Remember when scanners were big, bulky things that plugged into obtuse parallel ports and almost never worked as well as they should have? Long gone are those days, both in terms of the ports they use and being so restricted to bulky equipment. Now, there’s a whole selection of iOS apps out there, keen to make things easier by turning an iPhone or iPad into a portable scanner. We take a look at our four favorite OCR apps.
Image To Text
It might not be the most feature rich of apps here but, crucially, Image To Text is a free app and thereby, an ideal starting place for anyone keen to scan in content. All the user has to do is take a photo of a document that they want to extract text from, then leave the app to do all the work, thereby converting everything to a text file with editable text. It’s not perfect, and it’s restricted to text only, but it’s a handy and reasonably quick tool to try out.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-04-20 :: Category: Business
The most expensive entry here, Prizmo offers plenty of different features. The app can be used to scan and recognize many types of documents, including business cards, bills and whiteboards, making it easy to share via various services. With the business card interface, it’s possible to create contacts through the information gleaned, while receipts and bills can be exported to a spreadsheet. Crucially, it’s often very accurate, especially under a bright light. A text-to-speech facility completes the package.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-08-18 :: Category: Productivity
It’s easy to forget that Evernote does everything. Ok, maybe not everything, but it does a whole bunch of useful things, including offering a free way to scan in useful pieces of information. It’s possible to create notes with content that has been scanned in, both of the picture and text variety, all for future reference at a later date. Searching functionality is as powerful as one would expect from the Swiss Army Knife of productivity apps.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2008-07-11 :: Category: Productivity
Providing a high level of accuracy, Scanner Pro works well in its efforts to turn someone’s life paperless. Users can scan receipts, notes, book pages and mostly everything else they can think of with this app, with everything converted into a PDF file. With email and print features, the app is particularly useful for those who need to sign contracts before sending them off via email. Online storage capabilities are also there, meaning it’s possible to securely store many different types of document through this app.
If you’ve read our review of the iPhone version of Business Card Reader, you know we think it’s pretty fantastic. Our reviewer gave it a best in class rating, saying, “Business Card Reader is a solid, reliable, visually aesthetic business card reader that performs as advertised, with minimal effort on the user’s part.”
Well, now developer SHAPE Services has released a second iPad version of the business card reading app, cleverly named Business Card Reader HD. For those of us who use our iPads for business, this is a solid treat.
The app itself – at the same price point as the iPhone version – allows you to import contact info right from business cards using your iPad camera. Simply aim the camera at any card given to you by your business contacts, and Business Card Reader HD will scan, OCR, and create a contact in your iPad contact list. It can do so in English, French, German, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Whew.
There’s also optional integration with enterprise-level customer relationship management (CRM) systems and LinkedIn support. As with any scanning technology, good light and a flat, unmoving surface are collecting the data well.
Business Card Reader HD works on iOS 4 and later and on all iPad models, including iPad 1 (you’ll need to import pictures of business cards from the photo roll or LinkedIn).
Back in January at Macworld Expo we saw the first demo of Neat Cloud and Neat Mobile. Neat have been around for years providing hardware and software that allows archiving and then searching of scanned documents of various kinds. They produce two different scanners and desktop software to help you get documents into your database. The Neat Cloud update brings that database into the cloud and allows scanning and searching from the iPhone and iPad.
Not only can you use your iPhone and iPad to search your Neat data in the cloud while on the go, you can also use these devices to get items into the system. Utilizing the camera on the iPhone is a great way to get business cards, receipts, and other items onto your Neat Cloud while away from home. Take a look at the video from Neat below for more on the Neat system.
We got a few days to try out Neat Cloud, Neat Mobile, and one of the Neat Desk scanners. Here are some initial thoughts.
The Neat scanner is easy to set up. Just install the software and then plug in the power and the USB cable. Throw in a bunch go papers into one of the three custom guides in the scanner — one for documents, one for receipts, and one for business cards — and away you go. The scanning happens just about as fast as you can throw documents at it. Once documents are in they will be recognized and OCR’ed to get the data from them. From there they reside in your inbox in Neat for you to give them a check and file them in a folder that works for you.
You can also use the Neat mobile app to scan documents into your Neat database. In that case the document is sent to the cloud to be recognized and OCR applied. It is then send back down to your mobile device and to your Neat desktop inbox for sorting.
While the Neat Scanner works well if you have stacks of documents to scan in, in quick testing we found the iPhone camera to be produce quicker and higher resolution scans of most one and two page items. Both seem to have their place — the scanner for stacks of documents and the camera for single items and when you are on the go.
Both the scanner and your iPhone captures will not only keep the original images of your document, business cards, receipts, etc., the system will also apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on them. The OCR will, if the document type is set right, also grab relevent data from your scans. For example the purchase total and credit card used for a receipt or contact details from a business card. You can then use that data to updated your contacts or use the receipt data at tax time.
All visible text in the document is converted to text for the database too. Because of this you will also be able to search not only metadata about the documents scanned, but also the full content as well. Great for instances where you are looking for documents about a particular subject, but can’t remember more.
In quick testing of the OCR capabilities, everything seemed to work well with just a few recognition mistakes. In most cases the mistake was minor — but some of the more difficult business cards I threw at it did cause it to return oddly converted text. Unfortunately no OCR system is complete scan and forget, they all need to be fine tuned.
Neat Cloud comes at an additional cost over the Neat scanner and software. A personal account costs $5.99/month but you’ll need the Home & Office account at $14.99/month to use the mobile app. The Home & Office account does have the additional bonus of supporting two users, great for a household. In addition there is a higher level, the Business account that allows access by up to 5 users for $24.99/month.
Neat Mobile and Neat Cloud are available immediately. The link to the mobile app is below. To sign up for a Neat Cloud account, head to the Neat Cloud site.
Have you ever been saddled with a printed document that you didn’t want to be troubled with actually having to store? While I have never had this issue, I am sure that there are businessmen worldwide that are inundated with useless documents, forced upon them on a moment’s notice. Instead of shoving said wastes of the rainforest into your briefcase, wouldn’t it be great to be able to scan the documents in an instant and then file the paper away in everyone’s favorite circular filing cabinet?
Belgium based app developer Creaceed seems to be thinking along a similar wavelength and in response, developed their amazing new OCR application, Prizmo. Optimized to run on an iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, Prizmo makes scanning of receipts, whiteboards, business cards, and regular text a breeze, using the same technology that you carry in your pocket.
Here is a trailer where the full functionality of the app is shown in-depth:
A brief trailer cannot truly explain all of the advanced features that Prizmo touts, so here are what they list as some of the key features:
• Input Options: iPhone’s camera, import from the Photo Album, copy/paste from other apps.
• Image processing: rotation, crop, perspective correction, white picker…
• Highly accurate OCR technology in 10 languages: English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.
• No Internet connection required for image processing and performing OCR. No confidential data sent.
• Text-to-Speech available through In-App Purchase: 35 high-quality voices in 10 languages for reading scanned texts. Each voice is around 20 MB.
• Many Export Options: copy the recognized results as a text, send scanned documents and vCards using iPhone’s native mail application, Dropbox & CloudApp integration, text translation (Google Translate)…
• Document Viewer
• Stylish UI, with full support of Retina display
While I may not be a globe trotter, I could see businessmen taking a serious interest in the translation services. Just imagine being able to translate documents on the fly, while trying broker a deal in a foreign country. This functionality alone could be a deal-maker for many, so I have no doubt it will be a huge success.
As crazy as this may sound, this article is still just glossing over the surface of what functionality Prizmo brings to the table. If you are so inclined, they have taken the time to break down all of the technical specifications on the app’s official homepage. If it can live up to even half of the promises it makes, Prizmo should instantly become an irreplaceable tool any entrepreneurs arsenal.
Business card scanning software is nothing new in the App Store. There are plenty of apps that take data from a picture of a business card, but none that get the data right every time. Sometimes shadows get in the way, or the app thinks that the name Chris looks like Cheryl, and boy is that annoying.
TechCrunch talked about how CardMunch does things a bit differently, adding a human element to the card scan. Like other card scanning apps, it still captures the card image with your iPhone’s camera, but then the picture is sent off to the CardMunch office where real humans extrapolate the data. Real humans that guarantee 100% accuracy! Once it’s done, the data is sent directly to your Address Book or to the CardMunch app itself if you don’t want to clutter your contacts.
The service does cost $0.25 per card, but if you have to scan 400 cards, CardMunch claims that you will save an average of 23 hours of data entry time. Seems worth it to me. Try the app out for free and get 5 free card scans with your “purchase”.
Creaceed, since its release of Prizmo for the Mac, has been apparently inundated with requests for an iPhone version. Well now the requests have been granted, and the iPhone version of Prizmo is almost ready.
Prizmo, for those who have never heard of it, is an OCR solution previously relegated to only the Mac. It basically can take any picture and find the text in it, and then make it fully searchable on the computer. The functionality doesn’t end with document “scanning”, it also can correct lens distortion, perspective on any old picture, and even page curl.
The iPhone version of Prizmo will be looking to do many of the same things, with some of the key features being: picture straightening, white picker, crop and rotation, state-of-the-art OCR in several languages, and some unidentified “unique features”.
There’s no word on the exact Prismo launch date, but I’d be looking for it in the App Store shortly.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted June 13th, 2010 by Jason Fanguy Our Rating: :: VERY USEFUL
Not your typical scanning app, Smart Scanner allows users to scan printed information, such as magazine articles, emails, book pages, etc. in real time and use its OCR features to send scanned information via email, store it within the app for future reference, make a phone call or open a URL, by simply touching the appropriate link on the resulting scan's screen. While the app is not perfect, it's as close as you can get.
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