Scanning in iOS and OCR

My goal is to scan a document in iOS with OCR without using third party software.

OCR is built into iOS. I can take a photo of a document and search for the text in the photo and it will recognise it.

If I use the scan a document function in Apple notes or the Files app the resultant PDF does not have OCR on it.

Any ideas how to do this. If not why has apple put a restriction on this?

OCR software not free of license costs. Apple didn’t buy a license for you, far as i’m aware. So you need to purchase non-Apple (third party) software. I’m unaware of any “free of license cost” OCR software, but maybe that exists. Dunno.

I have used for years Scanner Pro and happy with it.

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Yes but they already do OCR with their live text feature, why not extend this to scanned documents.

I could take photos of all my documents and have a very good document storage solution where I just search within the photos app.

Other than what I already wrote I have not got the foggiest idea “why”. Ask Apple.

(maybe a setting somewhere in your iOS device. dig deeper, I guess)

I have just discovered that if you scan within the Notes app OCR is applied and you can search the text within the Notes app. However if you export the PDF the OCR is removed. It only seems to work within the notes app.

If you scan a document from the files app OCR is not applied.

Apple are giving it away for free to developers:

Why doesn’t Files allow for export with recognised text? That’s up for speculation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has determined that they can’t yet produce OCR text PDFs at a quality that satisfies their and their users‘ expectations. Or maybe they’ve chose not to cannibalise their commission on sales of third-party OCR/scanning apps?

That said, there are free apps that do allow for PDF export with OCR text:

Not an on-board app though.


You can do it in the Notes app after you scan it by selecting (Select All) and copying the text. Fine if it is just a couple of pages, but not so great if it is many pages.

That app is very good and makes use of VisionKit.

I think I have found the best solution for document storage now. Use Quickscan for scanning and OCR via a Siri trigger. Set it to send it to my desktop. Set up Hazel rules to file based on the contents (e.g Utility Bill). (You can get Hazel to read the OCR document)

I basically don’t do anything other than scan and everything is filed in folders in iCloud.


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