OCR and Paste

by Ilya Evdokimov | Feb 18, 2010 | OCR

You probably use the copy and paste functionality on your computer daily. I too use copy and paste on a regular basis, but I also use OCR and paste nearly as much. OCR and paste is what I’m referring to as the process of selecting a region on your computer screen and using OCR to read that region as a screen-shot and converting it to text. Even to my surprise, it has become quite the habit and one of my favorite ways to collect data from one location on my computer to another. Many wonder why this might be the case, as most information on the screen is available as text anyways. The reasons are: it’s more efficient than copying and pasting into a program. It maintains structure of information using document analysis, and there are times when the information I want is not in text form but in an image only.

I have actually taken it one step further and used the technology to automate the extraction of data from web pages that are scroll heavy. Instead of scrolling forever for information on a web page, I can use the tool to take a screenshot of the entire web page and convert it to text for me. You can imagine how the technology could be used maliciously, but in this case, it’s just to get information.

The ability of OCR to read screen-shots is quite impressive. Though screen-shots usually come out in low 72 or 96 DPI resolution which is traditionally not optimal for OCR, the text and text in image is what is called pixel perfect so it provides an excellent candidate for conversion. Also leveraging document analysis technologies built into OCR, I can grab a table and have it export a table versus having to copy and paste text and manipulate back to original form later.

When you become an expert in OCR, you find yourself using the technology in the oddest places, but this is one case where my productivity has increased because of the tool, and I think it’s worth sharing. I suspect that OCR of screen-shots is only going to increase in the future. Because of this and malicious reasons, so will counter mal-ware technologies. As well as a very easy way to convert data from one locked down legacy system to a new one.

Chris Riley – Sr. Solutions Architect