ORPALIS PDF OCR Free is an easy-to-use tool which can scan PDFs, recognise all its text - even within images - and export a PDF where that text is searchable.

This could be particularly useful with scanned documents, as it allows you to find information with the regular Search tool, rather than manually scanning every single page.

There's none of the usual OCR complexity or control. All you have to do is choose the source files or folders (click Options if you need to change the Source mode), set a destination folder and specify the source document language (English, German, French, Italian and Spanish are supported).

Click Start and ORPALIS PDF OCR Free works its way through your files, processing them with the popular Tesseract engine, and outputting the results in your destination folder.

This can take a very long time, particularly in the free version, but various status tabs keep you up-to-date on progress, and you can browse and test files as they're exported: no need to wait for the entire job to finish.

If you need more power, the Professional edition:

 - Imports files in 90+ formats
 - Recognises 60+ languages
 - Uses multithreading to process multiple documents at the same time
 - Offers command line support

Verdict

ORPALIS PDF OCR Free is simple to use, and its Tesseract engine generally delivers good results. We had problems with some challenging tasks - scans of old, faded documents in particular - but no more than we'd expect for this type of program.