How can I extract text from images?

I am not talking about scanned files, but garden variety images, such as when you take a high-def picture of a blackboard at class, and it is nicely handwritten; or when you photograph a page from a recipe book and want the recipe in text format.

Any free and open software for that?

I tried tesseract, and the results were awful.


3 Answers 3


The act of extracting text from images is called OCR and Ubuntu has a wiki page dedicated to OCR. From that page:

Available OCR tools

The Ubuntu Universe repositories contain the following OCR tools:

  1. gocr - A command line OCR
  2. fuzzyocr - spamassassin plugin to check image attachments
  3. libhocr0 - Hebrew OCR
  4. ocrad - Optical Character Recognition program
  5. ocrfeeder - Document layout analysis and optical character recognition system
  6. ocropus - document analysis and OCR system
  7. tesseract-ocr

The Ubuntu multiverse respositories also contain:

  1. cuneiform - multi-language OCR system

Some packages are outdated, but unofficial fresh ones can be found in Alex_P PPA (PPA adding code: ppa:alex-p/notesalexp). If you never used a PPA check how to add software from a PPA.

edit: As shown in comment Clara OCR exists too but it got stuk at Hardy and their website has 2009 as last updated.

  • Do you have experience using any of those for the examples I described? I became a bit sceptical to regular ocr tools for them. Number 7 on the list is the one I tried and was plainly terrible. Aug 31, 2011 at 9:11
  • If I recall, I tried gocr also, with equivalent terrible results. If you tried with success any of those, what syntax did you use? Thanks. Aug 31, 2011 at 9:13
  • None whatsoever! I never bothered with OCR :D Freshmeat search shows Clara OCR and tesseract-ocr ;) ( freshmeat.net/search/… )
    – Rinzwind
    Aug 31, 2011 at 11:16
  • Am I wrong if I say that successful use of OCR requires knowledge of the process and a careful setup to fit the particular image to be scanned? Thus, if I'm right, bad results might be due to the user and not the software.
    – N.N.
    Aug 31, 2011 at 11:37
  • OCR works best if you know how the image is created and you are very well versed in using the software that you use (the latter being the reason I never got around to using it).
    – Rinzwind
    Aug 31, 2011 at 11:43

tesseract-ocr would be the great one compared to all others. For Installation, run the below command

sudo apt-get install tesseract-ocr

Usage is tesseract filename.jpg output.txt, then it will generate output.txt file.

You might consider selecting the appropriate language. In that case, you will need to install tesseract-ocr-LANG package, where LANG is the three-letter ISO 639-2 language code. Right now you have 123 languages on 18.04 repo. Then use for example:

tesseract mySpanishText.jpg output -l spa
  • 1
    Hey, so this does works but is not accurate or I would rather say is 80-85% accurate. Like example for this image: pbs.twimg.com/media/DJs6_pcXkAA2VrN.jpg, it messed up $ sign and also most brackets. Square, round, curly, all brackets are a problem, they never get extracted properly. Do you know of any fix? Sep 19, 2017 at 14:08

Using tesseract-ocr we can extract text from images. I have tested gocr which didn't work well as compare to tesseract-ocr


sudo apt-get install tesseract-ocr

Python program to convert all the image files with png extension inside of current directory to txt file

#!/usr/bin/env python3.10
import os
import subprocess

def list_files(path):
    files = []
    for name in os.listdir(path):
        if os.path.isfile(os.path.join(path, name)):
            files.append(os.path.join(path, name))
    return files

def convertImageToText(img_file):
    #process = subprocess.Popen(['tesseract', img_file,
    #    ''.join(img_file.rsplit('.png', 1))])
    os.system(f"tesseract {img_file} {''.join(img_file.rsplit('.png', 1))}")

def startOperation():
    list_file = list_files(".")
    for img_file in list_file:
        if img_file.lower().split(".")[-1] == "png":


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