State of OCR in Gnome

August 7, 2007

Hi everybody,

My work on flegita-gimp does not mean i forgot OCR which is, IMHO, the first class feature of scanning. Writing AbiScan clears my vision on how to design Gnome OCR UI. Before writing AbiScan, i was wondering how to integrate OCR in Gnome Scan. I was really worried because Gnome Scan is designed to pass image (as GeglBuffer) to application, not text or HTML or wathever OCR output format. I decided to write AbiScan and use ocropus directly instead of through Gnome Scan.

This lead me to find the way Gnome will receive OCR and OCR UI. AbiScan use ocropus command line tool, the idea is to use a library providing common OCR UI instead. This library should be ship by OCRopus. Why OCRopus and not Gnome Scan ? Because i think this library depends more on OCRopus and not on Gnome Scan. I may provide an OCR sink in Gnome Scan which help pluging Gnome Scan and OCRopus, but that’s not all the UI and OCR interaction part which should heavily rely on OCRopus itself, just like OCRopus command line tool.

Publishing AbiScan seems to have revealed questions from users. At the risk of repeating OCRopus website, let me explain a bit of OCRopus. OCRopus is not an OCR engine. OCRopus is a document analysis and OCR system. Instead of rewriting its own OCR engine, it uses existing one, especially tesseract, but more are to come. The difference between OCRopus and an OCR engine is exactly the same as between HTML and plain/text. HTML contains semantic, formatting and test itself while plain/text contains only … text ! So, if ever you read a comparision between OCRopus and e.g. gocr or ocrad, you can laught at it. Well, in fact, ocrad has a minimal layout analyser for text column, but that’s not as advanced as OCRopus layout analyser.


6 Responses to “State of OCR in Gnome”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Please include support for OCR-Shop. This isn’t GPL but the best OCR engine for Linux. Thanks!

  2. Étienne Bersac Says:

    @anonymous 02:11:


    I won’t write support for such software. They’ll have to do it by their own, or one of their users.

    Kind regards

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Sad, so I must write a wrapper in bash to fake ocr-shop as eg. gocr and search for another GUI tool.
    Bash is my only knowledge and I help normal users to use Linux.
    But every GPL OCR Software is ‘very basic’ to recognize text. Try to compare OCR-Shop with Ocropus and you know what I mean. No normal user (“from the other OS”) accept this very minimalistic recognize results from a GPL program, if every sold scanner comes with a 100% better OCR software.

  4. Étienne Bersac Says:


    Writing a wrapper won’t help you much since using command line tool is a temporary experimental solution. As i said, i wish a real OCR API.

    Regarding your request, i decided that i won’t stick Gnome OCR to OCRopus. I should better provide a modular OCR layout for Gnome allowing to choose backend (just like Gnome Scan 0.5 do for scanner access and SANE). However, don’t expect me to support each proprietary softwares. See my last post on Choosing an OCR system.

    Kind regards,

  5. Anonymous Says:


    great news, thank you!! :)

    This takes Gnome another step to the Desktop.
    Don’t get me wrong: I’m *very* happy with this command line tool provided by OCRshop, but I’m not an usual user.

    Have luck, best regards,


  6. Étienne Bersac Says:

    Hi Helmut,

    Your comment on “what for another engine” is not alone. Article about Gnome Scan on Ars Technica and LinuxFR made similar feedback (but they where more about using tesseract instead of OCRopus – a non sense – or gocr).

    Kind regards,

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