How Do I Transfer Data From Paper to the Computer?

By Aaron Parson

Data on a printed sheet of paper.
i Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

When you’re stuck with only a printout of a long document and need to make changes, retyping the entire file can waste hours. If you have either a scanner or a microphone, however, a few alternatives become available. With a scanner, an optical character recognition utility can convert a scan into an editable file. With a mic, your computer can take dictation. Although far faster than typing, neither method works perfectly, so always check your document for errors before sending it off.

Scanning and OCR

A scanner digitizes paper into an image file, such as a JPG, or a PDF. These files work fine for photos and completed forms, but don’t make it easy to modify data. Optical character recognition programs solve the issue by converting scanned images into regular text documents. Some scanners include their own OCR utilities, as do programs such as Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft OneNote. To run OCR on a scanned PDF in Acrobat XI, open the “View” menu, click “Tools,” pick “Text Recognition” and choose the document and pages to convert. In OneNote 2013, insert an image, right-click it, choose "Copy Text from Picture" and then paste the text with "Ctrl-V." Google Drive also offers automatic OCR, extracting text from any PDFs you upload and open in Docs.

Voice Entry

Windows includes speech recognition software that can type documents from dictation. To start, search for and open “Windows Speech Recognition” on the Windows 8 and 8.1 Start screen or Windows 7 Start menu. Follow the setup instructions, and then open a blank document. Read your paper aloud to enter it into the computer. Windows speech recognition doesn’t automatically insert punctuation, so you need to speak each punctuation mark aloud. Some commercial speech recognition programs offer a limited form of automatic punctuation, but even with these alternatives, you need to specify less common symbols such as semicolons.