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a makefilization for OCR-D workflows, with configuration examples

OCR-D workflow configurations based on makefiles

This provides a first attempt at running OCR-D workflows configured and controlled via GNU makefiles. Makefilization offers the following advantages:

Nevertheless, there are also some disadvantages:



To install system dependencies for this package, run…

make deps-ubuntu

…in a privileged context for Ubuntu (like a Docker container).

Or equivalently, install the following packages:

Additionally, you must of course install ocrd itself along with its dependencies in the current shell environment. Moreover, depending on the specific configurations you want to use (i.e. the processors it contains), additional modules must be installed. See OCR-D setup guide for instructions. (Yes, workflow-configuration is already part of ocrd_all.)


You have 2 options, depending on your usage preferences:

For direct invocation of make

Simply copy or symlink all makefiles (i.e. both the specific workflow configurations *.mk and the general Makefile) to the target directory.

(The target directory is the directory where your OCR workspace directories can be found. A workspace directory is one which contains a data/mets.xml or mets.xml.)

You can then run workflows in the target directory by calling…



For invocation via shell script


make install

… if you are in a (Python) virtual environment. Otherwise specify the installation prefix directory via environment variable VIRTUAL_ENV.

Assuming $VIRTUAL_ENV/bin is in your PATH, you can now call…

ocrd-make [OPTIONS] -f WORKSPACES...

… in the target directory with the same interface as above (only without the need for copying makefiles).


Workflows are processed like software builds: File groups (depending on one another) are the targets to be built in each workspace, and all workspaces are built recursively. A build is finished when all targets exist and none are older than their respective prerequisites (e.g. image files).

To run a configuration…

  1. Activate working environment (virtualenv) and change to the target directory.
  2. Choose (or create) a workflow configuration makefile.
    (Yes, you can have to look inside and browse its rules!)
  3. Execute:

     [ocrd-]make -f [all]

(The special target all (which is also the default goal) will look for all workspaces in the current directory.)

You can also run on a subset of workspaces by passing these as goals on the command line…


To get help:

[ocrd-]make help

To get a short description of the chosen configuration:

[ocrd-]make -f info

To see the command sequence that would be executed for the chosen configuration (in the format of ocrd process):

[ocrd-]make -f show

To remove the configuration makefiles in the current/target directory:

[ocrd-]make clean

To prepare workspaces for processing by fixing certain flaws that kept happening during publication:

[ocrd-]make repair

To create workspaces from directories which contain image files:

ocrd-import DIRECTORY

To get help for the import tool:

ocrd-import --help

To derive flat directories from workspaces suitable for LAREX annotation:

ocrd-export-larex -I FILEGRP -O DIR

To get help for the LAREX export tool:

ocrd-export-larex --help

To spawn a new configuration file:


Furthermore, you can add any options that make understands (see make --help or info make 'Options Summary'). For example,

Note, that because workspaces are built by recursive invocation, and make does not pass on those MAKEFLAGS which can affect dependency calculation, you cannot directly use the following options:

However, you can wrap them in a special variable EXTRA_MAKEFLAGS which gets expanded at the workspace level. For example, to rebuild anything after the fileGrp OCR-D-BIN, do:

[ocrd-]make -f all EXTRA_MAKEFLAGS="-W OCR-D-BIN"

You can also use that variable to specify any other than the .DEFAULT_GOAL of your configuration as the overall target. For example, to build anything up to the fileGrp OCR-D-SEG-LINE, do:

[ocrd-]make -f all EXTRA_MAKEFLAGS="OCR-D-SEG-LINE"

(If you chdir into some workspace yourself, make won’t run recursively, so no all target exists and no EXTRA_MAKEFLAGS is necessary.)

There are 2 more special variables besides EXTRA_MAKEFLAGS. To process only a subset of pages in all fileGrps, use PAGES. For example, to only consider pages PHYS_0005 and PHYS_0007, do:

[ocrd-]make -f all PAGES=PHYS_0005,PHYS_0007

And to override the default (or configured) log levels for all processors and libraries, use LOGLEVEL. For example, to get debugging everywhere, do:

[ocrd-]make -f all LOGLEVEL=DEBUG


To write new configurations, first choose a (sufficiently descriptive) makefile name, and spawn a new file for that: [ocrd-]make (or copy from an existing configuration).

Next, edit the file to your needs: Write rules using file groups as prerequisites/targets in the normal GNU make syntax. The first target defined must be the default goal that builds the very last file group for that configuration, or else a variable .DEFAULT_GOAL pointing to that target must be set anywhere in the makefile.




	ocrd workspace find -G $@ --download
	ocrd workspace find -G OCR-D-IMG --download # just in case

# You can use variables for file group names to keep the rules brief:

# This is how you use the pattern rule from Makefile (included below):
# The prerequisite will become the input file group,
# the target will become the output file group,
# the recipe will call the executable given by TOOL,
# also generating a JSON parameter file from PARAMS:
$(BIN): $(INPUT)
$(BIN): TOOL = ocrd-olena-binarize
$(BIN): PARAMS = "impl": "sauvola-ms-split"
# or equivalently:
$(BIN): OPTIONS = -P impl sauvola-ms-split

# You can also use the file group names directly:
OCR-D-OCR-TESS: TOOL = ocrd-tesserocr-recognize
OCR-D-OCR-TESS: PARAMS = "textequiv_level": "glyph", "model": "frk+deu"
# or equivalently:
OCR-D-OCR-TESS: OPTIONS = -P textequiv_level glyph -P model frk+deu

# This uses more than 1 input file group and no output file group,
# which works with the standard recipe as well (but mind the ordering):
EVAL: TOOL = ocrd-cor-asv-ann-evaluate

# Because the first target in this file was $(BIN),
# we must override the default goal to be our desired overall target:

# ALWAYS necessary:
include Makefile


OCR-D ground truth

For the data_structure_text/dta repository, which includes both layout and text annotation down to the textline level, but very coarse segmentation, the following character error rate (CER) was measured:

pipeline configuration CER
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-fraktur-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .255
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-fraktur-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .273
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-fraktur-BINPAGE-wolf-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .266
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-frakturjze-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .287
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-frakturjze-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .301
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-frakturjze-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .292
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-frakturjze-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .325
OCR-D-OCR-OCRO-frakturjze-BINPAGE-wolf-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .318
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-Fraktur-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .127
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-Fraktur-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .124
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-Fraktur+Latin-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .131
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-Fraktur+Latin-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .122
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-Fraktur+Latin-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .128
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-Fraktur+Latin-BINPAGE-wolf-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .126
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-frk+deu-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .122
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-frk+deu-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .117
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-frk+deu-BINPAGE-wolf-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .115
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .081
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .094
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .084
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .091
OCR-D-OCR-TESS-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-wolf-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .094
OCR-D-OCR-CALA-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .074
OCR-D-OCR-CALA-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .087
OCR-D-OCR-CALA-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-RESEG-DEWARP .086
OCR-D-OCR-CALA-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-sauvola-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .090
OCR-D-OCR-CALA-gt4histocr-BINPAGE-wolf-DENOISE-ocropy-DESKEW-ocropy-CLIP-DESKEW-tesseract-RESEG-DEWARP .110

Hence, it appears that consistently (across different OCRs) …

However, this result is still preliminary. Both the processor implementations evolve and the GT annotations get fixed over time.


To make writing (and reading) configurations as simple as possible, they are expressed as rules operating on METS file groups (i.e. workspace-local). For convenience, the most common recipe pattern involving only 1 input and 1 output file group via some OCR-D CLI is available via static pattern rule, which merely takes the target-specific variables TOOL (the CLI executable) and optionally PARAMS (a JSON-formatted list of parameter assignments) or OPTIONS (a white-space separated list of parameter assignments). Custom rules are possible as well. If the makefile does not start with the overall target, it must specify its .DEFAULT_GOAL, so callers can run without knowledge of the target names.

Rules that are not configuration-specific (like the static pattern rule) are all shared by including a common Makefile at the end of configuration makefiles. That file has 2 sets of rules:

The former calls the latter recursively for each workspace.

GPU vs CPU parallelism

When executing workflows in parallel across workspaces (with --jobs) on multiple CPUs, it must be ensured that not too many OCR-D processors which use GPU resources are running concurrently (to prevent over-allocation of GPU memory). Thus, make needs to know:

  1. which processors (have/want to) use GPU resources, and
  2. how many such processors can run in parallel.

It can then synchronize these processors with a semaphore. This is achieved by expanding the static pattern rule with a synchronisation mechanism (based on GNU parallel). Workflow configurations can use that by setting the target-specific variable GPU to a non-empty value for the respective rules. (Custom recipes will have to use sem --id OCR-D-GPUSEM.)

That way, races are prevented, but also GPUs cannot become the bottleneck: When all GPUs are busy, processors will fall back to CPU.

workspace vs page parallelism

When executing workflows in parallel across workspaces (with --jobs) on multiple CPUs, it must be ensured that OCR-D processors do not use local multiprocessing facilities themselves (to prevent over-allocation of CPUs).

In the current state of affairs, OCR-D processors cannot be run in parallel across pages via multiprocessing. (At least, they are never implemented that way.) That may change in the future with a new OCR-D API. But still, many processors do already use libraries like OpenMP or OpenBLAS which use multiprocessing locally within pages. This can be controlled via environment variables like OMP_THREAD_LIMIT.

This is achieved by exporting these variables to all recipes with a value of 1 when -j is in MAKEFLAGS or half the number of physical CPUs (unless NTHREADS is explicitly given) otherwise.