OCR on your Mac with PDFpen

OCR on your Mac with PDFpen

The all-purpose Mac PDF editor!

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Edit scanned documents on your Mac or on the go! Take advantage of the power of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in PDFpen for Mac and PDFpen Scan+ on your iPad or iPhone.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is the process of converting a bitmap image of text (like a scanned document) into text that can be selected, copied and searched by PDFpen and other text editing software. PDFpen for Mac uses the OmniPage OCR engine, which is recognized for its accuracy.

For more info, see Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in Wikipedia.

PDFpen for Mac

"If you’re looking for a way to convert already-scanned documents to usable text without rescanning, PDFpen’s OCR software may be a viable alternative to costly standalone OCR packages." - Macworld, 4 mice

Using OCR in PDFpen

1. Open a scanned PDF in PDFpen, or scan your document using PDFpen's "Import from Scanner" command.

2. An alert box opens with the message “This document appears to be scanned. Would you like to perform optical character recognition (OCR) on it? OCR will allow you to select the text.”

3. Click on “OCR Page” or “OCR Document” to start the OCR.

Once OCR is complete, the text generated by the OCR operation can be searched and edited like any other text.

Tips to Improve the OCR Results of Your Document

The quality of the original document affects the quality of the OCR performance. Crisp, clean originals with clear text will produce much better results than crumpled, faded photocopies.

Before performing OCR, use PDFpen's "Deskew and Adjust Image" command to straighten the image and to adjust image contrast and exposure for optimal OCR results. The text should be as level as possible.

Documents in a standard paper size, like US letter, work best. Documents with large pages, like architectural plans, do not OCR very well.

OCR technology does not always produce perfect results. You do need to proofread and edit the text that results from OCR.

View OCR Results

The OCR process results in a normally invisible layer of text above the visible layer. To view this layer in PDFpen or PDFpenPro 7:

  1. Choose View > OCR Layer (⌘⇧O). You will see the normal text and images fade and the OCR text will become visible. Repeat to turn off.

If you have PDFpenPro 7, you can select and edit these results by clicking on a word and editing it in the resulting popup.

PDFpen Scan+

Using OCR in Scan+

  1. From Documents view, tap on a document to open it.
  2. Tap on a page of the document. You will see “OCR” in the menubar.
  3. Tap “OCR”. You will be given the option to OCR just the current page or the entire document.

Copy OCRed text

Once you run OCR on a document, the text becomes recognizable as text and can be copied and pasted into a word processing app.

  1. Run OCR on a document, or a page.
  2. In that page, tap “OCR”. You will have to option to copy any recognizable text of that page, or of the whole document. To copy text from the whole document you will need to have run OCR on the whole document.
  3. Switch to a word processing app and paste the text in.

Preview the OCR results

Once you have run OCR, you will see a blue overlay of the OCR results. Tap the document to make the preview appear or disappear. You can also acces the preview through the "OCR" menu.

Tips for Good OCR Results

A clean scan will get the best OCR results. To take a good scan, make sure the document is well lit. When you crop the document, make sure the text ends up as straight and horizontal as possible.

Whether you have taken a new scan or opened a PDF, if it is dim or blurry go to the edit screens and increase the contrast and brightness and make the text as legible as possible.


New! PDFpen Scan+ 2.0

Use new touch-free scanning on contracts, invoices, or receipts! The camera will scan and crop for you. Use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to transform that scan into a searchable PDF. All with your iPhone® or iPad®. 

Learn More


Available for Download on the App Store

System Requirements:

PDFpen 7 and PDFpenPro 7 require a Mac running OS X 10.10 or later. For previous versions see our downloads page.