What is OCR? It’s Relevance to the Teacher of ICT

In 2012, I opened a branch of E-zone Internet Café in Kyengera. There were 3 other Internet Cafes that were already established and for us, winning new customers was going to be an uphill task. Like all businesses, the start was really slow.

We finally got a client with a peculiar task. He had spent some months doing his research and had even printed out a draft copy. Unfortunately for him, his computer crashed and lost all his work. His had lost his flash disk and the secretarial bureau where his work was printed didn’t have a back up copy. It dawned on him that he had to retype all the 200+ pages!

In an effort to beat the deadline, he shared his hard copies between the 4 internet cafes in Kyengera for re-typing. Ours being a new café, we got the least number of pages.

An employee of E-zone Internet Cafe at one of the branches.

Lucky for us, we had ABBY Fine reader (OCR Software) installed on our desktop. We scanned the work and within 10 minutes, we called him to tell him we were done. H didn’t believe but when he found a clean softcopy of his work, he brought us 50 more pages to work on. We again surprised him within 15 minutes. This is when our new client decided to bring all the other papers which we diligently worked on to his amazement. To this day, he is still our customer – 6 years down the road.

What was the trick?

To handle such a feat, you will need the help of Optical Character Recognition software. OCR software scans digital documents to make the text inside them readable by a computer, so you can edit the text in programmes like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. In this article, I will share with you 3 options that you can use to achieve this.

1.       Using ABBY Fine Reader on PC.

At E-zone Internet Café, we use ABBY Fine Reader as our default OCR software. It’s ease of use and availability on the internet makes it rank high among other PC alternatives. Currently at version 14, ABBY Fine Reader has the ability to read text in 192 languages – including Arabic. You will able to open scanned images and transfer them in editable format for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Rich Text Format, HTML, PDF/A, searchable PDF, CSV and txt) files.

ABBY Fine Reader packaging

You can get ABBY Fine Reader here or visit E-zone School of Computing for a free copy.

2.       Using Text Fairy on Android Phones.

Away from the PC, you can use an app called Text Fairy on your Android Phone. All you will have to do is take a picture of your document, open it with Text Fairy and the app will do the magic. In no time, you will have an editable version of your CV, Application letter or report. The staff of E-zone Internet Café in Nabbingo have it installed by default on their phones and it has helped a lot in improving productivity.

Text fairy is a free app that can be downloaded on google’s Play Store. E-zone Internet Café though, has a back up in case your phone can’t access Play Store.

3.       Online OCR Tools

Finally, in some cases, you may not have a phone and the computer  may not have ABBY Fine Reader. If you have internet access, there is a bunch of free online OCR tools that you can choose from. My favourite is www.onlineocr.net. I was surprised that this free online tool even produced the tables from a pdf document in perfect form.

How this helps the teacher

With the help of OCR software, teachers will not have to give students photocopied tests. In case there is a set of questions that are in an old set of tests, OCR will do the fine job of giving you editable text for a perfect finish.

Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0772 111 223 / 0752 111 223