Access or Excel vba scan receipts

I want to scan in receipts and be able to extract/manipulate the data using VBA.   What is a good economical scanner (doesn't have to be portable) that has OCR software that I can manipulate with Access VBA or Excel VBA? Thanks!
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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Infotrakker SoftwareCommented:
Pretty much any of them will scan, but OCR is more difficult. I've been using ReadIris Pro with my HP Scanner, and it does a pretty good job of OCR.

Trouble is - what are you going to do with them in Access or Excel? Receipts are very difficult to work with, since they do not have any sort of commonality  among their layout and data. Just looking at a few of the ones scattered on my desk, you would be very, very hard pressed to refer to any common data points between them. You can determine which are numeric, perhaps, or Dates - but that's about it.

There are some applications that do nothing but this - scan receipts, and categorize them. Have you looked into those?
Sasha42Author Commented:
I am Access/Excel/VBA developer.  I am working with a building contractor to automate his business process.  I have been reading about Receipt Scanners.  I would like to do more than just scan receipts into a folder or file for a particular customer.  I don't know how reliable the OCR software is in pulling out line items and totals from various receipts.  From what I have read, some OCR software puts the data into Excel.  If that is the case, I would like programmatically pull the data from Excel and create a summary.  I know that there will be issues in pulling the data out of Excel.  

I appreciate your thoughts.
Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Infotrakker SoftwareCommented:
As I mentioned ReadIris does a pretty good job for me, but I'm not sure it can be automated. The standard in OCR is OmniPage, I would think, but there are also others out there, including some free ones.

You might consider a web service for something like this. In most cases, a web service could do the heavy lifting, and return to you the data points from the receipt. An example of that would be found here: Note this is also available as an onsite solution.

But if you're looking for something that can be done entirely in VBA, then I don't think you'll find that. OCR is far too involved for something like that.

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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Hi Sasha,

"good" and "economical" mean different things to different folks. I was on two threads recently at EE where in one case the person thought a $2,000 scanner was "economical" and in the other case the "economical" goal was under $100 (I kicked around the high-end document management/imaging game for many years, and I remember one customer who was amazed that the scanner was "only" $160,000 — and also amazed that the complete solution with hardware, software, and services was less than a million dollars). So you'll have to define "economical" better, and maybe put some specs on "good".

Many scanners come bundled with OCR software — two of the most popular are ABBYY FineReader and Nuance OmniPage (Nuance also has PaperPort and Power PDF, which both do OCR via the under-the-covers OmniPage Capture SDK). However, the bundled packages are end-user apps, not anything you can utilize with Access VBA or Excel VBA. There are solutions for this, but they may not pass your "economical" test. For example, Atalsoft's EZTwain:

It has support for Access VBA, including a Code Wizard in the developer toolkit:

For OCR, you'll need the separately licensed Transym TOCR:

It is recommended by Atalsoft for use with EZTwain:
Recognize text and write searchable PDFs with the outstanding Transym OCR engine (separate license required).
That's just one example. Here's an EE thread from five years ago that talks about another solution:

That product still exists, but it doesn't have OCR.

Your most economical approach is to utilize the bundled OCR that comes with the scanner and then write a program that makes Component Object Model (COM) calls to load the OCR'ed data into Excel or Access. I would use AutoHotkey to do this, but, of course, any language that can make COM calls will be fine.

There are also numerous free OCR tools that you may want to experiment with — here are a few:

(1) Tesseract OCR Engine, an open source product now maintained by Google:

It has numerous add-ons:

(2) FreeOCR, which uses a compiled version of the Tesseract engine:

(3) GOCR/JOCR, an open source OCR package developed under the GNU Public License:

(4) OCR Desktop, which is not open source, but is free for personal use (needs to be registered in order to turn off popups and advertising):

(5) SimpleOCR, which is not open source, but is free, with both an end-user version:

and a royalty-free SDK:

(6) Boxoft Free OCR (I use several Boxoft free tools):

(7) Google Drive/Docs has an option to perform OCR on uploaded files, but the last time I tried it (a while ago, so it might be better now), the resulting PDF did not hide the text layer, so the file looked ugly.

Regards, Joe
Martin LissOlder than dirtCommented:
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