Can OCR recognize cursive handwriting?

Find out how OCR can turn cursive handwriting into machine-readable text.

You have a long, handwritten document in cursive that you need to digitize in front of you. Scanning won’t let you edit or copy-paste the text, and manually re-typing everything takes a lot of time. If only you had a faster and easier method.

Well, there is one — it’s called OCR technology. Read on to learn what OCR is and how you can use it to digitize cursive handwriting.

How does OCR work?

OCR stands for optical character recognition. OCR-capable applications or devices can scan a physical page or a “flat” image file for text. The technology recognizes the shapes of letters and symbols and recreates the text in a machine-readable format you can copy or edit. Advanced OCR solutions can even recognize and reproduce different fonts — and they may even be able to read handwritten text.

Does OCR work for cursive handwriting?

In theory, OCR can understand cursive — it’s just text, after all. But in practice, OCR may face challenges in interpreting handwriting. The technology relies on uniformity when it reads text and human handwriting — particularly cursive — is rarely perfectly consistent.

How well OCR can read your cursive handwriting depends on how advanced the OCR solution is and on the quality of your handwriting. When you use an advanced OCR scanner with very neat handwriting, you might get perfect results, but with most consumer-level solutions, you’re likely to have some mistakes in the scan.

Try reading your handwriting with OCR scanners.

If you’d like to give OCR technology a try, you have a few options. You can use a scanner that has built-in OCR features. Another solution is an OCR-capable mobile scanner app. Finally, you can scan your cursive writing into an image file, convert the image to a PDF, and run the result through an OCR computer application.

Even if the final result has some mistakes, you can then edit your document and fix the errors. It’ll still be faster than typing everything manually.