Convert your PC/ Laptop/ Smartphone into an OCR Scanner | CORPORATE ETHOS

Convert your PC/ Laptop/ Smartphone into an OCR Scanner

By: | August 7, 2017


The concept of ‘universal apps’ is one of the major highlights of Windows 10. The distinct feature of this type of apps is that they automatically adapt to work on any Windows 10 powered device – the device could be a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

All the settings and preferences are carried across the different devices you possess. The technology offers immense benefits to the developer as well; it enables him to write one app that runs across multiple devices.  In addition, instead of focusing users of just one segment he can target all user groups in one go. Here, we will introduce you to a few universal Windows apps (available at Windows Appstore).

Microsoft Office Lens: Extract text from images

A few life situations:

muralicolYou come across an interesting article in a journal and wish to extract a few sentences from it for quoting them in your document. But you don’t want to type down the entire stuff. How to easily copy the page concerned from the journal and extract the relevant text from it?

You are in a bookstall, scanning the new arrivals and stumbled on an interesting synopsis on the back of a book. You want to capture some text from it without creating any fuss.

Assume you have a bunch of business cards and wish to extract details such as e-mail, telephone number and so on from each of them. Manually writing down these details from each of the cards is something that all of us do normally. But this is a very archaic, an un-IT way of doing things.

Take another situation, you come across an advertisement copy with an attractive/insightful quote and wish to extract the text of this quote.

If the aforementioned requirements resonate well with you, take a look at the Microsoft’s  free universal app, MS Office Lens that can convert your device into an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) device. The Microsoft Lens can be considered as a software-based scanner.  And if used from your mobile phone, it will act as a scanner in your pocket. This universal Windows app work in multiple platforms: Desktop/Laptop PC, Windows mobile, etc. In addition to devices that run Windows OS, the Microsoft Lens is available in other popular platforms (such as iOS and Android) too.

Once installed from the relevant app store, (Windows Store, App Store, Google Play etc.), invoke the Lens app and simply point your camera towards the target (an image, a business card, journal article, whiteboard etc.). At this point, you will see a white rectangle that gets automatically moved around. Just focus the object right inside this rectangle and press the camera button.  Now, click on the save button and in response, the app will display a menu with different file format options to save the grabbed image (screenshot below).


screenshot1As shown above, the supported formats include Word, PDF and PowerPoint. Choose all the formats you prefer (yes, you can save the image in multiple formats) and start the saving process- if you want the OCR option, you should select the Word option. The app will convert the scanned material into the file formats you selected and transfer them to OneDrive (see below for further information on this service).

The greatness of Microsoft Lens lies in its stunning performance; this author found it unimaginably accurate. Take a look at the image of the newspaper piece captured by Office Lens shown below:



And now look at the OCR output:




OneDrive is Microsoft’s version of an online storage service, which works similar to other popular cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. The service lets you store files online and access them anywhere on the Net from any device you have. Anyone with a Microsoft service account (Hotmail, Outlook, etc.) has access to its cloud storage. To use the Office Lens app (discussed above), make sure that you have an account with OneDrive – If you don’t have one, sign-up with the service here and obtain a free account with 5GB space.

Drawboard PDF

Drawboard PDF is a Windows  Store app that lets you create/annotate PDF documents on your local storage.  So, if you want to mark your PDF with touch/pen/mouse, the best solution is to invoke this PDF editor. When you open a PDF document, you will find a radial menu that comes with a bunch of editing tools- markers, an eraser, pen etc (screenshot below).



You can drag this menu around and by clicking or tapping on the radial menu, you can bring out the options for markup. By default, you can choose from two different types of pen styles.  To change the colour, thickness and opacity of a pen style, click on the arrow alongside the pen style, which will display another menu with several options for changing these parameters. Once the setup is ready, simply draw on the PDF document with markups in different colours, add more information and annotate it with your comments.

Measure your network speed with Network SpeedTest

All of us are keen to measure the quality of our Internet connection and its speed. For this, mostly, we enlist the service of an online application like Speedtest. Being ads-driven, with these services we generally end up with a page cluttered with several advertisements. Are you fed up with such services and on the hunt for a simple, clean, speed test alternative? If so, jump over to the Windows Store and install the app ‘Network Speed Test’.  This app, which measures your connection speed both down and upstream, is a great way to test your Net connection speed/quality.