Build OCRing into macOS

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The next time you guys get a chance to talk to Craig Federighi could you put in a plug.

For Business Users as well as Home Users it would wonderful if you could build in an OCR engine into the OS. I know that business users would really love it and it would make for a strong case to choose a MAC over Windows.

Users could config OCRing to happen in real-time whenever a PDF was created or configure OCRing to run in the evening or have it run on a folder basis so that whenever a file was created in a particular folder OCRing would kick off in the background.

OCR Status could be a entry in File Info metadata or it could be assigned a tag. This is so that you could search for all PDFs that are not OCRd.

Not to be greedy but it would be great to have Devonthink/Evernote capabilities built into the macOS/iCloud.

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It’s already there. I only know this because KeepIt uses this to perform OCR on content you add to it.

What I think is missing is a UI to this stuff, other than a third party app that implements it.

It’s been around for a while, too…


  • iOS 11.0+
  • macOS 10.13+
  • Mac Catalyst 13.0+
  • tvOS 11.0+

Is there a way to access this from a shell script (i.e. without building a whole app?)

OCR is more than “just” text recognition.

Like Apple mentions in the Vision documentation:

Using either path, you may optionally apply a language-correction phase based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to minimize the potential for misreadings.

And that’s (as far as I know) exactly what OCR software does. And what makes it complex.

And b.t.w. I’m not sure if OCR should be part of an OS per se.

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I would argue that an OS that has this is at an advantage over one that doesn’t. It’s the little things that make MacOS a superior experience that commands the premium price tag over Windows (hardware and software).

The trick here is to expose the function in a useful way - and that might be an app opportunity for someone. (Whether command line, AppleScript, or GUI.)

Microsoft does the same thing as Apple “Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is part of the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which means that it can be used in all apps targeting Windows 10.”

I agree, this may be an opportunity for someone.

In 2014 Apple partnered with IBM to handle enterprise software solutions and iPhone/iPad sales. And at that time they stated they would concentrate on their “legendary consumer experience, hardware and software integration and developer platform.”

I don’t think Apple has any interest in developing software or services for businesses.

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For those that remember, it was pretty revolutionary for Mac OSX to have the built-in ability to print to pdf when OSX came out 20 years ago. Before that, you had to have extra app that did it, which was very inconvenient. OSX made generating PDFs frictionless.

These days, other systems have caught up. Evernote, Google Drive, and certain parts of OneDrive have automatic OCR built in. It’s high time Apple baked such functionality into the system (or at least exposed the functionality via Preview).

In a word, no.  

As an IBMer I probably shouldn’t comment on this… :slight_smile:

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I see Windows 10 is FINALLY getting on board with this. This and QuickLook are the two macOS functions that should have made it to Windows years and years ago. Still waiting on QuickLook.

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