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OCR at your fingertips (part 1)


What is OCR? Why should I care?

If you’re a student like me, taking online classes, then OCR is a lifesaver.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a fancy way of saying “turn a picture of text, into normal text that you can copy and paste.” Sounds useful? It is! It makes notetaking from live slideshow lectures a breeze.

I find it really helpful to have OCR just as an everyday tool. Here are some situations where OCR saves me a lot of typing:

  1. Grabbing text from videos, slideshows, streams, video lectures:
  2. Grabbing text from a game application
  3. Translating images
  4. Copying one column from a web table
  5. Copy a numbered list including its numbers:
  6. Selecting code from tutorials without selecting prefixes, prompts, line numbers:
  7. Copying text in cases where I can’t select: (here, the text is on a badly designed button)

So even when I don’t really need it, OCR really saves me time and cognitive load.

Today, the role of OCR technology is mostly to scan documents in bulk, like turning books into ebooks. This means most OCR apps require quite a bit of setup and work. But with the automation capabilities on Mac, it’s really quick and easy to bring OCR technology to your fingertips, which you can see above! See this next post for a (very) short tutorial on how to actually accomplish this.

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A cynical take on grades OCR at your fingertips (part 2)