Friday, May 25, 2012

Typewriter Text to Your Computer: How to Get Good Results

Now that I've told you all where you can go to use decent OCR software, I will now cover how you can get good results with this software. These methods were discovered when cleaning up my own OCRed (look Mom, a made up word) chapters that I had written on my little S&C Skyriter. I wrote some of them while I was still trying to keep the spools from sticking when I first got it, so the text was a tad iffy. My later drafts look much better since my spools no longer stuck and I had gotten much better at typing on my machine. So here are a few things that you can try while writing with your own machines that can help you get good results when using OCR software.

  • Keep the draft clean. Since the OCR software reads the shape that it can see on the paper, it's best to try not and screw up and then fix it by backing over the word to cross it out. When in the flow, it's tempting to just hit the backspace or move the carriage so you can cross out the words with a handy ///, XXX, or even a horizontal line. This can be read in many strange ways, by the software, and it becomes tedious to go through and get rid of all the funny combinations. I suggest using white out tape to go over  your mistakes. I find it quite handy, and it keeps my manuscript clean for the software. Make sure you cover all of the mistake, or you may get the odd colon and period in the middle of a word.
  • Have crisp, clean letters. This is a little harder to achieve with a typewriter, so I suggest using any means necessary. You want the crispest, cleanest letters you can manage or you might get words that come out like this: ducL:. It was supposed to be duck,but the software didn't read it that way. My periods are also often mistaken for commas and my Is for ones. This is why I find it best to make sure that my letters come out as sharp as possible. Currently my letters are a tad gummed up, so I might get better results when I clean them. Using a typeface that is easy to read might help too. The g on my machine is a bit funny, so I get a lot of words that look like this: hugGed
  • Use a good quality scanner. This will also maintain the sharpness of your letters. I have a good one, so I don't have this problem. If you have an old one, invest in a new one, or borrow a friends. Many printers do double, triple, or quadruple duty these days, so a good scanner shouldn't be hard to come by.
  • If converting to a Word doc, try to spell everything right. I know that as writers we should try and do this anyway, but it doesn't always happen. By having good spelling, the amount of red and green squiggly lines should be reduced which makes fixing and finding the OCR errors much easier. 
I hope this helps for any writer who is crazy enough to write on a typewriter. I find that preventative measures make everything easier in life. 

For my first blog on using OCR software: Typewriter Text to Your Computer