or edit manually as you please. You can then select things like text language to and page range in the secondary toolbar that appears. Note that the number of languages supported by Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is quite small as you can see below although it of course covers most major languages including British and American English.
Adobe Acrobat also allows you to customize the way you want to scan the document. You can configure both the PDF Output Style i.e. what kind of OCR PDF you want it to create and whether you want to Downsample the document.
The PDF Output Style options allow you to create 3 different types of document and relate to how Adobe Acrobat handles images. You can choose to create a Searchable Image, Exact Searchable Image and Editable Text & Images. If you select Searchable Image, Images will be preserved but deskewed and an invisible text layer placed over it. Exact Searchable Image preserves the original image location and does not deskew it. Finally Editable Text & Images synthesizes a new custom font that’s very similar to the original and preserves the page background in low-resolution. Meanwhile Downsampling allows you to reduce the resolution of the document you want to OCR which is useful if it has a lot images. Downsampling decreases the number of pixels in images after OCR scanning is complete.
The OCR tool in previous versions of Acrobat was quite slow and inaccurate but Adobe have improved it significantly in Acrobat Pro DC and now OCR scanning on Mac is generally fast and accurate. In the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Pro for Mac, Acrobat has a tool called “Preflight” which will go through a document you have scanned and check for OCR errors. It does this by analyzing bitmaps of text and then inserts words and characters it thinks are correct. If Acrobat Pro is uncertain, it highlights the word as suspect so that you can easily see it and then check it manually yourself. This feature is also a bit hidden and not easy to find on first glance in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for Mac but you must open your scanned OCR document and select Enhance Scans from the right. Then select In This File from the Recognize Text menu. Then select the Settings icon and choose Searchable Image (Exact) from the Output menu. Click the Recognize Text button to scan the document. Once this is done, you must close the Enhance Scans tool and in the Search Tools box in the right-hand side, type “preflight” to see and launch the Preflight tool.In the OCR Preflight search bar, type OCR and select Make OCR text visible. The you must click the Analyze and fix button at the bottom.
After Analysis, you need to save the file and close the Preflight tool. Finally, open the Layer panel on the left to reveal the new layers. If you click on the eye symbol to the left of Invisible text, you can toggle the layers on and off for to compare and decide whether to keep the corrections Adobe Acrobat has made to the OCR document.Despite the Preflight OCR correction tool however, the accuracy of Adobe Acrobat Pro still very much depends on what you’re scanning as to the kind of results you will get. Simple printed documents are fine but if you’re trying to scan older documents or those with images less than 72 dpi, then Adobe Acrobat will struggle. Adobe recommends scanning at 300 dpi (which is magazine print quality) for the most accurate results. At 150 dpi, the OCR accuracy is a bit lower and once you get below 100 dpi, you’ll find yourself having to make quite a few manual edits to correct documents. Note also that Adobe Acrobat cannot OCR documents that contain renderable (i.e. editable) text in – it has to be a PDF or image document.
Overall, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is still the most complete PDF editing software for Mac out and the OCR features are excellent. If you need to edit documents after scanning, or sign and send them instantly, there is still no better application than Adobe’s Acrobat Pro.
The downside for some users is that all Adobe products are now available on a monthly subscription payment model only as part of Adobe Creative Cloud but this does mean you don’t have the hassle or cost of annual upgrades and Creative Cloud allows you to access your PDF and OCR documents anywhere. On it’s own, Adobe Acrobat Pro costs $14.99 per month. Note that although Adobe Acrobat Standard DC is slightly cheaper at $12.99 per month, there is no Mac version of it – it’s Windows only.
It may however be wiser to subscribe to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite depending on your needs. A subscription to Creative Cloud costs $49.99 and includes access to all of Adobe’s industry leading apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere Pro. If you need an alternative to Publisher for Mac for example, Adobe InDesign is well worth having. Or if you’re planning to edit video on your Mac, Adobe Premiere Pro is arguably the best video editing software for Mac and both are included as part of Creative Cloud. If you’re studying or teaching, students and educators get 60% off the entire Adobe Creative Cloud which you might as well go for than pay $14.99 for just Adobe Acrobat. Note that Adobe does not provide telephone support for Acrobat Pro but it does offer user forums and online live chat support.
If you only want Adobe Acrobat though, you can try a free trial of Adobe Acrobat Pro to judge it for yourself.
Price: $74.99 / Special Offer: Currently 20% Off $60.99
PDFPen is mainly a powerful but user friendly PDF conversion and editing software but it does also offer a simple OCR tool. The accuracy of PDFPen is pretty good as it uses the OmniPage OCR engine which is widely acknowledged for scanning accuracy although it still requires fairly clear high res documents to work well.
When you open a PDF document in PDFPen using the “Import from Scanner” option, it automatically asks you whether you want to perform an OCR scan:
Simply click on “OCR Page” or OCR Document to start the scan. Afterwards, you’ll be able to search, copy and paste text from the document.
To help optimize documents for OCR scanning accuracy, PDFPen also has a useful “Deskew and Adjust Image” tool which straightens the image and adjusts image contrast and exposure. In our tests, PDFPen struggled a bit with very long PDF documents but for this may have been due to varying image quality within the document. For several pages or one off scans, it works very well. PDFPen is generally fast compared to most other OCR software on Mac and for those that regularly need to edit and convert PDF documents but also need an OCR tool, PDFPen is a very good option. Note that PDFPen for Mac support is via email only.
Note that PDFPen used to be available in the Mac App Store but is now only available directly from the developer Smile for $74.99 although it is currently on offer at 20% off for $60.99.
DEVONthink Pro Office is aimed at those that want to go completely paperless in their home or office. The developer DEVONthink only make software for Mac and iOS and so all of its products look and work really well on OS X. DEVONthink Pro Office is a professional OCR software that’s ideal for small businesses that want to automatically OCR everything that comes in and goes out. The OCR engine in DEVONthink Pro Office is actually ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac – ABBYY license their OCR engine to integrate into other products and so in terms of accuracy, it’s very similar to ABBYY (see review at the beginning of this article for more). The difference is that DEVONthink Pro Office is more of a document organizer than a dedicated OCR solution so there are fewer OCR features but lots of document organization, syncing and filing tools. It’s also a lot more expensive than FineReader Pro at $149.95.
A nice touch to DEVONthink Pro Office is that it intelligently files your documents based on how you previously filed similar documents. You can then search and retrieve these documents easily similar to the way you can search and retrieve emails in an email client. The clever thing is how DEVONthink groups documents together and finds similar documents via the “See also” feature.
You can also tag and group documents manually enabling you to keep everything far better organized digitally than having piles of paper documents.
All documents you upload to DEVONthink Pro Office – either by scanning on your Mac or taking photos of on your iPhone or Pad – are automatically synced with DEVOnthink. They are then automatically OCR scanned meaning you don’t have to do anything other than upload them. If you run into any problems, DEVONthink Pro for Mac support is via email but there are support forums too.
DEVONthink Pro Office definitely isn’t one for users that just need to do OCR on the odd document as it’s quite expensive too but if you’re running a business that needs to OCR thousands of documents, it’s a more suitable solution. Note that DEVONthink Pro ($79.95) is a slightly different product to DEVONthink Pro Office ($149.95) – only the Office version includes OCR, professional email archiving and a web server for team collaboration so be careful when purchasing.
Finereader Pro, Adobe Acrobat, PDFPen and DEVONthink are certainly the most accurate and feature packed when it comes to OCR scanning on Mac. Before continuing, it’s useful to have a side-by-side comparison to see how they compare which you can see in the comparison table below.
Easy to Use
Preserves Original Format
Supports Batch OCR
Mac Desktop App
MS Office Integration
Sharing/Real Time Colloboration
ABBYY Finereader Pro
$89.99 (25% Off until mar 19 2018 )
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
However, they’re not in everyone’s budget range and there are several other cheaper OCR apps on macOS that don’t quite measure up to these four but are still worth considering if you don’t mind something a bit more basic and less accurate.
Here we take a closer look at some cheaper OCR apps for Mac users.
Price: $29.99 Mac App Store
Prizmo is a more basic but still very decent and economical alternative to both ABBY FineReader Pro and Adobe Acrobat Pro for Mac. Most users find that the text accuracy isn’t quite as good, especially where images are involved, but it does a pretty good job on just black and white documents and can handle images well if they’re in high resolution (you can see the sort of accuracy you can expect from Prizmo by checking the results gallery).
Prizmo supports an impressive 40 different languages although only 10 are included in the demo, the rest you must download separately. Although Prizmo supports multiple languages, you can only scan in one language mode which may be a problem for those scanning documents that aren’t just in English.
It’s also not very good at handling articles in a low resolution which is often one of the things that separates more expensive OCR software from budget alternatives such as Prizmo. You’ll need to make sure that any documents you scan with Prizmo are above 200 dpi to get decent results with Prizmo (most magazines for example are 300 dpi) whereas Adobe Acrobat Pro can handle documents as low as 72 dpi.
Most recently Prizmo has been updated with a new Yosemite/El Capitan style interface and much better integration between the Mac and Prizmo iOS app too. Prizmo supports Handoff which means that if you take a photo of a document on your iPhone or iPad, you can access it in Prizmo straight away which is far more convenient than having to use a scanner. Prizmo also has an OCR extension which can plug into OS X and allow you to OCR directly from within Finder any document or image you have open on your desktop.
You can buy Prizmo either from the Mac App Store for $29.99 or direct from the developer. The developer also offers a Prizmo+Pro version for $74.95 which also includes OCR batch processing of multiple documents in one go, automator action and custom export scripts. You can also upgrade to the Pro version if you buy the Mac App Store version by making an in-app purchase of Prizmo Pro. The Mac App Store version isn’t updated as quickly as the developer version but does feature integration with iCloud if that’s important for you. There is a free demo version of Prizmo which has no time limit but when you export a file, there is a watermark installed and some characters are omitted in business cards. Note that Prizmo requires OS X 10.10 Yosemite or higher.
Price: $29.99 Mac App Store
OCRKit is a no-nonsense, easy to use and very effective open source OCR Mac scanning tool that also works Windows. Although OCRKit is based on open scource OCR technology, it’s still a commercial product however and requires purchasing to use. OCRKit supports batch OCR scanning and the accuracy is surprisingly good no matter what the condition or resolution of the original document. If you need to scan particularly old or damaged documents or images, OCRKit is well worth a try if you’re not wanting to splash out much cash. Using OCRKit couldn’t be easier. Simply drag or drop any PDF, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, PNM, BMP, PCX, GIF or OpenEXR document into the OCRKit Dock icon or interface and it will prepare it for scanning.
Select a file name to save the OCR document to:
Within a few seconds or minutes depending on the number of pages to be scanned, OCRKit will display the OCR document:
There are a few nice touches to OCRKit. The automatic rotation tool detects the orientation of each document automatically so you don’t need to manually organize a stack before scanning – very useful if you’re scanning multiple documents that aren’t organized very well. Unlike Mac OCR software such as Prizmo, OCRKit will also automatically detect multiple languages which is very useful if you’re scanning documents in more than one language. If you’re a fan of Applescript too, OCRKit works with it so you can automate batches of OCR tasks. One other nice touch is that OCRKit is also integrated with Apple’s word processor Pages meaning you can drag a finished OCR document into Pages and perform further editing there.
If you’re looking for an incredibly easy but surprisingly powerful Mac OCR download, we highly recommend trying OCRKit.
Price: $3.99 Mac App Store
Picatext is the ultra budget option when it comes to OCR for Macintosh computers but it’s actually very nifty. Picatext is generally surprisingly accurate – including when scanning over 40 foreign languages and text within images – although it does struggle at lower resolutions and even sometimes with italics and numbers. Picatext can only handle one page at a time which means it’s not suitable for lawyers or teachers that need to scan hundreds of pages but it’s fine for one-off OCR scanning needs on Mac.
Picatext is very easy to use though and simply requires you to drag and drop documents into the app or access it from the Menu Bar. If you choose the Menu Bar option, Picatext shows a mini preview of the document you’ve got open on your desktop and allows you to select all or part of the document that you want to scan. Alternatively, you can access Picatext via hotkey combination TRL-CMD-ALT-P. Any text that you scan in Picatext can be instantly pasted to your clipboard when it’s done.
For those that need an OCR app for occasional use with short and clear documents on a very small budget, Picatext is definitely worth a try.
Readiris Pro is one of the most established OCR software packages on the market. It was originally designed for Windows only and for many years the developers didn’t put much effort into Readiris for OS X but that has now changed. Readiris is now a very well designed OCR scanner that can scan an impressive 130 different languages. In general scanning with Readiris Pro is pretty accurate although it’s not great on low resolution documents. What we really like about Readiris Pro is the way you can choose which application you want to your OCR document to be opened in such as Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, Word, Excel, Evernote, Outlook etc. The exported document is therefore formatted so that it looks exactly the same as the original in the application of your choice so you spend less time reformatting it than you might have to with some OCR apps.
You can also export the result to Apple Pages, Apple Numbers and even iTunes. One drawback for those that need to OCR multiple documents at once is that Readiris Pro is limited to importing 50 pages at once which maybe OK for small businesses but may not be convenient for larger enterprises. However, Readiris Business allows unlimited pages at once and supports automatic file conversion so you don’t have to keep converting files manually.
Readiris was recently updated to version 15 and has seen some significant improvements to the OCR engine which is now more accurate, there’s a more user friendly interface, more PDF settings, and you can now convert scans to eBook and even audio AIFF file format. Readiris can also now save your documents to Box, SharePoint and OneDrive and in general, scanning is faster than in previous versions. As a PDF management tool, Readiris Pro is easy to use, allowing you to easily add or delete pages and drag and drop formatting any way you want.
Note that Readiris is not available on the US Mac App Store but you can buy Readiris Pro for $99. Readiris Corporate is more expensive at $199.99 but it does allow unlimited batch scanning and automatic file format conversions. You can also sign-up for a free trial of Readiris for Mac.
VueScan Pro for Mac is a basic scanning software that’s become very popular because it works with virtually all brands and makes of scanners new and old. VueScan Pro has a basic OCR tool which works with multiple languages (English is included but you must download language packs for other languages). VueScan does a very crude job of scanning text in a document or image and dumping it into a text file with no formatting. If you’re not bothered about formatting and just want a quick and easy scanning tool to extract text from a document on your Mac or PC, VueScan Pro is effective although at $99.95, it’s quite expensive for what it is.
To create an OCR text file with Vuescan, make sure you’ve purchased the Professional version ($99) not the Standard version ($39.95) which which doesn’t support OCR. Make sure your scanner is connected and to perform an OCR scan, make sure the “Input” tab is selected and then change the “Options” field to “Professional”. Then in the “Output” tab, simply select “OCR Output File”. Click “Scan” and then “View” to see the outputted text. The results won’t be perfect and you’ll have a lot of cleaning up to do but it’s definitely quicker than typing an entire document.
Price: $4.99 Mac App Store
Condense is a cheap and cheerful German OCR app which delivers surprisingly good results for small bits of text. Condense isn’t suitable for long documents but if you just want to extract a paragraph or a few lines of text or code from a document or scanned document/image on your desktop, it does the job. Condense supports 35 different languages and is generally a very quick, easy and effective solution for dumping text into file.
Condense is about as easy as it gets when it comes to OCR software. It sits in your Menu bar and all you need to to do is select “Scan” and use the cross-hairs to select the text you want to scan. Note that you need to zoom into a document as much as possible in order to improve the accuracy of the OCR scanning. Condense also has a handy “QuickFix” tool which can correct badly scanned text.
Top Free OCR Software On Mac
You generally get what you pay for and there is very little free OCR for Mac software that works well but there are a few apps worth trying. If you plan to scan regularly and need good accuracy, then we highly recommend going for one of the best commercial OCR for Mac software such as ABBYY FineReader Pro or Adobe Acrobat Pro. The main drawbacks of free OCR software is that the scanning accuracy is usually poor, they don’t support batch OCR jobs and they don’t preserve the formatting of the original document. However, if you’re in a hurry, don’t want to splash any cash or have the time to manually correct both the formatting and text of the result, you can OCR for free from your Mac.
Here then is the best free OCR for Mac software.
Tesseract is a highly accurate open source optical character recognition engine that anyone can use for free. Since 2006, Tesseract has actually been sponsored by Google but there’s just one big drawback – there’s no graphical user interface. The idea of Tesseract is that software developers integrate it into their own OCR software. Indeed some of the other free online OCR tools featured here may use Tesseract as their main scanning engine. Otherwise, Tesseract has to be used from a command line interface that is beyond the capabilities of most general users. However, there are a few free third party apps which give Tesseract a GUI and work on Mac such as VietOCR. Generally, you’ll find that because Tesseract is an open source project, the majority of software developed for it is on Linux such as OCRFeeder which provides one of the most user friendly GUI’s for a Tesseract based OCR app.
PDF OCR X Community Edition is one of the few free standalone OCR apps on Mac. Be warned however that it doesn’t work very well at all. The accuracy of scans is very poor and it simply dumps text into a file – there’s no preserving of formatting or images. The only circumstances we’d recommend using PDF OCR X Community Edition is if you’ve got a clearly printed black and white document that’s mainly text. Note that you’re also limited to just one page in this free version – for more you have to upgrade in-app to the PDF OCR X Enterprise Edition for $29.99 to remove the one page limit.
Price: Free Mac App Store
For a free Mac OCR software, LEADTOOLS OCR does a pretty good job of OCR scanning on a Mac. The accuracy of the text scanned is surprisingly good – even on older or low resolution documents – although it doesn’t preserve any kind of formatting. But as long as the documents you are scanning aren’t too long, it doesn’t take too long to reformat and correct text manually unless there are lots of images in your documents in which case we wouldn’t recommend using LEADTOOLS OCR for Mac at all. If you just want to scan one block of text, you can select just one part of a document to scan by selecting “Interative” and then “Draw Zone” to reveal the highlighting tool. There is also a free LEADTOOLS OCR iOS app available which allows you to take photos of documents and scan them immediately with LEADTOOLS OCR. Note that like PDF OCR X Community Edition, LEADTOOLS OCR only works for one page PDFs – there’s no batch processing so you have to tediously scan one page at a time.
Not many people realize that Google Drive also has its own OCR feature. If you upload a document or image to Google Drive, go to your Google Drive Settings, Upload Settings and there you will see the option Convert text from uploaded PDFs and image files. However, note that this only works with documents or files smaller than 2MB and is limited to the first 10 pages. Accuracy is OK but depends on the original quality of the document you are scanning.
Price: Free Mac App Store
Evernote is one of the most popular note taking applications out there for both Mac and PC. Although Evernote is primarily an organizational tool, when you upload and sync clippings, documents or images to it, it automatically performs an OCR scan by scanning the file for text. If you’re already an Evernote user and weren’t aware of this feature, then Evernote may already be the OCR software you need on your Mac. The slight problem with the OCR feature on Evernote however is that using it is a bit of a “blind” process. Since scanning it automatic, you have no control over the configuration of the scan or over how long the scan takes. In addition, you must Sync a note with a mobile device in order to trigger the OCR function – which isn’t very practical if you want to scan something directly from your Mac.
When you sync a mobile device with Evernote, the OCR process starts automatically on Evernote’s servers but there’s no knowing how long it takes as there’s no indication that it’s actually happening in the background. For those using the premium version, it’s a bit quicker but for those using the free version it might take at least 30 minutes or so. The only way you’ll know it’s done is to search your Evernote image or PDF for text and if Evernote highlights the desired words, then you’ll know it’s worked. If the OCR process has worked, you can save also save the file as a text searchable PDF by selecting Save Searchable PDF As…
Evernote isn’t a particularly user friendly or customizable OCR software but if you want a way to organize clippings, saved web pages and other documents, Evernote is a very powerful and effective tool.
Price: Free Mac App Store
OneNote is Microsoft’s answer to Evernote and there is now an in-built OCR scanning tool in Microsoft OneNote For Mac. OneNote For Mac is free and can scan any images you add to OneNote for text. Once scanned, you can add the scanned text to your notes. To perform an OCR scan on images or documents you’ve added to OneNote for Mac is very easy. Simply insert or upload the image or PDF document to OneNote. Ctrl-click on the image or PDF document and select Copy Text from Picture.
Note that this option will only appear if OneNote has been able to scan the text in the image already in the background. If the text is unclear or the image is poor quality, the option may not appear at all as OneNote is unable to OCR scan it. Once complete, you can then copy and paste the text anywhere you want in OneNote or any other application. In our experience, OneNote requires fairly clear image and text quality in order to scan successfully otherwise, as mentioned, you won’t even see the Copy Text from Picture option anyway. Handwriting for example, doesn’t scan very well and whatever you scan, you may find you have to make several manual corrections to spellings and characters.
Price: $3.99 Mac App Store
Elucidate is another very simple OCR tool designed to create searchable PDFs. The accuracy of Elucidate is surprisingly good for an OCR app that costs just a few dollars. Elucidate is very easy to use. Simply drag a PDF file into Elucidate’s main interface and within a few seconds, it creates a fully searchable version of the PDF. If you want to edit the PDF, you’ll need a PDF editing tool such as Adobe Acrobat Pro or PDFPen but once scanned in Elucidate, you can highlight text, spellcheck and add comments to text. Alternatively, you can export scanned PDF to a simple TXT file that you can copy and paste into another document or edit. The accuracy of scanned text goes down significantly below high res documents of 300 dpi but Elucidate is surprisingly accurate for such a cheap app and is useful for quick and easy OCR jobs.
Online OCR Converters
There are a few online OCR converters that can OCR scan your documents for free without having to download any additional software. However, you’ll generally find that the accuracy isn’t very good and that you have to pay anyway if you need to do some serious scanning. We also don’t recommend online OCR converters for scanning sensitive or confidential documents as you have to upload them to a third party server first.
However, if you just need a quick, easy and free OCR scan and don’t mind spending lots of time, cleaning them up, here’s a few of the best online OCR converters worth trying on Mac.
OnlineOCR.net is a free online OCR service that supports 46 languages including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. OnlineOCR.net will take any PDF (including JPG, BMP, TIFF, PCX or GIF) document and convert it to Word (DOCX), Excel or TXT format. OnlineOCR.net is surprisingly flexible allowing you to specify which pages you want scanned in a multipage document and for registered users, scan multiple documents in a ZIP upload. Note however that file uploads are limited to 5MB and the free version is limited to 15 images per hour. If you want to scan more than this, you have to register and pay according to how many pages you want to scan. If you refer other customers to OnlineOCR.net, there’s a bonus program where you can get extra credits for free. You need documents with a resolution of at least 200 DPI to get any reasonable results out of OnlineOCR.net. Unregistered users documents are deleted immediately after scanning and registered users can store their documents for one month.
Free Online OCR is another free online OCR converter which converts scanned images into editable text. Free Online OCR supports scanning of PDF, GIF, BMP, JPEG, TIFF or PNG files and exports them in DOC, PDF, TXT or RTF format. You simply upload the file, select the output format and click scan. The accuracy of Free Online OCR isn’t too bad even on low resolution documents although it definitely won’t recognize hand written documents. It can however rotate pages and keep the image layers on scanned PDF documents. Documents are deleted immediately after conversion.
What To Look For In OCR Apps
OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software allows you to scan and digitize text in documents and images to make them searchable. However in our research, one thing that clearly stood out is that not all OCR programs on Mac perform the same. The accuracy and functionality varies considerably and there are definitely some that do a better job than others. In general, we found that in most cases, you get what you pay for when it comes to OCR software that scans text accurately and quickly.
The main thing you should be looking for in the best OCR applications is accuracy. The more accurate the scanned text is, the less time you have to spend cleaning it up manually. This is why the best applications such as ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac and Adobe Acrobat Pro usually perform better and save you time and hassle in the long run because the OCR engines are fine-tuned to be more accurate whatever the quality of the text you’re scanning.
The other thing to look for is whether the OCR software maintains the formatting of your original document after OCR scanning. Cheap OCR software often dump a text file onto your Mac which is fine if that’s all you want. However, most people want their document formatting preserving the same as the original document and most cheap OCR software on Mac simply can’t do this.
Apart from accuracy, other important aspects to look for in Mac OCR software are ease of use and depending whether you want to edit or publish the document afterwards, whether the software exports to popular formats that can be imported by other applications such as Microsoft Office or ePub/eBook formats.
When it comes to pricing, most OCR software are desktop applications with a one time purchase price model. However, a few like Adobe Acrobat Pro are only available on a monthly subscription basis. If you go for a one time purchase desktop software, check whether major updates are included in the purchase price. You don’t want to find that when you next upgrade your version of macOS, the OCR software is incompatible and you have to purchase a new version. The advantage with subscription software is that you don’t have to worry about future updates as the vendor includes major updates in the subscription cost.
Finally, always check what the support policy of the vendor is. Most vendors include support in the price but some like Adobe only offer online chat support while others such as ABBYY offer region specific phone support.
OCR Document Scanners For Mac
Note that apart from the OCR software featured in this article, if you have a scanner in your home or office, it may already have its own OCR software. For example, HP scanner/printers owners can use HP Easy Scan software to OCR documents. The problem is that such software is usually very limited, is incompatible with new releases of OS X and most importantly, are often inaccurate at reading OCR text which is why you’ll get much better results buying a dedicated OCR software like one of those featured here.
Another option is buying a dedicated document scanner which usually come with much better OCR software as they are specifically designed for the task of document scanning. However, these can also be very hit and miss in performance and are still no substitute for dedicated OCR software which are designed specifically for OCR scanning, editing and management of OCR scanned files.
Why Use OCR Software?
There are many reasons for using OCR software. Here’s a few of the most common reasons people need to digitize documents:
- Save Time: One of the main benefits of using OCR software on your Mac is that it saves you lots of time having to retype text that is saved in either PDF documents or images such as business cards, receipts and bills. OCR technology has come a long way in recent years and now the best programs such as ABBYY FineReader Pro and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC can not only extract text from images and PDFs, but even preserve document formatting, layouts, colors and fonts. These OCR apps also allow you to take a photo of a document with your mobile and then use your Mac to OCR it instantly. Rather than tediously retyping pages of text, these scans can be done in a matter of seconds. Educators for example can save considerable time retyping text and copying images from textbooks or turning paper based materials into digital form for use in class or sharing with colleagues.
- Edit, Update, Scan & Extract Text: Using OCR software allows you to “unlock” text in images or PDF files that you can’t normally edit. After OCR scanning, you can edit or update, scan and extract text from a document that wasn’t possible before. Once a document or image has been processed with an OCR software on OS X, you can search it, copy and paste it into other documents or edit it and fax it from your Mac for example. Professionals that can particularly benefit from OCR software are those such as lawyers with reams of documentation and evidence they need to be able to search and quote quickly or academics that need to catalog and search piles of studies and research.
- Reduce Paperwork: OCR software allows you to reduce the amount of paperwork lying around at home or in the office. You can create an archive of PDF files that you can search and retrieve at anytime. This improves organization and helps you locate this quicker than having to go through reams of paperwork.
- Create eBooks: If you want to read a document on the move on your kindle or other eBook reading device, the OCR software allows you to export documents to ePUB or FB2 format so you can read them in your own time.
- Text-To-Speech Apps: Once a document has been scanned in OCR software, you can access them via text-to-speech apps and tools. If you want to search a document for keyword for example, you can use just say the work and any text-to-speech app can use the OCR document to find what you’re looking for.
Going completely paperless in 2017 is still more difficult than it should be but it can be done and it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want more inspiration about going paperless, check out Steve Losh’s adventures going paperless for $220.
The Emerging Technology Of ICR & IWR Software
Optical Character Recognition is an umbrella term for all types of intelligent text or handwriting recognition software. Within it, there are also the emerging technologies of ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) and IWR (Intelligent Word Recognition). These technologies have developed mainly in an attempt to make OCR software better at scanning hand written documents. At the moment, even the best OCR software don’t do a good job of this due to the wide variation of hand writing styles and general difficulty at recognizing human hand writing. There are enterprise solutions such as the one developed by Lexmark’s intricate interpretation engine that is designed specifically for this task but it costs thousands of dollars.
However, on a more affordable consumer level, ICR is starting to be rolled-out. For example, ABBYY Finereader for Windows can use ICR to recognize hand writing although this is a feature add-on that users must pay extra for. Unfortunately though, ICR is not available as an add-on in the Mac version. It’s important to note however that even this type of ICR requires clearly spaced writing in order to be read such as those in forms:
It is not designed for joined up hand writing or “cursive writing”. For joined up hand writing, IWR or Intelligent Word Recognition is required which can recognize whole hand written words. This is still very much an emerging technology in the OCR field and probably won’t be available on consumer level software for quite a few years yet. However, there is an online project HandWritten OCR which allows you to upload and OCR hand written documents. You can scan 7 documents for free although it will only scan the first 20 words after which you must pay $0.05 per doucment. Note that the results are not instant – you must wait anything from 2 to 12 hours depending on the length of the document. Below are some of the wide ranging styles that the service claims to be able to scan correctly so if it’s hand writing you need to scan, it may be worth a try.
If you’re also a Windows user, you can also try Microsoft Office Lens which is designed for OCR scanning whiteboard notes and is available for Windows desktop and mobile devices.
The market for OCR software on Mac is still relatively limited compared to Windows. However, ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac has come a long way and is now just as good as the PC version and the best we’ve tried for all round accuracy, speed and ease of use.
If on the other hand, you need some serious PDF editing power or just want to sign and send document after OCR scanning them, then you can’t do much better than Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
We hope this article has helped you which OCR software to choose on your Mac. If you need to combine some PDF files on Mac before OCR scanning them, you might also find our guide on How To Combine PDFs on Mac useful too.
If you have any problems and questions with any of the Mac OCR apps featured here or have any suggestions, let us know in the comments below.