Optical character recognition, usually abbreviated to OCR, is the mechanical or electronic translation of scanned images consisting of typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. It is widely used to convert books and documents into electronic files. OCR makes it possible to edit the text and apply techniques such as text-to-speech to it. This makes once inaccessible print materials accessible to the visually-impaired and blind.
These text-to-speech programs also present the scanned materials in a variety of ways, allowing for the text to be displayed in a manner most easily viewed by the visually-impaired user.
Early versions of OCR needed to be programmed with images of each character, and worked on one font at a time. “Intelligent” systems in use today are equipped with a high degree of recognition accuracy for most fonts. Some systems are capable of reproducing formatted output that closely approximates the original scanned page including images, columns and other non-textual components.