The best virtual assistants always have a bank of time saving tips and tricks, useful gadgets and bits of software that help us get the job done quicker than the average Joe. As our time is our biggest asset, it makes sense to be able to get jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Every now and again, you’ll find the need to extract some text from an image or PDF. Quite often the most logical way of doing this is to simply copy type the file, however, did you know that there is a nifty little tool hidden right within your Microsoft Office Suite that can help with this?

OCR Software (Optical Character Recognition) isn’t a particularly new concept, but decent packages are usually not that cost effective, especially if you aren’t going to use it too often. In a nutshell OCR software is used to extract either printed or handwritten text from an image or file and converts it into a word processed format. If you use Microsoft Office 2007 or later, you may well have ‘OneNote’ already installed. It’s one of those programs that people either tend to use all the time or never at all! Whatever your thoughts on it, it does have some useful functions, including the “copy text from picture” function.

This function is a basic form of OCR software, and whilst it works very well for scanned word-processed documents, it doesn’t really work too well with handwritten files. That being said, if you ever get sent a printed and scanned document that needs copy typing, this little gem could save you tonnes of time.

It’s really easy to use, here’s how…

Open OneNote, go to any page or open a new page
Add your image to the page in one of two ways;

  1. copy and paste it directly from the location (whether that is in a folder on your computer or somewhere on the internet)
  2. simply left click and drag the file from a folder on your computer straight onto the page

If you use the latter method with a PDF file, you’ll then get a small pop up box asking what you would like to do with the file. You want to select ‘insert as a printout so I can add notes’. This then adds the pages of your PDF as images. Pretty cool, hey?

The next bit’s even better…

Once you have you image on the page, all you need to do is right-click on the image and choose Copy Text From Picture. This will then copy all text from the image into the clipboard. If there is more than one page, you can choose to copy everything or just the current page.

The final step is to simply paste the data from the clipboard into where ever you need it – Microsoft Word, Notepad or pretty much anywhere else you like! How easy was that?

Note: this text will be totally un-formatted and will still need proof reading and formatting to make sure it’s up to scratch before you return it to the client, but at least the bulk of the work will be done for you!