A few months back, I spent far too many hours trying to find an app which would scan a page of text and turn into actual, editable text. I found none. Or rather, I found nothing good. There are plenty of OCR (optical character recognition) apps in the store, but they were either inaccurate, or ugly, or (most often) both.
And while Evernote is excellent at letting you search on scanned pages and even your handwritten notes, you don’t get to touch the text itself.
I gave up, and now – as usually happens with my “urgent” research projects, I’ve forgotten why I needed it on the first place. Which is a shame, as Pixter Scanner has been launched,and it is quite excellent – with one huge annoyance, for me at least.
Pixter is an iPhone app that runs just fine pixel-doubled on an iPad. To use it, just snap a picture of a page of text, crop it and you’re done. There’s an on-screen guide box to help you line things up, and once you’re done the OCR is almost instant.
Like most OCR pas, the text is plain and free of all formatting, which means titles run into body text in one big blog. This, while it looks messy, is preferable to badly-guessed formatting which you’l just have to correct anyway.
Accuracy is astonishing. I scanned a page from The Catalan Cookbook, an English-language book which mixes in lots of Catalan terms, as you’d expect. Pixter managed not only the English text, but didn’t try to second-guess the Catalan text either: Instead of thinking it had just read a badly-scanned English word, it just rendered the Catalan perfectly.
The app keeps the original scan, so if there are any problems with the OCRed text you can just tap the screen and see the original.
“More than” 32 languages are supported (how many is that? 33? More?) and you can also translate the text after scanning – great for foreign restaurant menus. And speaking of languages, we no come to my big problem with the app. The icon for the English language is a U.S flag, not the Union Jack. I’m not one of those Brits who bristles at the changes wrought on English by the colonies – I swim through both versions every day – but isn’t the British flag the accepted standard here? After all, Spanish gets the flag of Spain, not of any South American country.
Anyhow. It’s a small thing. The app itself is excellent, and I recommend it.