With OCR, translate image to text easier.

A man translates text with OCR on his laptop.

Lost in translation? Learn how to easily translate text from image with these expert tips.

A translator’s job isn’t easy — capturing the nuances of foreign languages can be daunting. Digital tools, like translation memories and other software, make this task a bit easier. But they all rely on your computer being able to read the text in your documents.

What if you receive the original text as a flat PDF or an image? This is where OCR comes to your rescue. Read on to learn how OCR can help translate text to other languages.

What is the process of OCR translation?

Optical character recognition (OCR) is a technology that converts scanned PDFs or images into machine-readable text. For example, think of a scanned image of a book page. OCR can make the text on the page readable to computers, allowing you to edit it directly.

An OCR-capable application reads flat documents and identifies the shapes of the letters. It then recreates the text in a machine-readable format. Some OCR applications can even recognize and replicate different fonts.

OCR can be a priceless translation tool. In a way, it is its own image-to-text translator. If you receive flat PDFs — or even printed paper pages — to translate, you can turn them into machine-readable documents and feed them into your translation software.

How to use an OCR translator with images.

You have several options when trying OCR. Full-featured PDF editing applications often have OCR tools that let you recognize text with a click of a mouse. Many mobile and desktop apps also have built-in OCR capabilities. Which tool you use will depend on what you’re translating. For example, if you’re translating a lengthy document, it might be easiest to convert it to a PDF rather than taking new photos of each page with your phone. But if you’re translating a billboard, the only method you can use is the mobile phone camera method.

Use an OCR PDF tool to translate language.

You might want to know how to translate an image to text. One option is to use the OCR built into many PDF converters. Follow these steps to use a PDF OCR tool and then translate into another language:

  1. Open your browser and navigate to Adobe’s OCR PDF page.
  2. Upload your document by clicking the “Select a file” button.
  3. When your PDF uploads, copy the digitized text.
  4. Paste the text you need to translate into your translation tool.

Most PDF converters will have an OCR function to digitize text, so you can use any PDF editing software you have.

OCR translation using mobile.

You can also digitize physical papers into machine-readable PDFs with an OCR-capable scanner or a free scanner app for mobile. Even your phone’s native camera app could have built-in scanning. Here’s how you use an app that has OCR capabilities:

  1. Open your OCR app and put the image you need to translate in view of the camera.
  2. In a minute, your app will recognize the text, and you can select the prompt to scan.
  3. Copy and paste or upload your newly digitized text into your preferred translation tool.

Using your phone’s camera can help you translate anything, even things that would be impossible to scan with a normal scanner.

OCR translation using desktop.

If you’re using your desktop to extract text, you’ll need to already have an image of the text. You can then upload the image into a text program to use its OCR capabilities. Follow these steps:

  1. Open your image in a text-based program like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or a PDF editor.
  2. Wait for your text to be digitized. Depending on the amount of text in your image, this could take some time.
  3. Copy and paste or upload your newly digitized text into your preferred translation tool.

As long as you already have an image, you can use OCR for translation on just about any device.

Benefits of an OCR translator.

Working with translation tools can help increase your efficiency as a translator. Unfortunately, many documents do not have digitized text that you can plug into your translation tool. With OCR translation, you no longer have to worry about documents your translation applications can’t read. Let OCR scan and digitize the text first, and then you can get back to work.

Here are some benefits of an OCR translator:

Tips for using OCR to translate image to text flawlessly.

OCR technology is continuously improving, and so it will just continue to get easier for you to have flawless digitization of text from an image. Even so, you can make sure that your images are clear and in good lighting before you scan them with OCR. This can prevent you from having to go back and include words that were missed by the tech because of a poorly placed shadow.

Of course, you’ll always want to review and edit the work of your translation tools. Like OCR, translation tools are improving. That does not mean, however, that they are perfect at picking up the nuances of translation. Polish your translation and compare your finished product to the original document to make sure nothing was missed.

More resources on OCR and translation.

After learning how an OCR translator can help translate text, here are additional resources on OCR and translation:

PDF conversion can boost your efficiency with its built-in OCR function. Explore everything you can do with Adobe Acrobat online services today.