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My Experience with OCR Software

Sophie Thomas, a native healer, holding her book “Plants and Medicines of Sophie Thomas”, the text I included in Omeka.

Optical Character Recognition is a software I haven’t fully come to appreciate until recently. I’m sure I’ve used it for years; I’m assuming its the same software used to cash cheques through digital apps, though likely with more steps and security. I’m sure if I took the time I could become quite efficient using this software; I could digitize my textbooks for my classes, making note taking easier for a student that works mostly in the digital world, with paper almost being a thing of the past for myself.

You can find my file at the button below. I chose to include a page from a text I have for my First Nation Studies class, “Plants and Medicines of Sophie Thomas.” The page is on the plant known as Soapberry and goes over some of it’s medicinal uses.

The software I used was Google Keep, for the sole reason of it is an app I already have downloaded on my phone and use VERY regularly. Google Keep is my go-to note taking app; as previously mentioned, I barely use paper nowadays, but still have plenty of tasks and errands to keep track of. I use Google Keep for reminders, to-do lists, keeping quick notes, storing important notes, and oddly enough, small file transfers; If I upload a photo from my phone to Keep, I can get it on my PC or any other device simply by going to Obviously there is other ways to do this, I just find it the most efficient (If the file isn’t too large.) However, I am a bit biased using this app; outside of my cell phone itself (an iPhone 11 Pro) I am quite engrained in the Google ecosystem and am a fan of their products. I have Google smart speakers across my house, as well as smart TVs. If I don’t have to use an iOS application for something (Mail vs. Gmail, for example) I will use the Google Alternative.

Here you can see some of my notes I KEEP to stay organized.

The fact that I’m already tied into the Google ecosystem and Keep itself made it the perfect application to try out OCR software. However, as with any other ecosystem restrictions; it came with some trade offs.

I have used PDF readers and other image-to-text applications before, such as Adobe PDF reader. These applications are all very straight forward as they were designed with OCR as the main, or one of the main purposes. Using Keep wasn’t as smooth; just to give an idea, I have used this app for years and wasn’t even aware this was a feature.

The process consisted of me starting a new note and uploading my photo. After that, I clicked on the image and the three dots in the top right; from there, chose the option “Grab Image Text”. This immediately put all the text into the note. The problem came when I went to save the file as a PDF. As a note-taking app, Google doesn’t design your notes to be saved in different formats as a text editor would. Instead, I had to add an extra step, going to on my PC and choosing the option “Copy to Google Docs”. From there, I opened the file in Docs and saved it as a PDF.

My conclusion from this activity is that if I weren’t already using Google apps regularly, Keep would not be the app I’d use for OCR. There are other apps that do it better. However, since it saves in the same place that I keep all my other files, it is efficent and organized for myself.

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