OCR-A is a font that arose in the early days of computer optical character recognition when there was a need for a font that could be recognized not only by the computers of that day, but also by humans.[2] OCR-A uses simple, thick strokes to form recognizable characters.[3] The font is monospaced (fixed-width), with the printer required to place glyphs 0.254 cm (0.10 inch) apart, and the reader required to accept any spacing between 0.2286 cm (0.09 inch) and 0.4572 cm (0.18 inch).

Designer(s)American Type Founders
Commissioned byAmerican National Standards Institute
Date released1968[1]
VariationsOCR-A Extended


The OCR-A font was standardized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as ANSI X3.17-1981. X3.4 has since become the INCITS and the OCR-A standard is now called ISO 1073-1:1976. There is also a German standard for OCR-A called DIN 66008.[4]


In 1968, American Type Founders produced OCR-A, one of the first optical character recognition typefaces to meet the criteria set by the U.S. Bureau of Standards. The design is simple so that it can be easily read by a machine, but it is more difficult for the human eye to read.[5]

As metal type gave way to computer-based typesetting, Tor Lillqvist used Metafont to describe the OCR-A font. That definition was subsequently improved by Richard B. Wales. Their work is available from CTAN.[6]

To make the free version of the font more accessible to users of Microsoft Windows, John Sauter converted the Metafont definitions to TrueType using potrace and FontForge in 2004.[7] In 2007, Gürkan Sengün created a Debian package from this implementation.[8] In 2008. Luc Devroye corrected the vertical positioning in John Sauter's implementation, and fixed the name of lower case z.[9]

Independently, Matthew Skala[10] used mftrace[11] to convert the Metafont definitions to TrueType format in 2006. In 2011 he released a new version created by rewriting the Metafont definitions to work with METATYPE1, generating outlines directly without an intermediate tracing step. On September 27, 2012, he updated his implementation to version 0.2.[12]

In addition to these free implementations of OCR-A, there are also implementations sold by several vendors.


Although optical character recognition technology has advanced to the point where such simple fonts are no longer necessary, the OCR-A font has remained in use. Its usage remains widespread in the encoding of cheques around the world. Some lock box companies still insist that the account number and amount owed on a bill return form be printed in OCR-A.[13] Also, because of its unusual look, it is sometimes used in advertising and display graphics.

Notably, it is used for the subtitles in the television series Blacklist and for the main titles in The Pretender. OCR-A is also used for the film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

Code points

A font is a set of character shapes, or glyphs. For a computer to use a font, each glyph must be assigned a code point in a character set. When OCR-A was being standardized the usual character coding was the American Standard Code for Information Interchange or ASCII. Not all of the glyphs of OCR-A fit into ASCII, and for five of the characters there were alternate glyphs, which might have suggested the need for a second font. However, for convenience and efficiency all of the glyphs were expected to be accessible in a single font using ASCII coding, with the additional characters placed at coding points that would otherwise have been unused.

The modern descendant of ASCII is Unicode, also known as ISO 10646. Unicode contains ASCII and has special provisions for OCR characters, so some implementations of OCR-A have looked to Unicode for guidance on character code assignments.

Dedicated OCR-A characters

The following characters have been defined for control purposes and are now in the "Optical Character Recognition" Unicode range 2440–245F:

Dedicated OCR-A code points based on ASCII and Unicode[14]
Name Image Text Unicode
OCR Hook OCR Hook U+2440
OCR Chair OCR Chair U+2441
OCR Fork OCR Fork U+2442
OCR Inverted fork U+2443
OCR Belt buckle U+2444
OCR Bow tie U+2445

Space, digits, and unaccented letters

OCR-A char digits
OCR-A digits
OCR-A char unaccented capital letters
OCR-A unaccented capital letters
OCR-A char unaccented small letters
OCR-A unaccented small letters

All implementations of OCR-A use U+0020 for space, U+0030 through U+0039 for the decimal digits, U+0041 through U+005A for the unaccented upper case letters, and U+0061 through U+007A for the unaccented lower case letters.

Regular characters

In addition to the digits and unaccented letters, many of the characters of OCR-A have obvious code points in ASCII. Of those that do not, most, including all of OCR-A's accented letters, have obvious code points in Unicode.

Additional OCR-A code points based on ASCII and Unicode
Name Glyph Unicode
Exclamation Mark Exclamation Mark U+0021
Quotation Mark Quotation Mark U+0022
Number Sign Number Sign U+0023
Dollar Sign Dollar Sign U+0024
Percent Sign Percent Sign U+0025
Ampersand Ampersand U+0026
Apostrophe Apostrophe U+0027
Left Parenthesis Left Parenthesis U+0028
Right Parenthesis Right Parenthesis U+0029
Asterisk Asterisk U+002A
Plus Sign Plus Sign U+002B
Comma Comma U+002C
Hyphen-Minus Hyphen-Minus U+002D
Full Stop (Period) Full Stop (Period) U+002E
Solidus (Slash) Solidus (Slash) U+002F
Colon Colon U+003A
Semicolon Semicolon U+003B
Less-Than Sign Less-Than Sign U+003C
Equals Sign Equals Sign U+003D
Greater-Than Sign Greater-Than Sign U+003E
Question Mark Question Mark U+003F
Commercial At Commercial At U+0040
Left Square Bracket Left Square Bracket U+005B
Reverse Solidus (Backslash) Reverse Solidus U+005C
Right Square Bracket Right Square Bracket U+005D
Circumflex Accent Circumflex Accent U+005E
Left Curly Bracket Left Curly Bracket U+007B
Right Curly Bracket Right Curly Bracket U+007D
Pound Sign (Sterling) Pound Sign U+00A3
Yen Sign Yen Sign U+00A5
Latin Capital Letter A with Dieresis Latin Capital Letter A with Dieresis U+00C4
Latin Capital Letter A with Ring Above Latin Capital Letter A with Ring Above U+00C5
Latin Capital Letter AE Latin Capital Letter AE U+00C6
Latin Capital Letter N with Tilde Latin Capital Letter N with Tilde U+00D1
Latin Capital Letter O with Dieresis Latin Capital Letter O with Dieresis U+00D6
Latin Capital Letter O with Stroke Latin Capital Letter O with Stroke U+00D8
Latin Capital Letter U with Dieresis Latin Capital Letter U with Dieresis U+00DC

Remaining characters

Linotype[15] coded the remaining characters of OCR-A as follows:

Additional OCR-A Characters
Name Glyph Unicode Unicode Name
Long Vertical Mark Long Vertical Mark U+007C Vertical Line
Alternate Comma Alternate Comma U+E000 private use 0
Character Erase Character Erase U+E001 private use 1
Alternate Hyphen Alternate Hyphen U+E003 private use 3
Alternate Period Alternate Period U+E004 private use 4
Alternate Question Mark Alternate Question Mark U+E005 private use 5
Alternate Apostrophe Alternate Apostrophe U+E006 private use 6

Additional characters

The fonts that descend from the work of Tor Lillqvist and Richard B. Wales define four characters not in OCR-A to fill out the ASCII character set. These shapes use the same style as the OCR-A character shapes. They are:

Additional ASCII Characters
Name Glyph Unicode
Low Line Low Line U+005F
Grave Accent Grave Accent U+0060
Vertical Line Vertical Line U+007C
Tilde Tilde U+007E

Linotype also defines additional characters.[16]


Some implementations do not use the above code point assignments for some characters.


The PrecisionID implementation of OCR-A has the following non-standard code points:[17]

  • OCR Hook at U+007E
  • OCR Chair at U+00C1
  • OCR Fork at U+00C2
  • Euro Sign at U+0080


The Barcodesoft implementation of OCR-A has the following non-standard code points:[18][19]

  • OCR Hook at U+0060
  • OCR Chair at U+007E
  • OCR Fork at U+005F
  • Long Vertical Mark at U+007C (agrees with Linotype)
  • Character Erase at U+0008


The Morovia implementation of OCR-A has the following non-standard code points:[20]

  • OCR Hook at U+007E (agrees with PrecisionID)
  • OCR Chair at U+00F0
  • OCR Fork at U+005F (agrees with Barcodesoft)
  • Long Vertical Mark at U+007C (agrees with Linotype)


The IDAutomation implementation of OCR-A has the following non-standard code points:[21]

  • OCR Hook at U+007E (agrees with PrecisionID)
  • OCR Chair at U+00C1 (agrees with PrecisionID)
  • OCR Fork at U+00C2 (agrees with PrecisionID)
  • OCR Belt Buckle at U+00C3

Sellers of font standards

See also


  1. ^ Background on the OCR-A font from Adobe
  2. ^ Motivation for OCR-A from Microscan
  3. ^ Background on OCR from Embedded Software Engineering
  4. ^ DIN 66008-1 Font A For Optical Character Recognition; Characters And Nominal Dimensions
  5. ^ Background on OCR-A from Adobe
  6. ^ The MetaFont sources for OCR-A from CTAN
  7. ^ John Sauter's 2004 OCR-A font from those MetaFont sources
  8. ^ The fonts-ocr-a Debian package, based on John Sauter's SourceForge project
  9. ^ Luc Devroye's account of his changes to John Sauter's implementation of OCR-A
  10. ^ Matthew Skala's home page
  11. ^ The mftrace Debian package
  12. ^ Matthew Skala's 2012 OCR-A font from the MetaFont sources
  13. ^ Description of a lockbox service, note “The bill contains an invoice and a statement with patient information contained in a scannable Optical Character Recognition (OCR) line. The OCR line is similar in appearance to that found on a credit card statement or telephone bill.”
  14. ^ https://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U2440.pdf
  15. ^ Linotype's OCR-A font: choose Character Map then Private Use Area
  16. ^ Linotype's OCR-A font: choose Character Map then Show all
  17. ^ PrecisionID User Guide for the PrecisionID implementation of the OCR-A font
  18. ^ Information page for the Barcode implementation of the OCR-A font
  19. ^ Another source of information about the Barcode fonts
  20. ^ Information page for the Morovia implementation of the OCR-A font
  21. ^ Information page for the IDAutomation implementation of the OCR-A and OCR-B fonts

External links

Code page

In computing, a code page is a character encoding and as such it is a specific association of a set of printable characters and control characters with unique numbers.

The term "code page" originated from IBM's EBCDIC-based mainframe systems, but Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle Corporation are among the few vendors which use this term. The majority of vendors identify their own character sets by a name. In the case when there is a plethora of character sets (like in IBM), identifying character sets through a number is a convenient way to distinguish them. Originally, the code page numbers referred to the page numbers in the IBM standard character set manual, a condition which has not held for a long time. Vendors that use a code page system allocate their own code page number to a character encoding, even if it is better known by another name; for example, UTF-8 has been assigned page numbers 1208 at IBM, 65001 at Microsoft, and 4110 at SAP.

Hewlett-Packard uses a similar concept in its HP-UX operating system and its Printer Command Language (PCL) protocol for printers (either for HP printers or not). The terminology, however, is different: What others call a character set, HP calls a symbol set, and what IBM or Microsoft call a code page, HP calls a symbol set code. HP developed a series of symbol sets, each with an associated symbol set code, to encode both its own character sets and other vendors’ character sets.

The multitude of character sets leads many vendors to recommend Unicode.

Dan Ingalls

Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls Jr. (born 1944) is a pioneer of object-oriented computer programming and the principal architect, designer and implementer of five generations of Smalltalk environments. He designed the bytecoded virtual machine that made Smalltalk practical in 1976. He also invented bit blit, the general-purpose graphical operation that underlies most bitmap graphics systems today, and pop-up menus. He designed the generalizations of BitBlt to arbitrary color depth, with built-in scaling, rotation, and anti-aliasing. His major contributions to the Squeak system include the original concept of a Smalltalk written in itself and made portable and efficient by a Smalltalk-to-C translator.

Eye dialect

Eye dialect is the use of nonstandard spelling for speech to draw attention to pronunciation. The term was coined by George Philip Krapp to refer to the literary technique of using nonstandard spelling that implies a pronunciation of the given word that is actually standard, such as wimmin for women; the spelling indicates that the character's speech overall is dialectal, foreign, or uneducated. This form of nonstandard spelling differs from others in that a difference in spelling does not indicate a difference in pronunciation of a word. That is, it is dialect to the eye rather than to the ear. It suggests that a character "would use a vulgar pronunciation if there were one" and "is at the level of ignorance where one misspells in this fashion, hence mispronounces as well".


FontForge is a font editor which supports many common font formats. Developed primarily by George Williams until 2012, FontForge is free software and is distributed under a mix of the GNU General Public License Version 3 and the 3-clause BSD license. It is available for operating systems including Linux, Windows and macOS and is localized into 12 languages.

Graham Swift

Graham Colin Swift FRSL (born 4 May 1949) is an English writer. Born in London, England, he was educated at Dulwich College, London, Queens' College, Cambridge, and later the University of York.

Some of Swift's books have been filmed, including Waterland (1992), Shuttlecock (1993) and Last Orders (1996). His novel Last Orders was joint-winner of the 1996 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and a mildly controversial winner of the 1996 Booker Prize, owing to the superficial similarities in plot to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

The prize-winning Waterland is set in The Fens. A novel of landscape, history and family, it is often cited as one of the outstanding post-war British novels and has been a set text on the English literature syllabus in British schools. Writer Patrick McGrath asked Swift about the "feeling for magic" in Waterland during an interview. Swift responded that "The phrase everybody comes up with is magic realism, which I think has now become a little tired. But on the other hand there’s no doubt that English writers of my generation have been very much influenced by writers from outside who in one way or another have got this magical, surreal quality, such as Borges, Márquez, Grass, and that that has been stimulating. I think in general it’s been a good thing. Because we are, as ever, terribly parochial, self-absorbed and isolated, culturally, in this country. It’s about time we began to absorb things from outside."Swift was acquainted with Ted Hughes and has himself published poetry, some of which is included in Making an Elephant: Writing from Within (2009).

List of monospaced typefaces

This list of monospaced typefaces details standard monospaced fonts used in classical typesetting and printing.

List of typefaces

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Magnetic ink character recognition

Magnetic ink character recognition code, known in short as MICR code, is a character-recognition technology used mainly by the banking industry to ease the processing and clearance of cheques and other documents. The MICR encoding, called the MICR line, is at the bottom of cheques and other vouchers and typically includes the document-type indicator, bank code, bank account number, cheque number, cheque amount, and a control indicator. The technology allows MICR readers to scan and read the information directly into a data-collection device. Unlike barcodes and similar technologies, MICR characters can be read easily by humans. The MICR E-13B font has been adopted as the international standard in ISO 1004:1995, but the CMC-7 font is widely used in Europe, Brazil, Mexico and some other countries.

Monospaced font

A monospaced font, also called a fixed-pitch, fixed-width, or non-proportional font, is a font whose letters and characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space. This contrasts with variable-width fonts, where the letters and spacings have different widths.

Monospaced fonts are customary on typewriters and for typesetting computer code.


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Offices of Civil Rights, common sub-agency or sub-component name of U.S. federal agencies:

State Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of State

GSA Office of Civil Rights, General Services Administration

ED Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education

HHS Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

DOJ Office for Civil Rights, Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Official Cash Rate, the interest rate paid by banks in the overnight money market

Oil Circuit Recloser, an oil-filled type of recloser.

Oil Control Ring, Piston ring

Optical character recognition, conversion of images of text into characters.

The OCR-A font, designed to simplify character recognition

The similar OCR-B font

Optimum currency region, a theoretical optimal area where one currency would make most benefit

Organically moderated and cooled reactor, a type of nuclear reactor

Ottawa Central Railway a Canadian Shortline owned by CN Rail

Over consolidation ratio, a consolidation measurement in geotechnical engineering

OverClocked ReMix, an organization and website dedicated to preserving and paying tribute to video game music through re-orchestration and reinterpretation

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Transvaginal oocyte retrieval, a technique used in vitro fertilization

Obstacle course racing


OCR-B is a monospace font developed in 1968 by Adrian Frutiger for Monotype by following the European Computer Manufacturer's Association standard. Its function was to facilitate the optical character recognition operations by specific electronic devices, originally for financial and bank-oriented uses. It was accepted as the world standard in 1973. It follows the ISO 1073/II-1976 (E) standard, refined in 1979 ("letterpress" design, size I). It includes all ASCII symbols, and other symbols included for the bank environment. It is widely used for the human readable digits in UPC/EAN barcodes. It is also used for machine-readable passports. It shares that purpose with OCR-A, but it is easier for the human eye and brain to read and it has a less technical look.

Optical Character Recognition (Unicode block)

Optical Character Recognition is a Unicode block containing signal characters for OCR standards.

Optical character recognition

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Early versions needed to be trained with images of each character, and worked on one font at a time. Advanced systems capable of producing a high degree of recognition accuracy for most fonts are now common, and with support for a variety of digital image file format inputs. Some systems are capable of reproducing formatted output that closely approximates the original page including images, columns, and other non-textual components.

Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations

OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations) is an examination board that sets examinations and awards qualifications (including GCSEs and A-levels). It is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards, and has been dogged by controversies concerning inaccuracies in its work, ever since its formation.

OCR is based in Cambridge, with an office in Coventry. It is part of the University of Cambridge's Cambridge Assessment, which operates in over 160 countries and celebrated its 160th anniversary in 2018. OCR delivers GCSE and A Level examinations in the United Kingdom whereas for other countries Cambridge Assessment operates the examination board Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). An important distinction between OCR and CIE is that the British exam board OCR is required to comply with UK government regulations and CIE with international GCSEs and GCE A Levels is not.

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Timeline of optical character recognition

This is a timeline of optical character recognition.

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Township High School District 211 transgender student incidents

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Westminster (typeface)

Westminster is a printing and display typeface inspired by the machine-readable numbers printed on cheques and designed by Leo Maggs.In the 1960s, Leo Maggs was working at the Hazell Sun Group's design studio in Covent Garden, London. At that time, he was commanded to create a futuristic style title for an article of About the House (the magazine of The Friends of Covent Garden Opera House). Maggs based the letters of that title on the MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) system, E-13B, used on bank cheques. He then continued to design the rest of the letters of the alphabet in his spare time, basing their proportions on that of the Gill Sans typeface.The MICR E-13B font was designed for automated reading by a very simple magnetic reader in the early days of automatic character recognition. The weight of strokes in the characters can be recognised as "light" or "heavy" by a simple circuit and these patterns then map directly to the bit patterns of a computer character set. This made the characters practical to read before 'smart' OCR, but limited the length of the character set. E-13B has only 14 characters: the numeric digits and a few control codes. None of the alphanumeric 'computer' typefaces like Westminster could be read magnetically.

The work was presented to Letraset, but it was Robert Norton, founder of the Photoscript Ltd photo-typesetting company, who decided to produce it. The font was named by Norton and, according to Microsoft, it received its name from the then–Westminster Bank Limited (now NatWest) from the United Kingdom, that helped fund its production. It became included with Microsoft software after Microsoft hired Norton.

Since its design, the typeface has been strongly associated with computers—especially in the late 1960s and early-to-mid-1970s. It is used frequently to indicate computer involvement in television series, films, books, and comics.

Monospaced programming and typewriter fonts
Sans serif
Indic scripts
Software and libraries
Operating system,
corporate and
Groups and
Typographic units
Digital typography
ISO standards by standard number

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