By Marcel Dufresne
Aug 1, 2021
What do you do if you have a paper document, like a magazine article, that you would like to edit and save? You could retype the entire document but that is time-consuming. A scanner is not enough to make this information available for your word processor. All a scanner can do is create an image or a snapshot of the document. To extract and repurpose the data from scanned documents, camera images or image-only PDFs, you need OCR software like Prizmo. With it, you could convert the text found in the image into words. This then can be copy/pasted into a word processor and edited to your specific needs.
OCR is an acronym for “Optical Character Recognition.” Many people are surprised to learn that a scanned image in its native state cannot be edited or searched. Text and bitmapped images are two different kinds of information. Text can be typed, edited, copied, pasted, deleted, and processed. Images, however, are a bunch of pixels in a grid that, combined in the right way, conveys some sort of information. OCR technology is what makes the image searchable and editable.
The benefits of being able to search for text in large files should be evident to anyone who has had this unenviable task. Making paper-based information searchable in seconds, rather than hours would reduce or eliminate costly data entry. Suppose you wanted to digitize a magazine article or a printed contract. You could spend hours retyping and then correcting any misprints. Or you could convert all the required materials into digital format in several minutes using a scanner (or a digital camera) and OCR software like Prizmo.
When you start up Prizmo you are presented with an input window that provides numerous ways to get the image into your computer, ready to be processed. The variety and ease of input are what give Prizmo an edge over other comparable software. The easiest method is to drop your image onto Prizmo. You may also open the image from wherever it is stored on your computer. External devices such as a camera or a scanner can be directly accessed from Prizmo. Lastly, you can use your iPhone or iPad camera to shoot a picture of the document. This is using Apple integration to maximum effect. I connected my iPad to my computer. When I clicked on Prizmo’s “Shoot with iPhone”, it opened the camera app on my iPad and instructed me to take a picture and then to use it. The result immediately appeared in the Prizmo window, ready for some fine-tuning.
Next, the image has to be analyzed and prepared for the final OCR recognition process. There is a list of manipulations found across the bottom of the window. The image can be rotated as needed and cropped to remove unnecessary edges. The next category is ‘Adjust’. Here you can play with the brightness and contrast as well as flatten curved pages (often found when taking a picture from a book or magazine). The next category is OCR. Prizmo has the capacity to extract data from business cards and have the data sent directly to your Contacts. It is in this OCR category where you can choose Business Card or Document. The readability slide bar enables you to adjust the resolution to make sure the pixels have a suitable amount of clarity. Prizmo will actually flag this if the quality needs improving to ensure that you get the best result. The last choice is for polarity. Suppose your image has a black background with white text. Polarity will make sure that this is accounted for.
The final category in preparing your image for conversion is language. The default is English, but Prizmo permits another 27 languages. Text read in French or Chinese is not the same thing in English. Imagine you process text in German while English is set as the language for OCR. OCR results will be disappointing because some letters exist in German, but not in English (“ö”, “ü”, “ä”, “β”…). As the OCR engine doesn’t expect these characters to occur in English, it won’t be able to recognize them correctly. By choosing the language used in the image, you are helping Prizmo to interpret the text with fewer misprints.
Prizmo has one extra input trick available. When running, it adds an icon to the menu bar that allows you to select an adjustable window around any text found on the desktop. This text is immediately analyzed, converted, and copied to the computer’s Clipboard. This bypasses the normal input window preparation options but speeds up the paste process.
Once all the preparations are completed, you are ready for Prizmo to recognize the image data. After a quick perusal, the Prizmo window converts into two side-by-side windows. On the left, you have your image displayed and broken up into sections with a number attached. You can thus treat each of these separately. The right window contains only the text which can be edited, removing misprints. In fact, it acts like a normal text editor where text can be added, deleted, copied, or merged. Prizmo underlines obvious spelling errors to make the editing faster. You thus edit the recognized text before exporting the final output. You can choose one of the numbered sections and have Prizmo translate that text into another language.
The final step is to export the converted image. There are several export formats available. My go-to choice is PDF (Image + Searchable Text), but RTF or simple TXT is also available. You can export all the pages or some selected pages directly to Evernote, Dropbox, and others. You can send it to Apple Mail and the document is automatically attached to a new mail window. Prizmo adds some third-party properties to the Mail app such as the ability to crop an image.
To finish off, I would like to mention some additional thoughts. For the more adventuresome users, Prizmo has Automator and AppleScript capabilities. The business card to Contacts is a good idea but I would like to have the ability to edit the field names. As an example, I would like to change zip code to postal code. The video and user manual support is fine but they are out of date. Prizmo has changed with each new update and this is not reflected in the manual. There are items mentioned that do not exist anymore or are located under a different category. This made it a bit more difficult to follow when I first started learning to use Prizmo.
Prizmo is a scanning OCR application with powerful editing capabilities. It is easy to implement, being very user-friendly. You can try it out for free and make sure it is suitable for you. There is neither a use limit nor a time limit for trying out the demo version. There are, however, two limitations. For outputting an image file: you will see the words “Unregistered copy” written in white and the Prizmo icon on the output image. For outputting a text file or a business card: some words are replaced by the following characters ●●●●●●●. These characters will appear both in the preview and in the output document. Click here to read more about Prizmo and download the trial version. There are two versions of the app. The regular version costs about $50. The Pro Pack that has some extras that you might like costs $75. Save yourself a lot of time by applying OCR to your image. Avoid the need to retype the contents. Check out the videos and download the free trial. See for yourself how much time you will save with an easy-to-use OCR application like Prizmo.