PaperPort Notes goes from Amazing to Awesome!

Here’s a free iPad app that has achieved near perfection. You can now use the iPad camera, even the camera on an iPad 2, to photograph text and import it as editable text into PaperPort Notes. If the imported text retained the formatting of the original page, I think I’d call the app perfect.

PaperPort Notes was already one of the most versatile and polished iOS apps available for supporting written output.

  • Text can be entered with keyboard, via voice-to-text, or with stylus. As well, audio recordings can be attached to notes.
  • Notes can be written on yellow or white lined pages, on blank white pages, or on “graph paper”.
  • PDF files, can be imported from almost anywhere–PaperPort Anywhere (dedicated free cloud storage), Box, Dropbox, Docs Folder, Files/Snapshots from the Web, the iPad’s Clipboard, camera images.
  • Text boxes and sticky notes can be added to notes and imported files.
  • Multi-color highlighting is available.
  • Work created or modified in PaperPort Notes can be shared in PaperPort Anywhere, by Email, Google Docs, Box, Dropbox, Docs Folder (with audio attached to PDF). Or PaperPort Notes can be opened in many other apps on the iPad.

Now you can use the iPad’s camera to capture text, then the text can be imported into PaperPort Notes as editable text. With ‘Speak Selection’, this text can even be read aloud. Alternatively, you can import images of text that are stored on the iPad. You need to sign up for a free account with the OCR engine, but once the account is set up, it could hardly be easier to import converted images of text.

To import an image of converted text, simply click on the ‘Image to Text’ button. Then follow the prompts on the screen that opens. After processing, the imported text appears on the panel at the right. If desired, the text can be edited before inserting into your note.

Scan Text and Read it Aloud with ScanThing on Android Tablet or Phone

Text that can be read aloud is invaluable for many learners who face challenges with reading. So, it’s helpful to be able to turn hard copy into digital text. Here’s an Android app that not only “scans” hard copy, it also reads the scanned text aloud. At $5.11 (Canadian), this app is what I consider a “low cost” solution for anyone who needs it.

scanthing is an Android app that uses the built in camera on an Android phone or tablet to “scan” pages of text. The scanned image is uploaded to scanthing‘s OCR server, which creates digital text. scanthing also provides text-to-speech for anyone who needs  it.  It’s worth noting that scanthing can import an image scanned elsewhere.

I tested scanthing with the Asus Transformer Prime and its 8 megapixel camera. The result was perfect digital text that could be read aloud without any problem. The only potential frustration might be the lag between scanning an image and obtaining the digital text. The delay is understandable because the OCR happens online “in the cloud”, but no one should expect instant results. It is also important to know that the original formatting of the scanned page is not retained.

Here’s a video demonstration of scanthing on a phone.

From Hard Copy to Text-to-Speech on an iDevice

When it comes to apps for iStuff, I’ve decided to extend my definition of free to include what I’ll call “almost free”.  After contending with what has often seemed like extortionate pricing for computer software, it is refreshing to be able to purchase excellent apps for much more affordable prices.

I will continue to write about free computer resources, but I’ll also be turning my attention to apps for Apple’s iDevices.  In the not too distant future, I’m hoping to write about apps for Android devices; but not before I am in a position to purchase an Android tablet.  I’m eying the new Asus Transformer Prime with a great deal of interest!

Today, I’m writing about an iPhone app that uses the phone’s camera to turn text on paper into text that can then be read aloud on the iPhone.  This can be tremendously valuable for anyone who faces reading challenges.

[Note: This app works only on the iPhone. Apparently, the iPad camera will not auto-focus; so it won't work on the iPad.]

Text Grabber is an app that uses the iPhone’s camera to take a picture of text, and then applies its first-rate OCR to turn it into editable that can then be read aloud.  In my trials it worked so well that I think it is well worth its $1.99 price tag for anyone who needs it.

I installed Text Grabber on my iPhone 4 that is running iOS 5.  On my first attempt to use the app, I used the camera built into Text Grabber to photograph the page shown below.  Part of the converted text is shown underneath.  OCR is never perfect, but this result is excellent, despite the fact that the original was somewhat crumpled.  There was no problem having this text read back to me aloud.  (Please read what I’ve written under the images if you want to know how I had the text read aloud.)

With iOS 5 it was extremely easy to have the converted text read aloud to me with the ‘Speak Selection’ feature that has been built into iOS 5.  I simply copied the converted text to a text editor (I’m using Nebulous Notes.)  I then selected all the text.  When I did that, I was given the ‘Speak’ option, as shown below, in order to have the selection read aloud.  In my next post, I’ll write more about using the Speak Selection’ feature in iOS 5.

ZoomReader for iPhone — Something Extra Special!

My blog is about free resources, so today’s post is an exception about an extra special resource that will cost $20.  This iPhone app will be such good value that I’ll almost certainly write about it more than once.  ZoomReader has not yet been released, but aisquared has promised that it will be available from the iTunes store sometime this month.

ZoomReader from aisquared

ZoomReader is an iPhone app that combines the iPhone’s camera with high quality OCR, flexible reading options (magnification, contrast, etc.), excellent text-to-speech, and even voice recognition for commands. Aisquared is to be commended for putting all of this together for only $20.  They’re not only making accessibility simple, they’re making it affordable!

I was very impressed when I saw ZoomReader demonstrated at ATIA, and I’ve embedded a video here that gives a pretty good indication of what this app will do.