Timesaving Tip: Your Smartphone Cam + i2OCR

Just the other day, a colleague and I spent a couple of hours hashing out new content for our page on our company’s portal. We took full advantage of the whiteboard running the entire length of the conference room and, by the time we were done, we had decorated most of the wall with our scratch. One of the VPs walked by, took a look at the board and, with a chuckle, asked “How in the world are you going to get all THAT down on paper?”

Well, being the problem-solver that I am, I asked my colleague to snap pictures of the wall with his smartphone (can you BELIEVE I didn’t have my phone on me?). I then told him to run the images through an OCR (optical character recognition) app. A day later, I found i2OCR.

iOCR2 is a free, online OCR application that extracts text from images and turns it into an editable document. It supports a whole crowd of image file types, including all the usual suspects (.tif, .gif, .jpg, .png, .bmp, etc.). Simply browse your computer for the file or enter a URL and hit the big red CONVERT button. It can read 33 languages, and supports multi-column formats. The site assures that uploaded files are automatically deleted on conversion. The site does recommend at least 200 dpi for better recognition. So easy, and totally free.

As if this wasn’t enough, the clever folks at Sciweaver responsible for i2OCR have a lot of other cool conversion and merge tools for documents and images. Check them out:

Sciweavers themselves is a pretty cool group. Apparently, it is an academic bookmarking network that aggregates links to research paper preprints. The idea is to promote top-ranked papers, with the goal of promoting valuable work and improve the visibility of significant authors. Head over to their About  page to check out the tons of other free online tools they offer.
See, now, Ms. VP. Where there is a will, there is ALWAYS a way. ūüėČ

More Free OCR Fun

Last week, I posted about a free Web utility that would allow you to upload scanned documents and apply OCR treatment. Now Google Docs has trotted out a free OCR feature available for on-line docs, per the Google Operating System Blog (link here).

The option appears during the uploading process: Docs users are presented with a clickable link that will run an OCR scan of docs uploaded into user accounts. Those familiar with OCR know that the process extracts characters and inserts them into a new text document. PDFs apparently do better with the process and simply black text on white background yields the best result. 

As far as those results, users report some formatting loss and less than perfect end product. And, you will need to separately load and save the PDF if you want both the original and the OCR’d version of the doc. Still, while it may not be the power tool you are looking for, it does offer a free option for simple scans and searchable saves of images, business cards or simple records.

FREE On-Line Business Resources!

Did I say FREE? I most certainly did! PCWorld has a list of 19 free Web resources for real, honest-to-goodness business applications that you would otherwise have to, well, PAY for. To give a sense of the goodness of the goodies, there are suggestions for maknig FREE long distance calls, send and receive FREE faxes, videoconference for FREE, make FREE conference calls, use FREE directory assistance, automatically transcribe voice notes for FREE, turned scanned docs into text for FREE, get FREE copies of e-classics, send FREE text messages, store large files in the cloud for FREE, and download FREE mp-3s. The services highlighted in the article include: Talkster; Qipit,  eFax Free and FaxZero;  TokBox; Rondee; Google 411; reQall; OCR Terminal; Project Gutenberg; txtDrop and Krypton; Drop.io; and, for the free mp3s, try Amazon, Rhapsody, Elbows, RCRD LBL, Stereogum and Internet Archive.

Check them out! And please feel free to post your own favorite FREE resources in the comments! I love me some FREE.