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Search for and find image files faster with OCR

Quickly find images and scanned documents stored in your Dropbox account, simply by searching for text that’s in them.

Library of OCR scanned PDFs stored in Dropbox
What is OCR?

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition or Optical Character Reader. It’s a technology used to ‘recognize’ or ‘read’ text featured in image files. 

OCR converts images of typed, handwritten or printed text from files into text that machines can process and search through. That includes scanned documents, photos of a document, photos with signs or scenes with type and subtitles on an image.

Currently, Dropbox uses OCR to recognise the text of your PDFs and make it easy for you to search their contents. That can be a huge time saver.

An iPhone digitally scans a signed document.
Turn scanned images into text-searchable PDFs

If you have a ton of scanned PDF and other image files saved in cloud storage, how do you find what you’re looking for in a pinch?

Dropbox eliminates the time-consuming task of processing large documents manually. Scan and store receipts, bills, photos, legal contracts, infographics from work or even your next flight itinerary. Our built-in OCR feature then extracts actual text from your scanned images.

When you’re ready to access these files from Dropbox, just input a text keyword in the search bar. A short list of words or thumbnail images will pop up so that you can find your docs fast.

An iPhone digitally scans a document to be saved in Dropbox.
OCR can streamline your business

Just about any business can benefit from OCR technology for greater productivity:

  • Lawyers can search for any case file simply by searching for a particular word. 
  • Banks can easily digitise paperwork for account holders and then search for it when needed.
  • Medical offices can quickly locate important forms by searching for patient IDs or personal details.
  • Advertising and marketing firms can extract text from images, ready to analyse its meaning or the sentiment behind it.

All of these businesses – and many more – can use OCR to streamline their businesses and virtually eliminate the need to file or store physical paper docs.

And it all starts with the Dropbox mobile app.

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Frequently asked questions

The document scanner feature is free and available to all Dropbox users. However, only Dropbox Plus, Family, Professional, Standard or Advanced, plus Enterprise users can use the OCR functionality to search for words or phrases within scanned documents.

Yes, the document scanner feature of the Dropbox mobile app allows you to scan, upload and share any document you want.

OCR uses pattern or feature recognition to define each individual character in different ways, then ‘reads’ the text and converts it into an indexed file that can be searched.

Even though they sound similar, there are major differences between OCR and ICR. OCR translates scanned images of text and turns these scans into machine-encoded text. ICR is a type of OCR but it’s more specific to text. An ICR can learn different fonts and styles of handwriting rather than just translating text from a scanned image.

Yes, OCR is based on machine learning. OCR technology replicates the human ability to recognise various text patterns, fonts or styles on images, documents and more. 

This technology is possible because of the capability of machines to learn. OCR is a prime example of the type of large scale projects involving computer vision and machine learning that engineers at Dropbox are working on all the time.

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