I'm planning to get a paperless office and for that, I a need good scriptable piece of OCR for OS X?

I've read a blogpost by Marco Arment about a few programs. Are there any workable ones there that allow me to script things?

  • Have you ruled out using Image Capture and letting the OS X OCR do it's job? If not, I'd jump to PDFpen if you think like Marco Arment does in his scriptable OCR review.
    – bmike
    Sep 8, 2011 at 18:46
  • 1
    Please review How should I ask about getting a software recommendation? and edit this to describe what precisely you want the software to do and any limitations. Specifically, what scripting language are you looking to leverage?
    – bmike
    Jul 26, 2014 at 18:07
  • There is no OCR built into Image Capture or OS X. Aug 27, 2014 at 19:58

3 Answers 3


OCRKit has both AppleScript support and a CLI. From their help page:


You can also script OCRKit to integrate it into your specific workflow. For example process incoming files, via shared folder, from MFP copy machine, etc. and simply tell OCRKit to open and thus process is via AppleScript:

tell application "OCRKit"
   -- the wonders of AppleScript POSIX path handling, ...
   open "Users:admin:Desktop:orderform.pdf"
   open POSIX path of "/Users/Admin/Desktop/orderform.pdf"
end tell 

Command line

Since OCRKit version 2.5 direct command line scripting is supported. This greatly simplifies the use of OCRKit in batch processing, allows to set more options and is also more robust and cross-platform than AppleSCript.

OCRKit.app/Contents/MacOS/OCRKit \ 
    --lang en | de | fr | es | ... \
    --format pdf | html | rtf | text \
    --no-progress \
    --output out-file in-file

Since OCRKit version 16.9 additional command line options are supported:

-r, --recursive directory

Scan directory recursively for new files. Skips files from OCRKit, with text layer or vector graphics.

--pattern "regex"

Pattern used to match filenames during recursive scans. Defaults to %.pdf$, recommendation for TIFF is %.tiff?$

--log file

Write log file information and statistics during recursive scan to file.

--password secret

Use secret password to decrypt PDF files during batch processing.

--test-run [ fast ]

Only run test batch processing in test mode to test PDF files or to obtain page count to estimate total processing time. "fast" will only check the first page of each file, instead of going thru all pages for image and vector analyzation.

--tag name

Use extended attribute name to tag the processing state of files during batch processing. macos:OCRKit (%s) will use native macOS Finder tags instead, or simply macos:OCRKit not including the state attribute. The order of the state attribute are: started, analyzed, processed, and can also be encrypted.


Readiris for Mac. I have it, but I haven't used it in a long time, so I don't exactly remember how good it was. I think that it didn't do the first few documents very well, but it learns.

Oh, and I'm not sure about scriptability. I'll check it.

It looks like Readiris has a scripting dictionary, and it's pretty good, too.


ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac does OCR well and is scriptable. From their blurb page:

Process Batches of Documents and Automate Conversion Tasks

Achieve new levels of productivity and enjoy greater flexibility when converting documents with support for Automator actions and AppleScript commands.

It supports both Applescript and Automator. I hadn't tried to automate it previously but after looking into it, I have some plans to do some basic stuff. This is really why I'm belatedly 'answering' this question.

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