OCR vs ICR – Which Character Recognition Technology Should You Choose?

ocr and icr


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When you were a kid, you probably didn’t imagine you will spend one-third of your adulthood (a.k.a. working hours) re-typing documents you’ve just scanned or trying to remember three-letter acronyms. Yet, here you are, reading articles about exactly that!

In this post, we will talk about character recognition technologies, mainly OCR vs. ICR. You will learn more about each, but also more about character recognition in general, which will help you make a better decision when choosing software that will help you convert images to text.

What Is OCR And ICR?

OCR, or Optical Character Recognition and ICR, or Intelligent Character Recognition, are two of the most common types of technologies used for character recognition.

OCR and ICR are used to extract text from image. While scanning a document is simple and sounds easy, that is only the case if the document doesn’t need any editing. If it does – you are out of luck. Instead of having the document as an editable text file, you’re stuck with an image and are forced to re-type the sections you want to edit, which is a massive headache! That’s where character recognition tools come in.

There are other technologies such as IWR (Intelligent Word Recognition), OMR (Optical Mark Recognition), HWR (Handwriting Recognition), but they are used for somewhat more “niche” purposes, as their names suggest. We will stick to OCR and ICR for the purpose of this article, but make sure to subscribe to our blog to read about other character recognition technologies as well.

What Is The Difference Between OCR And ICR?

You might be thinking, “Great, two acronyms that mean the same thing: extracting text from images, what a waste of my time!” But alas, they serve different purposes altogether.

OCR technology compares the letters from the processed image to a large database of characters, identifying each character and converting it to text form. Because OCR is an optical technology, it relies on the quality of the processed image. And because it compares the image to the database, it is not suitable for handwritten text, or custom fonts. But, if presented with a typewritten document, OCR will convert the image to text with great speed and accuracy.

Meanwhile, ICR is a more advanced version of OCR that has better results when working with handwritten documents. It uses context, context, previously defined user inputs, and data in order to recognize handwritten characters. But, with the right image quality and enough context, ICR can extract handwritten text from images with great success.

Should You Use OCR Or ICR?

It depends on your needs. Classic office use is the most standard application of OCR technology. If you waste a lot of time on data entry, manually re-typing text from invoices, legal documents, sheets, or other machine-made documents, OCR is your best bet. This technology is fast, more affordable, and character recognition has come a long way, and good tools will be able to recognize all kinds of fonts with outstanding accuracy.

On the other hand, if you predominantly deal with forms filled with handwritten information, ICR is right for you. As long as you give it the proper context and good enough image quality, ICR will extract the handwritten data accurately.

In short:

  • If you most often deal with typewritten documents – use OCR
  • If you most often deal with handwritten documents – use ICR

We hope that this short post helped you understand which character recognition technology is right for you. Of course, depending on the type of your business, you might need both technologies. If that is the case, you will need a more robust system that has both OCR and ICR capabilities.

If you came this far you sure have an interest in recognition technologies! If you are willing to test your luck further and want to stay updated on trending technologies, make sure to follow us, as we produce this kind of content regularly. Thanks for reading!

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