Here’s a neat business app that’s sure to come in handy for anyone dealing in international business and sales. OCRTOOL, created by Masanori Kanda, uses optical character recognition (OCR) to enable your iPhone to take a picture of any document, save it directly to your iPhone, translate it into one of 32 different languages, and send it in an email formatted as a JPEG, or PDF.
If you think about it. Using your iPhone as a document scanner can be very handy for those that live their life on the road, constantly moving from one meeting to the next, never really having time to stop by a scanner to do their dirty work. So when I learned about what OCRTOOL does I thought to myself “how cool”. Having the ability to take a document that’s written in one language, snap a pic of it, translate it to any of 32 different languages, and email it in a matter of seconds is pretty sick! I had to try it out.
So first impression when I opened the app was that it’s pretty plain looking. It quietly opens directly to the main page where you’re greeted by a menu that allows you to choose a photo from your photo library, invoke the iPhone’s camera to snap a fresh pic, to choose a language, or to view resent results (which at this point you have none). From here I grabbed the nearest word doc, invoked the camera, and snapped a nice clear pic. The next step is to optimize the image for character recognition. You can reverse the image effect so it displays as white font with a dark background instead of a light background with dark font, you can rotate the image, and you can crop out any excess stuff from the image that you don’t want such as logos, excess text, etc. When everything is to your liking just press the done button and OCRTOOL starts doing it’s OCR magic.
It takes OCRTOOL approximately a minute for it to process a document and parse out all of the text. When it’s done processing you’ll continue to see the picture of the document and beneath it will be the open text. From here you can choose to translate the text into another language, can edit the text if there are any typos, and can send it via email as a JPEG or PDF.
I tested OCRTOOL on a variety of different documents. Overall I found it to work pretty well. If you find yourself in the need of being able to translate and send documents on the fly then you should definitely check out this app. The most important thing to ensuring the best results with this app is to take really clear pictures. Make sure that you’ve got plenty of light, and that you hold your iPhone extremely steady when you snap the pic. If you do that you’ll significantly reduce the number of misrecognized characters. Other factors that affect the apps accuracy are documents that include unique fonts, or a variety of fonts, images and tables, and lots of special characters. When dealing with documents like these I found the number of errors to be somewhat overwhelming to fix given the small area provided. Perhaps a UI tweak that creates a larger view for editing would be helpful. Another thing I’d like to see updated within this app is that currently it’s designed to handle single page documents. There’s no option to snap pictures of a multi-page document, consolidate them as a single document, and then send them as a single PDF. Currently you can only translate and send single pages, meaning if you need to translate and send a 4 page document you’ll be sending it as 4 separate emails. Updating to multi-page, single doc capability would be a major plus. I’d also like to have the ability to name a document. That doesn’t currently exist either.
Version Reviewed: 2.1
Requirements: iPhone; iPhone OS 3.0 or later
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