Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Is VelOCRaptor Good Enough?

From UserVoice - "I agree with Dyno wholeheartedly. Not to sound discouraging but it's really of no use in its current state. Even using the crispest font, it doesn't recognise half the number characters. And the PDF output is blurry. It's actually rather cheeky getting users to en masse as beta testers in this way. (More dubious practices to follow, no doubt)."

I don't mean to be defensive, but to say that VelOCRaptor is no use in its current state, and to accuse us of dubious practice by releasing it is a bit harsh. If you don't like the product, by all means don't use it, but please don't question our motives.

I would obviously like for the accuracy to be better, but 1.05 developers are not going to develop a world-beating OCR engine. The companies that have developed OCR engines are charging you $125 (FineReader) to $499 (OmniPage) for them, and their integration and usability is quite frankly substandard. I've tried to licence a world-class engine, but the company won't risk letting the technology ship in a product with the features and price that define VelOCRaptor.

So the OCRopus engine is the best that you can buy for under $100. I wish it was better, but it isn't, yet. I thought long and hard about whether to ship with the current engine and I came to the conclusion that it was better than nothing - which is after all the alternative at this price. We state up front that the accuracy isn't great, and we post an example showing its performance. We've released it as it is because to many people it is good enough to produce searchable PDFs and grab occasional text - would the world be better off if we hadn't?

Some people are delighted with VelOCRaptor, others disappointed, but we're not forcing anyone to buy it, and we can hardly be accused of misrepresenting the performance. Releasing a product is hard work and costly - I've had no income for 6 months now. If we don't charge money then we can't tell if there is a market - and we need to know that there is a market if we are to continue development, adding features that users are asking for, and pulling in new OCRopus releases so that it delights more people.

So whilst I apologise for the lack of performance, I am unapologetic about releasing VelOCRaptor. By releasing early and often we get the chance to see if this proto-bird can fly, and users have something that may be of some use. It's an open secret that, whilst I'd love you to licence VelOCRaptor, the current release will continue to function forever without a licence. The reason for that is that we want you to carry on using it until the engine works well enough. In the meantime, to quote Guy Kawasaki, we have embraced "Don't worry, be crappy"


  1. I love the interface, and applaud the effort. I'll certainly keep an eye on it, and as soon as the accuracy is usable for me, I'll happily buy it. For folks who are just looking for system indexing, I'm sure it's very useful now, and I'm glad to be able to try it in its current form.

    So basically, I'm echoing the "I can't use it quite yet" of the commenter but disagreeing with the rest of the post - I'm very glad for what you're doing and hope it all comes together soon.

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