Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is That a Scanner in Your Pocket?

The iPhone 3GS's autofocus camera and macro capability allow you to take crisp clear pictures of all types of text documents. We are starting to see applications that take iPhone document imaging a step further. OCRTOOL ($4.99) is an application that showed up on App Store last night. The description is vague, there is no URL for the developer (listed as mkanda). I took the plunge and purchased it.

OCRTOOL leverages the camera or you can bring an image in from your photo albums, the concept is simple: take a picture of a document and OCR it on your iPhone, then copy & paste the resulting text into a document editor or email it to yourself. My testing so far, the application has failed miserably. The screenshot below shows what the results were for a 14 point single word image. Result were slightly better with 11 pt font from a memo on a 8.5x11 sheet of paper, although the output was not usable. Maybe future version will show improvement.

Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 3GS is an excellent acquisition device - yes, that is a scanner in my pocket (and/or a fax machine!), you just need to know its limitations and how to work around them. For example, if you have OCR software on your syncing computer then use your iPhone as an acquisition device, take a picture, then sync the image to your computer and process OCR using your desktop software. Or if you are interested in archiving the document for retrieval, take a photo of the document, then email it to your Evernote account and let Evernote work their OCR magic in the background and index your document for easy retrieval.

Bottom Line: OCRTOOL is not recomended at this time, but I suggest you think through how your iPhone can augment your current imaging tools and workflow.

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