By looking at this application’s score, you can already tell that it’s top notch. Unlike any others I have ever reviewed, OCRTOOL by mkanda does not do one do one thing it claims it can. And with a $4.99 price tag, that is not a small chunk of change to go squandering.
So here’s a rundown of what OCRTOOL is “supposed” to do:
OCRTOOL is an iPhone application that is meant to take a picture of a text document and then, using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), turn that image into a text document for your phone. OCRTOOL supposedly recognizes 32 languages (i.e. English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, German, Catalan, etc.). You can see the full list of covered languages on their website, but trust me, it doesn’t make a bit of difference when you finally see the results.
The translated text can be easily shared once you have your results, either by copying it to the clipboard or sending it via email as a JPEG or PDF file.
Users can either capture a new picture using the camera capabilities or select a photo from your pre-existing library to translate. The preview panel allows you to crop or rotate the image for optimal translation possibilities. However, the crop tool is extremely fickle and more likely to cut off your desired words than aid in better translation, though it is worth a shot because anything that will strengthen your odds for a successful translation is at least worth the attempt.
Once you are done editing, the recognition process will begin. Simply tap at any time during to stop the process. The result will then be displayed and available for copying or sending. Changing the languages at the bottom will allow you to re-recognize a selection (assuming it was able to translate in the first place, which is doubtful.)
Now for what actually happens when you follow the aforementioned steps:
First of all, this app is simply pointless if you do not have a camera-ready iPhone. Those with an iPod Touch will only be able to use the photos they have saved to their gallery, and that is not worth $4.99 all on its own.
Secondly, when attempting to photograph hand-written notes with OCRTOOL, the app would not process the photo and take me to the screen that displays all your recent translations, never having translated my notes whatsoever.
But best of all are the screenshots I have to share with you that will illustrate my point much better than my words ever will. In five attempts at translating the same book cover, all I managed to obtain was a series of random characters. What was supposed to say “ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS” ended up being translated to look like the very images you see. One was an attempt to translate the cover into Spanish, while the second was just English to English.
The proof is in the pictures. Perhaps one day, with MUCH improvement, OCRTOOL will live up to its description. (Hence the reason I gave it a 1 and not a flat out zero… I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt by hoping that someday it will grow into a very worthwhile product. What can I say? I’m an optimist.)
OCRTOOL requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.