How to Use VueScan OCR With a Mac

by Shawn M. Tomlinson

VueScan is a scanning program that works with many different types of scanners on the Apple Macintosh computer, as well as on Windows and Linux. It provides a guided sequence for every standard scanning task, including scanning a text document for optical character recognition or OCR. It does not, however, provide OCR ability directly, only the scanning. In other words, you can scan a document to be read by an OCR program, but you must have a separate OCR program to turn the document back into text. The actual procedure of scanning for OCR in VueScan is relatively easy.

Plug your flatbed scanner into your Mac using USB or FireWire, depending upon the scanner's ports. Power on the scanner and wait for it to become "Ready." This can take a few seconds or a few minutes, again depending upon what scanner you use.

Start VueScan. In the VueScan interface, look to the left side where the controls reside. In the scroll button to the right of "Source" should be the name of your scanner. If it is not, quit VueScan and launch it again. There is no way to search for scanners in VueScan, but the program should read your scanner automatically. Failure usually means that VueScan did not have time to "see" your scanner. As long as your scanner is powered on and you restart the program, VueScan should see it.

Select "Text" in the scroll button to the right of "Media." You can leave the other controls such as "Media Size," "Preview Resolution" and "Scan Resolution" set to auto unless you have specific parameters in mind. For example, you may want to set the "Scan Resolution" to 300 dots per inch for clearer, cleaner results, but the "Auto" settings tend to work well in most cases.

Place your document on the scanner glass. Go to the "Preview" button on the lower left of VueScan and click it. When the "Preview" appears, a marquee will appear around it. You can move this in with the mouse to scan only what you need. This saves scanning time and file size.

Go to the "Output" button at the top. Click the "TIFF" checkbox. Most OCR software requires TIFF or PDF format, so VueScan's default JPEG file format may not work. Click the "Scan" button and wait for the document to scan. VueScan will take a minute or two to process the file into a readable TIFF, then open it in a default program. This usually means Apple's Preview application. Name and save the file.

Open your OCR application, then open the VueScan file and perform the OCR function. This will vary according to the program you use.


  • check You can use the "Guide Me" button at the bottom left of the VueScan interface to get step-by-step help to do virtually any task in the application. Using the "Next >" button at the bottom will walk you through every setting in VueScan to perform the text document scan.

Items you will need

About the Author

Shawn M. Tomlinson has been a newspaper and magazine writer for more than 28 years. He has written for a variety of publications, from "MacWEEK" and "Macintosh-Aided Design" to "Boys' Life," "Antique Week" and numerous websites. He attended several colleges, majoring in English, writing and theater, and has taught college classes about writing.