Optical character recognition with neural networks and post-correction with finite state methods

Senka Drobac, Krister Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The optical character recognition (OCR) quality of the historical part of the Finnish newspaper and journal corpus is rather low for reliable search and scientific research on the OCRed data. The estimated character error rate (CER) of the corpus, achieved with commercial software, is between 8 and 13%. There have been earlier attempts to train high-quality OCR models with open-source software, like Ocropy (https://github.com/tmbdev/ocropy) and Tesseract (https://github.com/tesseract-ocr/tesseract), but so far, none of the methods have managed to successfully train a mixed model that recognizes all of the data in the corpus, which would be essential for an efficient re-OCRing of the corpus. The difficulty lies in the fact that the corpus is printed in the two main languages of Finland (Finnish and Swedish) and in two font families (Blackletter and Antiqua). In this paper, we explore the training of a variety of OCR models with deep neural networks (DNN). First, we find an optimal DNN for our data and, with additional training data, successfully train high-quality mixed-language models. Furthermore, we revisit the effect of confidence voting on the OCR results with different model combinations. Finally, we perform post-correction on the new OCR results and perform error analysis. The results show a significant boost in accuracy, resulting in 1.7% CER on the Finnish and 2.7% CER on the Swedish test set. The greatest accomplishment of the study is the successful training of one mixed language model for the entire corpus and finding a voting setup that further improves the results.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal on Document Analysis and Recognition
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)279-295
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6121 Languages
  • 113 Computer and information sciences
  • Finnish
  • Historical periodicals
  • OCR
  • Swedish

Cite this