Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free OCR

(Warning: Geek post, little entertainment value) Once upon a time the Xerox Textbridge Classic computer program for doing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) worked for me. Even more than that it had worked recently, but it was finicky and this week I couldn't get it to work at all. It kept complaining about my C: drive being full. It wasn't. I had defragmented my C: drive recently. Maybe that was the culprit. Windows Explorer was also having issues: if I right clicked on the C drive and hit properties (e.g. to check how full the disk was), Explorer said it experienced a problem and had to close; and when it did it restarted the Windows desktop in order to recover. Swell. I did solve that problem, but it didn't help Textbridge. (When Explorer had its problem it offered to let me debug it, so I tried and that told me that there had been an access violation in neroshx.dll. I uninstalled the Nero CD burning software and that solved that -- I hadn't used Ahead Software's Nero in a good while anyway).

Textbridge had never worked that well, anyway.(For those who don't know OCR software can process a picture of some text and turn it into editable text for use in a program like Microsoft Word or Notepad. It's very handy if you only have a printout or old typewriter copy of something (and a scanner).) Textbridge tended to interpret things as all different fonts and very odd characters even when the digital image text was in one non-proportional font like Courier. But the last time I'd searched, several months ago, I hadn't found any freeware alternatives. That changed this time. I found Softi Software's FreeOCR on the ZDNet download site. It's based on the Tesseract OCR engine which is apparently Open Source (I think I found that last time I searched, but wasn't about to write my own application around the engine.). FreeOCR looks to have been posted in the last couple months. And the really good news is that it just works. At least on my old typewriter copies of text (see "The Little Wanderer" on The Chipster Zone web site).

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