Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Vaibhaw Pandey, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Two OCR packages for Linux compared

Joe Barr looks at two applications that could make document-management a snap for SOHOs

(LinuxWorld) — Linux is everywhere you look, from mainframes to handhelds to servers to desktops. One place where its growth has been something less-than-spectacular is in SOHO (small office/home office) use. Now that full-featured office suites are available for Linux, more SOHOs than ever are beginning to migrate from Windows to Linux. However, SOHO users often require more than just an office suite; they need accounting software for the books and payroll, they need fax capabilities (see Resources for these sorts of things), and sometimes they need something a bit more exotic. Like OCR (Optical Character Recognition), for example.

In the legal and medical fields, document management is a very big deal. In modern office environments, OCR often plays a key role in solving that problem. Because OCR for Linux is one area I don't hear or read a lot about, I decided to do some digging and see what I could find. This week, I'll tell you about two solutions I found: one from the free-software camp and one proprietary application.

Kooka & Gocr

Let's start with free. The free-software solution is actually a combination of two projects: Kooka and Gocr. Kooka is a KDE application that's part of the kdegraphics package. It provides a front end for SANE-access to your scanner, and it calls Gocr for its OCR engine.

Those of you unfamiliar with the recent advances in compatibility between KDE and GNOME apps — and between competing distributions, as well — might think that getting Kooka and Gocr cooperating on my Red Hat 8.0 GNOME desktop would be a chore. Not so. It was as easy as falling off a log file.

First I ran up2date kooka. A little later on, I would have to run up2date kdebase as well, but I didn't know that yet. It's required in order to dump Gocr's ASCII-text output into Kate, a KDE text-editor.

When I tried up2date gocr, it wasn't found. No problem. I downloaded an RPM binary for Mandrake Cooker from rpmfind.net and installed it manually with rpm -Uvh gocr-0.37-2mdk.i586.rpm.

The up2date kooka process took care of everything, including adding Kooka to the Red Hat menu. I found Kooka under Extras -> Graphics, described simply as "Scan & OCR Program." Because my HP 5200C scanner had previously been configured for SANE, I was ready to go immediately.

I placed a recent mailing from ATT in the scanner and set up the scanner in Lineart mode with a resolution of 300dpi. Then I clicked the "Preview Scan" button. The HP 5200C woke up from its long slumber, whirred and clicked a bit, then made a fast pass under the letter. The preview window showed that it was seeing the letter and had it properly aligned. Next, I clicked the "Final Scan" button. When the final scan was complete, I saved the scanned image in PNG format. At this point, Kooka looked as you see in the image below:

Kooka Scan/OCR
Editor's note: The above image is reduced in size to allow it to display on this page. Click on this image to see the original.

From the toolbar across the top of the Kooka GUI, I clicked on the "OCR Image" icon. This brought up a sub-window explaining that Kooka calls Gocr for OCR. The window also allows you to modify the path to the Gocr executable and to adjust gray level, dust size and space width. I left them all at their default values and clicked on the Start OCR button. It took about 13 seconds to OCR the image, then a two-paned window appeared. Neither pane seemed to have much readable text in it. A button on the window offered to load the output in Kate (the aforementioned editor), so I clicked it. That produced the window you see below. As you can see, several characters were either not recognized or not recognized correctly, but I would judge the quality of the OCR as decent to good, especially from a relatively low-resolution image.

Kate edit of OCR'd image
Editor's note: The above image is reduced in size to allow it to display on this page. Click on this image to see the original.

OCR Shop

Now let's look at OCR Shop from Vividata. I filled out a brief registration form and agreed to the license terms to download a free 30-day evaluation copy of OCR Shop and have a license key e-mailed to me. I also downloaded a copy of the OCR Shop user manual in PDF format.

Just like the free-software solution, OCR Shop can handle both the scanning and the OCR. Unfortunately, my scanner was not one of those supported. No problem. I simply used the image file created and saved by Kooka. When the downloads were finished, I untarred the OCR Shop download and entered the vivadata_linux_4.61 directory created by tar. As root, I entered ./installer. Then I copied and pasted the license-key information from the e-mail into the appropriate windowpane when asked for it. At that point, I was good to go.

Starting OCR Shop (by entering /usr/vividata/bin/ocrshop) produced the main window you see below. It's small, compact, and loaded with things to tune and tweak. The options window covers everything from language to user dictionaries to proofing-editor setup. Speaking of editors, I added a new one to the default list, eschewing both vi and emacs so that I could use gedit, which is the one I usually write with. You can also choose recognition options and select the format (from a very long list of word-processing file types) in which you want the output produced. Vividata's Web site, however, points out that the Linux version of OCR Shop is limited to ASCII-formatting of output. It allows you to select other formats, but this just names the file with an .ami extension and adds strange statements to the text.

OCR Shop main menu
Editor's note: The above image is reduced in size to allow it to display on this page. Click on this image to see the original.

To start OCR on the previously scanned image, I clicked "Auto Recognize" and selected "File" as the input source, "Whole Page" as the area to recognize, entered the file name (kscan_0001.png) as the document name and then clicked "Start Recognition." That produced a file-selection window dialog. I located and selected the PNG image created by Kooka, then I highlighted it in the selected file-pane and clicked OK. I'm not sure why I needed to enter the file name and select it; perhaps I did something wrong along the way. In any case, clicking OK resulted in the gedit window containing the OCR output that you see below.

OCR Shop proof-editing
Editor's note: The above image is reduced in size to allow it to display on this page. Click on this image to see the original.

The recognition was done so much more quickly with OCR Shop than with Kooka/Gocr that I initially thought I had broken something. In well under two seconds, the image had been fully scanned, the output had been formatted and the proofing editor had started with the output in place. My guess is that the actual recognition was done in one second. I was very impressed.

After inspecting the output from OCR Shop, I was even more impressed. Gocr had not recognized symbols such as the dollar sign, percent sign and asterisk; made a couple of errors in spacing between words; and misrecognized very similar characters, such as reading the lower-case letter "L" as a capital "I". However, I could find nothing incorrect in OCR Shop's output. Not a single error.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of open source and believe that, in the end, it will become the dominant genre in many areas (read: operating systems, for sure). I am not bad-mouthing Gocr in the least when I point out that OCR Shop is clearly superior in terms of speed and accuracy.

The choice is yours

Of these two choices, which one would be right for your OCR needs? Depending on who you are and how you'd use the software, the answer differs.

Kooka/Gocr is the choice for me; harsh economic reality makes it so. If it weren't for free software, I would have no OCR capability at all. While Vividata's OCR Shop is clearly the performance winner, it is pricey. Corporate pricing for the desktop version starts at $1,495. If you want an annual maintenance contract with that license, that's another $299. OCR Shop is based on ScanSoft's award-winning OmniPage engine. A quick check on the ScanSoft Web site shows OmniPage Pro (for Windows) on sale for $599. For serious use where accuracy is paramount, then OCR Shop is the clear choice.

I spoke briefly with Radcliffe Goddard, national sales director for Vividata, to see what I could learn about the future of OCR Shop for Linux. Although she did not have the actual numbers at hand, she did say that most Vividata customers are running Linux. They are hard at work on new development work in OCR, though the direction seems to be towards industrial-strength server applications rather than the desktop usage expected in the SOHO market. OCR Shop XTR, for example, is available only in a CLI configuration, and it offers even greater power and more of everything.

OCR is definitely an area in which I have a lot to learn. Have I missed other OCR solutions available for Linux? I'm aware of CLARA, but what else is out there? Which way would you go if your choice was limited to the two solutions covered here today? Let me know in the forum or by e-mail if you prefer.

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
LjL 03/26/04 01:26:50 PM EST

There is ocrad: http://www.gnu.org/software/ocrad/ocrad.html

dkite 10/05/03 10:50:35 AM EDT

http://www.suse.de/us/company/press/press_releases/archive03/82.html says that suse linux includes a commercial ocr, kadmos. I believe that it uses kooka, with kadmos backend.

Haven't tried it. There was a licensing change in kooka a while back to allow this.

Derek

gilkyboy 10/04/03 04:44:06 PM EDT

One error: en joying. it added an extra space.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...