Sunday, June 18, 2017

Easy OCR and Document Conversion

MOTIVATION: In a recent Ensign article we were encouraged to upload our journals and personal histories to FamilySearch Memories. So long as they are tagged to living people they are hidden, which means my personal history will be hidden during my lifetime. A dear relative kept a lengthy personal history and gave an extra printed copy to her bishop for safe keeping. Both copies have long since vanished and so the details that she so carefully preserved are now lost. I don't want this to happen to my journals and personal histories. So I decided to follow this counsel. One document existed only in printed form. I scanned it as PDF but the file size exceeded the maximum limit allowed by Memories.

OBSTACLE: After struggling for hours to get my printer's OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to work, I decided to scan my 21 page history at the Family History Center during my next scheduled shift.

Guess what!  I found I could scan from the Automatic Document Feeder to PDF, but I could find no option to convert the PDF to Word or any other editable text format.

SOLUTION: I finally found that by scanning my 21-page document and saving it as a PDF file, I could then upload it to an online OCR site to convert it to a Microsoft Word document, then download the results.  I made sure to select the OCR option.

In Word, I could update the 5-year old file and easily save a new PDF version. The 16 MB PDF file was now a 135 KB PDF file, about 1/100th of its previous size, and I now had a version in MS Word format for easy updates in the future.

The beauty of using this free site is that it handles such a wide range of files and it does not require installing software on the computer. Consequently it should work on any kind of computer, with any operating system. It is ideal for use in a FHC. I can also use it on my computer at home without having to fight with my printer or my word processor. 

The site claims to convert these types of files to a wide range of formats, but I have only tried the PDF to Word conversion, which I found to be quick and accurate.
  • Audio converter
  • Video converter
  • Image converter
  • Document converter
  • Ebook converter
  • Archive converter
  • Hash generator

No registration is asked for. You just upload your file, choose a conversion and wait a few minutes then download the new version of your file. 

I thought this would be a useful tip for all FHC workers. 

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