It is widely used as a form of data entry from some sort of original paper data source, whether documents, sales receipts, mail, or any number of printed records. It is crucial to the computerization of printed texts so that they can be electronically searched, stored more compactly, displayed on-line, and used in machine processes such as machine translation, text-to-speech and text mining.
Early versions needed to be programmed with images of each character, and worked on one font at a time. “Intelligent” systems with a high degree of recognition accuracy for most fonts are now common. Some systems are capable of reproducing formatted output that closely approximates the original scanned page including images, columns and other non-textual components.