When and How to Use OCR Document Scanning Software

by Jesse Spencer | October 17, 2019

Do you still keep paper records? Sometimes it’s more cost-effective to keep them. Chances are, if you have a lot of paper records, you’ve got a really great system for archival and retrieval.

But regardless of whether your paper situation is fully under control (or if it’s gotten way out of hand) simply scanning documents with the nearest scanner isn’t all that helpful. In addition, scanning adds risks.

Risks of Document Scanning:

  • Where will the scanned documents be stored?
  • How do I know if I got them all?
  • How will I find my records?
  • How can I secure sensitive data?
  • It's more work to search through my computer than to just go find the paper file!
  • And what happens if I lose the data?

The list goes on and on.

Desktop OCR Scanning vs Simple Document Scanning

pdf-of-scanned-documentWhen documents are scanned, they’re typically saved in PDF format. PDF is great because it works on any computer without expensive software. And today’s scanners also include optical character recognition (OCR) software that makes your documents searchable.

Document scanning is great for reproducing paper in digital format, but it doesn’t solve your deeper problems (and sure doesn't help with formats like microform).

It doesn’t make content easier to find, organize, or secure. In fact, it adds complexity and risk of losing important information.

Document scanning with desktop OCR software is the safe and smart alternative to traditional document scanning.

Learn More About Desktop OCR Scanning

More Differences Between Desktop OCR Scanning and Traditional Scanning

scanned-french-invoiceTo understand the difference between desktop OCR scanning and traditional document scanning, think about the last time you saw a web page or article in a language you didn’t know.

You could see the content just fine, and recognize the letters, but the content didn’t have any meaning to you. So when you scan documents without creating an awareness of the content, it’s the same thing.

Your information systems have no clue what’s there. And it makes sense.

There’s all kinds of different documents you work with. It's not thousands of copies of the same form.

How’s a computer to know what’s what?

Desktop OCR Scanning Technology is the Intelligent Choice

Intelligent OCR processing software not only reads your documents, but understands the content and moves specific information into your information systems along with a human-readable PDF image.

It’s like going back in time and capturing everything in a software application instead of just on paper.

Desktop OCR scanning is the singular solution to eliminate both fear of digitizing records and cost of manual data entry (because, let's face it - you could hand-key everything!).

Document scanning services also exist to take away the headaches of document scanning.

How Does Desktop OCR Scanning Work?

The first step in getting software to read like a human is converting documents to a machine-readable version. Humans understand the intent of a document just by looking at it.

Tables, cells, the structure of the document, and labels tell us everything we need to know. But software can’t read documents so easily.


The best attempt so far at getting machines to read documents has been with OCR software. And it doesn’t work all that great on paper documents. It tries to interpret everything on a document as a letter or number.

For example, the letter “I” is easily confused with a 1, or an l or L or an i. And when OCR sees lines or other non-text marks on a document, the results are ugly. You can’t trust this data or make business decision on it.

Check out this article which does a nice job showing real-life struggles on a simple receipt.

Making it a Simpler Job for Great Scanning Results

In order to create a machine-readable version of a document, everything must be removed that isn’t text.

Then, the important elements that make up the structure of the document must be added back in because they provide the context for how the software will interpret text on the page.

This part of the process is simple, as the software will:

  • Remove everything that isn’t text
  • Read the text
  • Then add back in the document structure and interpret the meaning of the text

OCR Engines

And to do a really good job of reading the text, the machine will need to use multiple OCR tools (we call them engines). One OCR engine might be better with handwriting, while another is better at reading those odd fonts on checks. 


Now the software knows what’s on the page and the meaning of specific data elements like dates, numbers, quantities, line items, addresses, checkboxes, etc.

Your job is to tell the machine how you want to integrate the data within your information system(s). Easy!

Can I Trust the Scanned Data?

You have to be able to trust the data. To assure high quality data is entered into your information system, the software performs validations like financial and date calculations, and flags any discrepancies for human review.

Additionally, your existing databases can also be used to validate known information like account / case / matter numbers, names, and any other specific index.

How Do I Use All of this Extra Data?

You choose how to integrate document data and where it goes. But the possibilities to improve your organization (and decrease costs / increase profits) are numerous:

  • Merge information into existing databases
  • Scrub confidential data
  • Create multiple versions of PDF documents (maybe you need the original and also one with redacted info),
  • Create spreadsheets
  • Sync to a document repository
  • Etc.

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today

How to create an Information as a Second Language program. [Free Guide]

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today

4 Steps to Achieving Wisdom You can Use at Work Today