The need to perform OCR on Asian language PDFs is greater now than ever. With millions of businesses conducting cross-border transactions, each with documentation in their local language, you need a solid tool to convert these documents into digital versions so they can be translated on demand. The challenge here is finding the right tool for the job because optical character recognition technology varies greatly from one platform to another in terms of accuracy and speed. Of course, support for the required language is essential as well, which sort of narrows down your options considerably. Here are some online and offline tools you can try, along with an overview of OCR and what it can do for your business.

PDFelement 7 Pro

One of the newest products on the market is PDFelement 7 Pro, dubbed by many as an ‘affordable Adobe Acrobat alternative.’ The Pro version comes with an OCR plugin that can be downloaded and activated to work with the main PDF editing software. Over 23 languages overall and several Asian languages are supported, including Japanese, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, and Thai.

How Does it Work?

OCR is essentially a conversion from a visual-based medium to a text-based one. For instance, a scanned PDF or a photo converted to PDF that has a lot of text elements might make a good source file to perform OCR on. PDFelement 7 Pro’s OCR plugin will analyze the images and extract all text-like characters from the document, rendering it in a different PDF file that can either be made searchable or editable.

Steps to Perform OCR on Japanese or Korean Scanned PDF Documents

Step 1: After you install the OCR plugin, open the PDFelement 7 Pro interface and import the file by dragging it from the drive folder into the software. The application will identify that there’s non-editable text in the document and suggest that you Perform OCR on it to extract the text.

Step 2: When you see the prompt, click on Perform OCR. Alternatively, you can go to the Convert tab and click the OCR icon. In the OCR window that appears, you’ll see two options: Editable and Searchable. Decide which option you want and select it.

Step 3: Next, click on the Change Languages link in the same window. This will show you all the language options available for selection. Choose the one you want and confirm OK in the OCR window.

Depending on the size of the document, your output PDF file will be available in a few moments to a few minutes. In addition to OCR, PDFelement 7 Pro also offers a plethora of advanced as well as basic PDF tools for editing, reviewing, annotations, conversion, protection, filling forms, creating interactive forms, executing batch processes, and so on.

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Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC also has capable OCR chops, but it’s a little harder to actually find the function in the cluttered interface. No doubt, Adobe makes excellent products that have stood the test of time, but you have to admit that Acrobat Pro is a lot clunkier than newer products like Nitro Pro and PDFelement. Nonetheless, being the de-facto PDF editor for most of the world’s businesses, it’s useful to know how to perform OCR on Asian-language PDFs using the world’s most well-known PDF editor.

Steps to Perform OCR in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Step 1: Have the document open on Acrobat Pro DC and click on the Tools section.

Step 2: Go to where it says Enhance Scans and then click on the Recognize Text prompt when it appears. This is a major difference between Adobe’s product and PDFelement – auto-recognition of text content present in scanned PDFs. In Adobe, you have to click on the Edit PDF option for the recognition to be triggered.

Step 3: One advantage with Acrobat Pro DC is that you won’t need to worry about changing any settings. All converted documents will be editable.

Acrobat is a great tool for OCR, but there are several drawbacks, accuracy being just one of them. In addition, this is an expensive tool unless you plan to use this advanced feature on a regular basis. There are other options you can explore, as well.

Online OCR Conversion

If the information in your scanned Asian-language PDFs is not sensitive or confidential, you can consider using an online OCR conversion service like or Don’t expect a slick web interface or anything like that. These services are clearly focused on functionality over the user’s experience with the interface, but they serve the purpose. Besides, they support a wide range of Asian languages like Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Malay, and even Tagalog. You’ll see a bias toward European languages, but more Asian languages are being added all the time.

Steps to Perform OCR Online

Step 1: Go to the online OCR conversion service and import the file to be converted.

Step 2: Choose your language option, output folder, and other parameters in the corresponding menus.

Step 3: Choose your output format – Word, Text, and Excel.

Step 4: Click the Convert button, wait, and then download your converted file.

One main concern with any online service is, of course, data security. Apart from that, most online OCR conversion services will have a limit on the size of the PDF document you can upload. In other cases, you may have to upgrade to a premium plan to take advantage of OCR. As such, a desktop application is preferred in most situations, especially if the dataset is sensitive and large. With adequate support for a number of Asian languages, these tools will soon become the mainstay of your document workflows, allowing you to seamlessly manage the mass of documents you deal with on a daily basis.