What is Google OCR?

Optical character recognition (OCR) converts scanned images and documents into editable and searchable text, enabling users to make changes to documents and extract data. Google OCR refers to Google’s OCR products, which help “turn unstructured content into business-ready structured data” and allow companies to derive valuable insights. 

Google is a global technology company that’s best known for its search engine. Over time, it has rapidly added other products and services to its offerings, including OCR. Currently, Google OCR is available through four products: Google Document AI, Google Cloud Vision, Google Drive, and Google Keep. 

Google Document AI is a document understanding platform that lets you create AI-powered document processors. These processors can extract, split, and classify documents while automating tedious and repetitive tasks. Google Document AI is geared toward developers with technical skills, with the option to develop solutions using their processor interface or an API.

Enterprise Document OCR is part of Document AI, and its main purpose is to detect and extract text and layout from documents. Common use cases include:

  • Extracting text from PDFs and images
  • Correcting image rotation issues that may impact text extraction
  • Detecting handwriting and languages used in the text
  • Digitizing paper documents

Pricing is based on the volume of pages being processed. For up to 5,000,000 pages per month, expect to pay $1.50 per 1,000 processed pages. If you process more than 5,000,000 pages, you’ll get a reduced rate of $0.60 per 1,000 pages.

Enterprise Document OCR offers additional add-ons that increase its capabilities. These include:

  • Math OCR: Detect mathematical formulas. 
  • Checkbox extraction: Detect checkboxes and extract whether the box is marked or unmarked.
  • Font style detection: Detect specific font styles and properties, including weight, color, and type.

Google Cloud Vision or Vision AI makes Google’s pre-trained computer vision machine learning models readily available to developers via APIs. Users can easily integrate OCR, among other vision features, into their applications. Since Google Cloud Vision includes additional capabilities, it’s not limited to processing documents and images — you can also use it for videos. 

Companies deploy Google Cloud Vision to:

  • Label images
  • Tag and categorize content
  • Extract handwriting
  • Find potentially unsafe content

Google’s Vision API is free to try with a Google account, as you’ll automatically get 1,000 units each month. After that, pricing varies depending on the features used, with most costing between $0.60 to $1.50 per 1,000 units per month.

Google Drive is Google’s cloud-based storage drive. It serves as the hub for popular Google products, like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. Teams can collaborate within Google Drive to work on shared documents simultaneously in real time. Users can access Google Drive across devices and work with their files from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Within Google Drive, you’ll find Google Docs — Google’s free online word processing app where users can produce text-based content and store it in their Google Drive.

In the context of OCR, neither Google Drive nor Google Docs are dedicated OCR tools. However, when used together, both tools have OCR capabilities. To use Google Drive and Google Docs for OCR, upload a PDF or image file and then open the file as a Google Doc. This process converts the text in the file into an editable Google Doc. Once you edit the Google Doc, you can choose to download it in different formats, including PDF and Microsoft Word.

Google Drive and Google Docs are both free to use, and they can be accessed on desktop and through mobile apps. They’re best for non-technical users or when you need to quickly extract text from a PDF or image.

Google Keep is Google’s free note-taking and list-making app. Like other Google products, you can access Google Keep across devices from anywhere with an internet connection. Google Keep is not specifically an OCR tool, but it has OCR capabilities.

To use Google Keep for OCR, open the app and create a new note with an image. Add your image files and open the menu to select the “Grab image text” option. Keep will display the text below the image, where you can then edit it or copy and paste it into the desired location. 

Google Keep is free to use and can be accessed on desktop and via its mobile app. It’s user-friendly and intuitive, making it a solid option for non-technical users.

Whether you need to extract data for editing or to use in complex workflows, Instabase AI Hub offers pre-built AI applications with OCR capabilities. What sets Instabase apps apart from Google’s OCR solutions is that they’re more powerful than Google Drive/Google Docs and Google Keep, and they don’t require engineering or technical skills, unlike Google Document AI and Google Cloud Vision.

In the AI Hub, the Converse app empowers anyone to use natural language to interact with all sorts of documents. You can not only extract text from documents, but also use Converse to summarize, analyze, translate, and perform calculations. For companies that want to automate data extraction at scale, you can use the Build app to quickly create automated workflows and integrate OCR into your current processes and systems.  

Try Instabase AI Hub’s OCR capabilities for free today.