Marketing - Massachusetts Mensa Writing Group

Step Two : OCR and Document Scanning

OK so once you have the website, the next step is to populate it. Itís easy enough for your content already on your computer, but how about your hard copy (on paper) content?

One of the challenges that several of our group members struggle with is the transfer of old, type-written stories, letters, and other material into their computer. They have stacks of paper they want to get onto their computer in a way that can be edited. Maybe they have a stack of old letters. Maybe it's an old novel they wrote, or an old course they created. Whatever it is, it currently only exists as a stack of paper. The thought of retyping it all, or hand scanning it page after tedious page is simply a nightmare.

There are several solutions to this problem. First, you can call your local Staples or other service type of store. Ask them what they'd cost to scan in all the pages onto a CD for you. These organizations usually have bulk-feed scanners. So all they do is put the stack of papers on one side, hit a button, and it auto scans the entire pile. It is often fairly cheap for them to take a stack of papers from you and a few minutes later hand you the stack back plus a CD with all the pages scanned in. Quick, easy, wonderful.

Another solution is to buy a continual feed scanner. I have one of these to scan in receipts and paperwork. What it looks like is a 1" wide stripe that is the length of a piece of paper. There's a slot along its length so you can feed a piece of paper through it. You plug this scanning unit into your computer and then while you sit there watching TV or reading a book you just send the pages one after another into it. It's auto feed so it's no work on your part, you just stick the beginning of the page into the unit and it sucks it through. It auto scans it, auto files it and you are all set. Your only task is to sit there feeding the pages one after another into it. It's sort of like a shredder in that sense, except constructive rather than destructive :)

I want to note that this unit is also AWESOME for reducing paper clutter in your house. You can scan all your receipts and business cards VERY easily and now have them all at your fingertips forever. Great for taxes, for organizing contacts, and many other things. It is super easy to use.

OK, so whatever way you choose to do it, you now have all those old documents in a folder on your computer as JPG images. The next question is how to turn those JPG images into usable text that you can edit in Word or TextPad or whatever you like to edit things in.

This is where OCR software comes in. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and in essence it looks at a picture and figures out what letters are on it. It turns the JPG into a text file, as best it can. OCR software is not perfect. Sometimes it might confuse a P with a R for example. Still, fixing the few resulting errors in a text file is usually much quicker and easier than retyping the entire tying.

If you Google "free OCR Software" you'll find all sorts of options. There are even websites where they do it all online, so you simply paste in your JPG image and it shows on the screen what the text is. If you're doing a bunch of pages you might want to pay $10 or $20 for a "real" copy of OCR software that works in bulk on entire groups of files.

However you choose to do it, the OCR software will read in your JPG image files and export text files which you can now edit.

Don't let your old stories and letters and documents languish! Set aside a day and convert them into workable text files. You'll be thrilled to be able to use that content again - and to be able to recycle the piles of paper!

Here is a non-affiliate link (a straight link) to the one I use:

NeatReceipts Scanner

Massachusetts Mensa Writing Group

Online Literary Magazines

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