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OCR PDF Files in SharePoint Online with Encodian Readr

One of the biggest use cases for the Encodian Power Automate connector is to perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on PDF files. It allows those documents to then become discoverable to search engines such as SharePoint search and you can also begin to work with the data contained within the documents. But what do you do if you already have large SharePoint repositories of PDF files that don’t have a text layer? or might have a text layer but you’re not sure!

One option is to use the OCR a PDF Document action provided by the Encodian Power Automate connector. A flow can be created to retrieve documents from a library, apply the text layer then either update the existing file or store in an alternative location. This is a perfectly acceptable solution but can become cost-prohibitive for bulk OCR requirements. Power Automate is good for day-to-day OCR automation, but how do you handle the bulk OCR on large SharePoint repositories?

Introducing Encodian Readr!

The Encodian Readr application can be installed and ran on a Windows desktop (or server), and with simple configuration can automatically detect and OCR PDF documents held in a SharePoint document library or a specific folder. Processed documents can be added to the source or an alternative SharePoint destination, and further options are available to copy metadata, copy permissions, force OCR, overwrite the source file and filename prefixes:

By default Encodian Readr will check for the presence of a text layer on the PDF before processing the document and it will be skipped if a text layer is present. However, by selecting the ‘Force OCR’, option, a new text layer would always be created through OCR.

As a quick example; Consider a SharePoint document library containing three files: one Word document and two PDFs, one PDF file has a text layer already and one does not. There is also another folder that contains the same three files (so six files in total):

If I open the PDF with no text layer in the browser and search for some text, there is no result:

The same search against the PDF with a text layer yields results:

For this example, the objective is to OCR required PDF documents and store the updated (OCR’d) files in a new SharePoint location.

A new configuration can be created which specifies the source and target SharePoint libraries; we aren’t going to copy metadata or permissions and neither will we force OCR. The aim is to just OCR those PDFs that don’t currently have a text layer and copy the result to the “Target Documents” library:

When executed, the Readr application processes all PDFs contained within the source library, identifying and performing OCR as required. Readr provides a visual cue by highlighting in green those documents that have been OCR’d. In the unlikely event that an issue should occur during processing, the file would be highlighted red:

During and after execution has completed, the user can examine the log files and export the output of the grid for further analysis.

Let’s examine the target library. We can see that the file ‘PDF with no text layer.pdf’ has been created, as has the folder that also contained another copy of this file:

If we examine the file we can now search for text within the body of the document:

Readr provides the perfect solution for performing bulk OCR of large repositories of PDFs within SharePoint Online document libraries.

If you would like to know more or to arrange a demonstration, please drop an email to hello@encodian.com and a member of the team will be in touch.

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