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Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Demo Tutorial using Nimbella Platform

This tutorial explains the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) demo available on GitHub and shows you how to deploy it to the Nimbella Cloud.

The OCR application displays a web page where visitors select a language (English, Spanish, or Chinese) and then drag a JPG, GIF, or PNG image onto the page, where it is automatically converted to text. If the conversion is successful, users can read the text and click a Speak button to hear the text. You can try out the application here.

The OCR demo is an example of a serverless Nimbella Cloud application with a React front end and several functions on the back end. The Tesseract OCR Engine converts the images to text.

The OCR demo has the following code and configuration components, described in more detail later:

  • Application logic: The packages directory contains several Nimbella actions, which are logical collections of functions.
  • Static web content: The web directory contains a public directory, with the files that will be part of the public website, and a src directory with React component files and other JavaScript files that are built into the index.html template page to produce the final static public page.
  • Slack application: A Nimbella Commander project folder called commander, with an ocr.js file with an app that can be installed into Slack.

Project structure and logic

Nimbella relies on directory and file structure to intelligently deploy projects, so the GitHub project directory structure is organized that way and is described below. For more information about creating and deploying Nimbella Cloud projects, see the Nimbella Command Line Tool (nim) Guide.

In the following diagrams, files that contain code or web content are shown with file icons and larger font labels, while project configuration and build files are displayed in smaller fonts without icons.

Top-level directories

OCR Tutorial - Top-level directories

In any Nimbella project, the deployer looks for one or both of the following top-level directories:

  • The packages directory, which contains the back end logic of the project.
  • The web directory, which contains static web content published to be published to the front end of the application.

The packages and web directory contents are described in the following sections.

There are also several configuration files. The project.yml file in the OCR demo configures the object store bucket provided with your Nimbella Cloud namespace for web content and database instances.

Actions in the packages directory

Actions are discrete units of functional code in languages such as JavaScript, Node.js, or PHP. Actions are usually divided into packages, and the deployer identifies the packages and actions from the directory and file structure.

In this case, the packages directory contains two packages with six total actions, shown in this diagram and described below:

OCR Tutorial - Actions in the packages directory

  • The ocr  package contains five actions:
    • acceptImage Provides a workflow that sequences other actions, invoking the ocr/imageToText  action at the proper point and invoking the utils/slack  action to send a notification and the OCR results to Slack (assuming the Commander app is installed into Slack).
    • credential This action specifies secure get and put operations between the web page and the storage bucket.
    • imageToText Provides logic for the Tesseract conversion of the image to text.
    • progress Uses the Redis key-value store provided with your Nimbella namespace to track progress, status, and the OCR text to be displayed.
    • textToSpeech Routes the text through Google Translate to be synthesized to speech.
  • The utils  package, which contains one action:
    • slack Logic for Slack notifications for the Commander app.

Packages are used as qualifiers in action names, so the full action names are therefore ocr/acceptImage , ocr/credential , utils/slack , and so on.

Build files

Some of the action directories have build files, which trigger an automatic build within the directory in which it's placed any time the code file is modified. In the case of the acceptImage directory, there's a build.sh file, which contains shell commands to run an npm install  and npm run build  of that directory. The package.json file specifies the common Node.js dependencies of the code.

Web content

The Nimbella deployer looks for a directory called web for static web content. The OCR demo contains the web directory structure shown in the following diagram.

OCR Tutorial - Web content

Top-level web directory structure

The web/public directory contains the files that will appear in the public website location. The public/index.html file is a template for the content that will be generated with React UI components and other JavaScript in the _src directory. The public/manifest.json file provides metadata used when your web app is added to the homescreen on Android.

The build.sh file in the web directory runs npm install and npm run build to generate content from the src directory's React components into the index.html file. This happens automatically every time a file is modified.

src directory structure

The starting point of the React logic is index.js in the src directory. It imports various React components and CSS, and it imports and renders App.js from the components subdirectory.

App.js contains the sequencing of the other components. It imports Header, FileUpload, and Result. It also adds handlers for various components (language, browsing, camera, file upload) and creates some of the HTML markup. The Result  code imports the ImageDisplay  and TextDisplay  components that control how the image and text are displayed after OCR occurs. If you've tried the demo, it's easy to see what these components refer to.

Deploy this project to the Nimbella Cloud

If you have the Nimbella command line tool called nim  installed, you can deploy this project directly from GitHub, either online or from the local repository cloned to your disk.

  • Run the following command in your terminal: nim project deploy /path/to/ocr 

The output of this command will include a link to where the application is running in the cloud.