How to Use OCR in Bluebeam

By Michael Schmidt | Collaboration, Data Management

Optical character recognition (OCR) is a powerful tool within Bluebeam Revu that allows for the translation of PDF documents into searchable data. Compatible PDFs fall into one of two categories: raster and vector documents. Vector PDFs are computer-generated via CAD programs, while raster PDFs are scans of paper documents.

Because a computer system generates the letters and symbols of vector PDFs, Bluebeam can automatically speak the virtual “language”. However, it’s a different story with raster documents. Since the characters of a raster PDF are defined by pixels, Bluebeam can’t recognize them as text right away; it must be converted using OCR. 

When using optical character recognition, Bluebeam will scan through the inserted PDF document to individually identify and convert every letter, number, and symbol into text-searchable data. 

Identifying Raster and Vector Documents 

First, you need to determine which type of PDF document you are working with. If your document is a vector, you can skip the entire OCR step. 

There are a few straightforward ways to determine which type of PDF you have. The first method is simply loading a PDF document into Bluebeam and zooming in on it. If you notice that the letters remain clear, regardless of how far you zoom in, then you are working with a vector document, and there is no need for the OCR process. On the other hand, if you zoom in and the words on the page appear more and more pixilated as you zoom in then you have a raster PDF scanned from a paper document. 

The second method involves trying to select the text of a document loaded into Bluebeam. If the system allows you to highlight the text, then you already have a vector PDF. If you can’t highlight or select the text, then your PDF is a raster scan.  

Using Bluebeam OCR: A Step-by-Step Guide

Once you have determined that you are working with a raster PDF image, you can begin converting the document into searchable text using Bluebeam’s OCR tool. OCR has three basic steps: knowing where to find the tool, adjusting the settings, and ensuring your document was processed correctly.                       

Step 1: Locate the OCR Tool 

The first essential step in using the optical character recognition tool is knowing where to find it in Bluebeam’s user interface. To locate OCR, select the Document dropdown menu at the top of your screen. Toward the middle of the options list, you’ll find the OCR tool. Alternatively, you can enter the keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + O. 

Step 2: Adjust OCR Settings

When you first initiate the OCR command, you will notice various settings you can adjust to suit the needs of your specific raster document.

  • Files – Under this option, you can indicate which pages of your PDF you want to use the OCR tool on. Here, you can also add additional raster PDFs if you want to scan multiple documents at once. 
  • Options – Here, you will find the main settings adjustments you can make before you run OCR. Under the Language option, you’ll be given a list of over 35 available language libraries to run OCR. 
  • Document Type – The next available option is Document Type. Bluebeam OCR supports CAD documents, Tables and Forms, and Text documents. Here, you can select the option that matches the document you are currently working with. 
  • Optimize For – The final setting in the options panel is Optimize For. Here, you’ll be given two options: optimize for speed or accuracy. Depending on the size of the document you are scanning, OCR may take a while to complete the character translation process, so keep that in mind when choosing between the two options.

In the OCR options panel, you will also find a list of seven additional checkbox settings that can help you further tailor the optical character recognition process to fit your specific needs. These settings include:

  • Correct Skew – Allows Bluebeam to correct misaligned text in your document.
  • Detection Orientation – This option allows OCR to identify and correct pages that don’t match the orientation of the rest of the document. 
  • Detect Text in Pictures and Drawings – Checking this box gives Bluebeam permission to scan text within images and graphics embedded in your document. 
  • Skip Vector Pages – Sometimes, a PDF document contains a combination of vector and raster pages. Activating this function will cause Bluebeam to skip over vector pages, as they are already recognized as selectable text. 
  • Page Chunk Size – This option gives you control over how many pages are processed at a time. In general, Bluebeam recommends setting this value to 1 to avoid overloading your computer’s CPU. However, your mileage may vary depending on your PC’s specs.
  • Max Vector Size – This setting allows you to set the maximum size for characters and symbols scanned by OCR. Setting a lower value may speed up the translation process. However, some text may be overlooked if your PDF has larger fonts.

Step 3: Confirm and Double-Check

After you’ve made all your desired settings adjustments, the only thing left to do is hit the OK button, and OCR will begin converting your document. Once complete, Bluebeam will notify you that your PDF has been processed, and you can double-check to ensure that your text is selectable. Find the Select Text tool and highlight a portion of your document. If you can select the text, then your document was converted successfully. At this point, you can freely edit your document within the Bluebeam interface. 

Addressing Common Issues with Bluebeam OCR

If you’re running into problems when trying to use OCR within Bluebeam, don’t panic; there is usually an easy fix to get you up and running again.


Issue Solution
Specific texts are missing after OCR conversion. Start the OCR process again and increase the Max Vector Size to ensure all characters are scanned.
Bluebeam crashes when running OCR. Try lowering the Page Chunk Size to take some of the stress off your PC’s CPU. If the issue persists, check to see if you have the latest version of Bluebeam downloaded on your machine.
OCR tool does not appear in your Bluebeam interface. OCR is only available on desktop versions of Bluebeam Revu. Try to access the feature from your home computer.
Certain pages automatically rotate when using the OCR feature. If you are working with a small document, simply rotate the pages manually to the desired orientation. If the problem persists with larger documents, uncheck the Detect Orientation checkbox in the OCR options menu.


Bluebeam OCR: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Bluebeam Revu 21 have OCR?

Yes! Bluebeam Revu 21 comes with OCR tools that can automatically convert PDFs into editable forms.

Does Bluebeam Core have OCR?

Yes! All Bluebeam subscriptions include Bluebeam Revu 21, which comes equipped with OCR tools.

What does OCR do for a PDF?

Bluebeam’s OCR tool scans PDF documents and converts text into a computer-generated format that can be edited and manipulated.

How many languages does Bluebeam OCR support?

Bluebeam OCR is currently available in over 35 languages, and future versions of Bluebeam Revu may add even more.

OCR, A Standard Feature of All New Bluebeam Products

Bluebeam’s optical character recognition feature is a powerful tool for converting scanned paper documents into searchable text. However, if you’re working with an older version of Bluebeam Revu, you might not have access to this valuable tool. Until September 2022, only Revu eXtreme users could utilize OCR, but now that Bluebeam has transitioned into a subscription-based platform, all versions of Revu software include optical character recognition features. If you are interested in OCR and the library of other useful tools that Bluebeam Revu 21 has to offer, check out this article on the software’s newest features. 


INDUSTRIES: Construction, Subcontractor

Published on July 10, 2024 in Collaboration, Data Management.

About the Author

Michael Schmidt is an Account Executive responsible for supporting our Bluebeam customers from construction firms to architects, engineering, and facility managers across the U.S. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, with a Bachelors Degree in Economics and a Minor in Finance. Michael is eager to gain knowledge in the fields of technology. He's working with Bluebeam customers and show solutions that make construction sites more efficient, connected, and safe, improving the lives of design and construction professionals everywhere.