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Can I scan itemised bills to spread­sheets so I can an­a­lyse their con­tents on my Mac?

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Howard Oak­ley solves your Mac and iOS is­sues

QI re­ceived 30 printed pages of itemised billing, which I want to en­ter into an Ex­cel spread­sheet for anal­y­sis. Ask­ing for this to be sent in elec­tronic form would in­cur fur­ther and sub­stan­tial charges. Do I have to type all the fig­ures in my­self, or is there some way of scan­ning them in?

by Henry Strage

AYou can use op­ti­cal char­ac­ter recog­ni­tion (OCR) soft­ware on scanned images, which should save you a lot of time, but must be checked metic­u­lously against the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments.

Sev­eral dif­fer­ent apps in the Mac App Store and else­where could do this well, but a sound choice would be FineReader OCR Pro (£79, ab­byyeu.com). Al­though this app is not cheap, it will save you a lot of time in the long run, and it’s able to ex­port di­rectly to Mi­crosoft Ex­cel’s XSLX file for­mat, or to CSV if you pre­fer that.

OCR can be quite ac­cu­rate these days, but to get the best from it, make sure you get the best qual­ity scans pos­si­ble, en­sur­ing ev­ery page is straight. Ex­per­i­ment with one page to be­gin with, op­ti­mis­ing res­o­lu­tion and for­mat to min­imise er­rors, then use those set­tings for the rest of the pages.

When you come to check­ing and cor­rect­ing the spread­sheet files, set aside plenty of time and do not rush it and miss er­rors. If pos­si­ble, per­form a sec­ond pass of corrections, as there are usu­ally one or two which es­cape the first.

It’s cru­cial to check there are no mis­takes in scanned docs that would af­fect anal­y­sis.

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