OCR stands for optical character recognition and is the process of converting images of text (generally scanned pictures) to plain text. While a large fraction of the OCR software are commercial products there are quite a few web based free OCR solutions which can instantly convert images to text.
Free-OCR.com is one such service. It’s completely free and doesn’t require any registration. However, you are limited to a maximum of 10 uploads per hour. JPG, GIF, TIFF and BMP files up to 2MB in size are supported (for PDF files only the first page is converted).
This service has a few other limitations including:
- No batch processing mode
- Images must have a resolution of 150 dpi or more. This means screenshots or photographs won’t probably work.
- Formatting of the document isn’t retained. The output is simple text.
Optical Character Recognition is a rather complicated process and is a subject of ongoing research. The results were quite good when I used a high quality scanned document, but was utter garbage when I used a photograph snapped using Sony Ericsson k810i (Document Mode). Fre-OCR.com can’t compete with commercial software like ABBYY FineReader OCR or OmniPage. However, it is a handy resource that many professionals on the go would find useful.