Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

You can run and correct the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) process for PDFs in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. The OCR process creates searchable text, an important accessibility feature for digital documents. This is potentially useful if the Ally tool that's built into Canvas is unable to generate an "OCRed PDF" version of your document in its Alternative Formats menu.

You can download Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for free as part of Adobe Creative Cloud.

Here are the steps to running and correcting OCR in Acrobat:

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
  2. Click Scan and OCR in the righthand panel:

    Adobe Acrobat Pro DC with the Scan & OCR button in the righthand panel circled and indicated with an arrow.

  3. Click Recognize Text in the top toolbar that appears.
  4. Click In This File in the dropdown menu.
  5. Click Settings in the toolbar that appears.

    For “Output”: if file size matters, select “Searchable Image” and choose “600 dpi” for “Downsample To.” This will reduce the file size after running OCR.

    If file size doesn’t matter, select “Searchable Image (Exact).” This will result in the highest fidelity to the original document after running OCR.

  6. Click the blue Recognize Text button to initiate OCR.
  7. After the process finishes, click Recognize Text in the top toolbar again.
  8. Click Correct Recognized Text in the dropdown menu.
  9. Any text that Acrobat suspects might be misrecognized will appear in red boxes. Click on any text in a red box to see a comparison between the text’s image and what it is being recognized as. Type in the recognized as box to correct as needed, then click Accept to save your edit:

    Adobe Acrobat Pro DC with an instance of mistaken text recognition circled.

  10. There may be recognition errors that are not in red boxes. If you check the box for Review recognized text at top left, you can then double-click any text to place a red box around it and correct its recognition.
  11. Continue this process until all text is recognized correctly. You can ignore any red boxed text that is already recognized correctly. Save the PDF to finish (it’s recommended to Save As a new file).

If your document has too many recognition errors to fix, you may need to find a born-digital version (check the Iwasaki Library) or create a higher-quality scan. If neither option is possible, you can submit the library's Reserves Request Form.

NOTE: It is not possible to adjust, add, or remove recognition areas in Acrobat.
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