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Optical Character Recognition (OCR) @ Pitt

This LibGuide introduces users to optical character recognition (OCR), outlines OCR best practices, provides information and resources for OCR tools, and links to example OCR projects.

Get Help with OCR

Pitt community: Write to Digital Scholarship Services or use our AskUs form

Pitt health sciences researchers: Contact Data Services, Health Sciences Library System

Guide Contributors


"Optical Character Recognition (OCR) @ Pitt" by University of Pittsburgh Library System is licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Out-of-the-Box Tools

Out-of-the-box OCR tools are immediately ready for use and do not require programming knowledge. The following recommended tools vary by type (e.g., command-line program, desktop application, mobile application, web-based application, web browser extension) and may or may not support batch processing (i.e., OCRing multiple documents in a single processing job). Less widely used tools may not have (m)any helpful resources listed below.

For the most part, these tools are freely available. ABBYY FineReader and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC are the only commercial tools, but the Library provides free access to ABBYY FineReader 14 via the OCR Workstation, and Pitt provides access to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.


ABBYY FineReader PDF 15


ABBYY Fine Reader PDF 15 (previously ABBYY FineReader 15) is a state-of-the-art OCR application with the latest AI-based technology and allows the conversion of image documents (e.g., photos, scans, PDF files) into editable electronic formats (e.g., Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Rich Text Format, HTML, PDF/A, searchable PDF, CSV and plain text files) and supports recognition of text in 192 languages, with a built-in spell check for 48 of them.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC


Adobe Acrobat Pro DC works as a text converter, automatically extracting text from any scanned paper document or image file and converting it to editable text in a PDF. Acrobat can recognize text and its formatting. Your new PDF will match your original printout thanks to automatic custom font generation. You can work with converted PDF files in other applications, preserve the exact look and feel of your documents, and restrict editing capabilities by saving them as smart PDFs that include text you can search and copy. 

Free Online OCR


Free Online OCR ( is a free online OCR service, based on Tesseract OCR engine, that can analyze the text in any image file that you upload, and then convert the text from the image into text that you can easily edit on your computer. Free Online OCR allows unlimited uploads and the following input files: image files (JPEG, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP, PBM, PGM, PPM, PCX); multi page documents (TIFF, PDF, DjVu); compressed files (Unix compress, bzip2, bzip, gzip), including multiple images in ZIP archive; and DOCX, ODT files with images. Free Online OCR supports 122 recognition languages and fonts, multi-language recognition, mathematical equations recognition, page layout analysis (multi-column text recognition), selection of area on page for OCR, page rotation, poorly scanned and photographed pages, and low-resolution images. 

  • Type: Web application
  • Batch Processing: No
  • Helpful Resource(s): N/A 


Online OCR


Online OCR is a free online OCR service for extracting text from scanned PDF and image (JPG, BMP, TIFF, GIF) files no larger than 15 MB, then converting text into editable Word, Excel and Text output formats. In a "Guest mode" (without registration) the service allows you to convert 15 files per hour (and 15 pages into multipage files). Registration will give you ability to convert multipage PDF documents and other features. Online OCR supports 46 languages including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Converted documents look exactly like the original—tables, columns and graphics.

  • Type: Web application
  • Batch Processing: No
  • Helpful Resource(s): N/A


Google Drive


Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service that allows users to extract text from PDF (multipage documents) and image (JPEG, PNG, GIF) files no larger than 2 MB, as well as store files in the cloud, synchronize files across devices, and share files. 

​Google Lens


Google Lens is an image recognition technology that uses visual analysis based on a neural network to extract text from images and bring up  relevant information related to objects it identifies. Users can copy text once it has been recognized. Google Lens can be used as a standalone app or as an integrated feature in the Google Photos, Google Assistant, Google Image Search, and Chrome mobile apps. The mobile apps also enable translation of recognized text using Google Translate.


​Live Text


Live Text recognizes information within your photos and online images, so you can make a call, send an email, or look up directions with a tap. You can also use Live Text in the Camera app or when using Camera in apps like Notes or Reminders.




Copyfish is a free OCR software that allows you to copy, paste and translate text from image, video, and PDF files. The web browser extension (Chrome, FireFox, Microsoft Edge) works with every website, including videos and PDF documents. The desktop capture OCR feature, which you can install in addition to the browser extension, allows you to extract text from opened documents (e.g., text and tables from brochures and leaflets that are only available as graphics), file menus, browser extensions, web pages, presentations, games, and PDF files.