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Converting ".tif" format documents to editable Word ".doc" files requires Optical Character Recognition - OCR - services or software.
Is there a way to convert a file received as a .tif file back to a .doc file? That's what it was originally.
Yes and no.
The problem is that your ".tif" file may have started out as a Word document, but it's not a Word document any more.
Not even close.
TIF stands for "Tagged Image Format". As the name implies it's a format for storing images, or pictures, much like the ".jpg" images you might get off of your digital camera.
It's a common file format produced by digital copiers and fax machines. These devices don't transmit documents in their original form, but rather photographs of the documents.
Regardless of exactly how a ".tif" might be created from a Word document it's the equivalent of taking a photograph of the document.
OCR stands for optical character recognition and is a process that analyzes a photograph of text looking for things that "look like" numbers and letters, and produces a document that can then be edited.
The good news is that it doesn't matter much whether the image is ".jpg", ".tif" or any of the other photograph or image formats.
The bad news is that OCR is rarely perfect and often quite error prone.
I've spoken about OCR recently when someone asked about scanning a document into Excel. OCR software takes a look at the picture of your document, examining the picture of each letter in that document, and attempts to determine what letter that picture represents. Advanced OCR software may even try to automatically figure out where paragraphs are and more.
The problem is that OCR is exceptionally difficult to get right. For example "1" (the number one) and an "l" (a lower case L) look very much alike. If the photo of the document is blurry or distorted, or even if the characters on the page use different fonts and styles, the OCR algorithm can get confused and produce the wrong results. Often close results, but still wrong results.
A great new on-line solution to getting your TIF image converted into a Word document is BetterOCR. BetterOCR offers both free and paid conversion - the accuracy and speed goes up with the paid options.
BetterOCR accepts not only ".tif", but ".pdf", ".png", ".jpg", and ".gif" files, as well as ".zip" for multiple file submission.
(This is an update to an article originally published May 2, 2007.)