Converting Pictures Into Words You Can Process


Q. With my iPhone I copied numerous documents, many of which are in typewritten Hebrew, and now I have JPG files. I want to convert these into text files and translate them. How do I accomplish this? Or is there another way to do this?

A. Optical-character recognition (O.C.R.) software is commonly used to convert pictures or scans of the original material into text files that you can edit, format and use with a word-processing program. O.C.R. software analyzes the shape of the letters on the page and converts the visual information into live text. To convert images of Hebrew characters, you need an O.C.R. program that can recognize the Hebrew alphabet.

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Google Translate is one online source for converting text between languages, but as with most software translation, accuracy may vary.

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The New York Times

There are a few commercial O.C.R. programs available that list Hebrew as a supported language, including Readiris ($100 for Mac, iOS and Windows; a free trial is available). Other options include the $50 Prizmo O.C.R. software for the Mac, as well as Abbyy FineReader Pro for Mac ($120) and Abbyy FineReader Standard for Windows ($200); a free trial is available. An online version of Abbyy FineReader works through the web browser and you can try a limited number of conversions in exchange for your email address.

Free O.C.R. software for Hebrew, mobile O.C.R. apps and online conversion sites can be found around the web, too. You may want to try uploading a few sample photos of your text or use one of the free (or free trial) programs to see if you are satisfied with the character-recognition results. Some O.C.R. programs may have trouble recognizing characters in stylized fonts or in photographs that are not in sharp focus. With Hebrew, the nikud diacritical marks used to represent vowels or alternate pronunciations may also cause some programs to incorrectly recognize certain characters.

Once you have created text files you can edit, you can translate them by hand — or try computer translation from some of the various sites like Google Translate, or with a dedicated translation program. Depending on the software, the quality of the translation may vary. You should also note whether the program is designed to convert classical/biblical or modern Hebrew. It is important to get the right version for your source material because the dictionaries used by the translation software can differ.

For those interested in Hebrew texts from around the world, the National Library of Israel recently unveiled its Ktiv site, a huge collection of digitized manuscripts that can be freely searched and studied online.

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