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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introduction to OCR and Searchable PDFs

Learn OCR best practices and how to begin an OCR project using ABBYY FineReader, Adobe Acrobat Pro, or Tesseract with this guide.

Where to Start

Processing a document in ABBYY FineReader means that you will need to complete the following four steps:

  • Acquire an image of the document
  • Recognize the document (let ABBYY automatically read through each page)
  • Verify the results (make edits as necessary to ensure 100% accuracy)
  • Save the results in a format of your choice

Once you open ABBYY FinerReader software:

If you are starting with a document, choose an option that starts with the word "scan."

If you are starting with a digital file, choose an option that starts with the word "convert."

Quick Convert

The quick convert mode will convert your document as soon as it is opened or scanned into ABBYY, skipping the steps that allow you to edit the images or correct the OCR text. This process is a time saver when 100% accuracy is not of the essence.

How to quickly convert documents:

1. Right click on the document you wish to convert.

2. Choose which format you would like to convert your document to (Word, Excel, PDF)

3. ABBYY will begin reading through each page, once ABBYY has finished, the document will open in its new format, allowing you to save it and the original image file.

4. This process is not 100% accurate. Accuracy decreases when complex and unfamiliar characters are present. See "Best Practices"

Quick Task Menu

When you first launch ABBYY FineReader, you will be presented with a multiple options for jumping into your work. The task box offers choices for scanning documents directly into ABBYY and using previously scanned documents. The Quick Task Menu will appear when you open ABBYY FineReader software. This window lists the automated tasks for the most common processing scenarios. From the tabs along the left side, you may choose to reveal options specific to the format you are working with. 

image source: ABBYY FineReader 12 Support. "Quick Start".  Section 2. 


Below, you will find an example of how to start a quick task in ABBYY FineReader. This example is demonstrating how to use ABBYY to create an editable Word Document.

image source:  ABBYY FineReader 12 Support. "Quick Start". Section 3. 



ABBYY 16 Help

ABBYY Finereader 16 has a very helpful guide that can be found here, and goes into greater detail on issues that are not covered in this guide.