ICR Software | Knowledge Base | Definition


What is Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) Software?

ICR software is used to recognize handwriting. ICR software applies recognition to hand-printed data, often within what are called boxes and combs. Boxes and combs create defined spaces for the letters within a word. Boxes and combs explained.

More advanced ICR software can recognize unconstrained hand-print as well as cursive writing.

Enterprises use ICR software to recognize handwritten and cursive writing on their documents and extract the data. Advanced ICR employs artificial intelligence (AI) to locate and extract data.

With ICR software, information found in handwriting can be extracted more accurately today. According to a new study conducted by AIIM, 49% of data capture volume is paper. Paper is evenly used across most core business processes, but especially in activities like mortgage origination, new account opening, onboarding and order fulfillment—all applications that typically ask for handwritten input, comments and signatures.

Despite the desire to be digital-first, the truth is that a great number of business forms and documents still contain handwritten entries. These can be vitally important from both a risk and an opportunity point of view so extracting the data from them is both more economical and accurate than ever before.

Handwriting on Documents & Forms Leveraging ICR Software

Here are some examples:

Unconstrained and Constrained Handprint

Reading and extracting data from constrained handprint or handwriting in a box or other defined document area (commonly called intelligent character recognition or ICR) is the most straightforward handwriting recognition activity.  Unconstrained handprint is handwritten content not confined to a predetermined area in a document that more advanced ICR converts into data records with a high level of accuracy.

Cursive Handwriting

A great deal of important information is contained in cursive handwriting or a mix of handprint and writing that looks like cursive, yet most of this data is overlooked or lost in the capture and archive process. Advanced ICR software reproduces a human’s ability to instantly apply context and judgment in a mechanized process to address issues of nonstandard elements such as writing outside form boxes and accommodating handwriting variances with minimal human intervention. This is important so that comments on forms such as “this product is defective,” or “response was incredibly positive” are not lost and provide powerful insights to improve products, services and performance.


The completion of many key business processes often comes down to a handwritten signature. Loans, leases and contracts, for example, all require a signature; and often that means ink on paper. Organizations are subject to legal discovery demands to locate and retrieve documents that were signed by a certain individual.