Whether you want to convert some text written on a piece of paper, like a receipt/bill, or convert a text from a picture to a digital format, manually jotting it down may take too long. Also, there are instances when you cannot copy a text, even if it’s already in a digital format, such as an error message or a website that has disabled text selection.
Fortunately, there’s a feature known as OCR (Optical Character Recognition), which scans and instantly extracts texts from a picture. You can use it while taking a picture or with an image (photos/screenshots) that’s already saved on your device or somewhere on the web.
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How to Copy Text from a Picture?
The OCR works exceptionally well when the picture is clear and gives accurate results in the case of machine-written text with all kinds of fonts. Also, you would be surprised how well it can recognize your handwritten text.
On the other hand, it has some limitations. It can fail to give good results in certain conditions, such as blurry text or a photo with low or excessive brightness. So, consider taking photos appropriately to get the best results.
Using the Device’s Built-in OCR Feature
Whether you use a smartphone or a PC, most of them these days include an OCR feature in one form or another. Even if it’s unavailable on your device, you can find several OCR apps freely available on the Internet.
Nonetheless, here are some of the built-in features available on mobile and PC.
For Windows, you can use Microsoft’s PowerToys, which has the Text Extractor feature. It is open source and freely available for download on Github. Alternatively, you can also install it from the Microsoft Store. After installing, you can use it as follows.
- Launch Microsoft PowerToys.
- Select Text Extractor from the sidebar.
- On the right pane, toggle on Enable Text Extractor.
- Now, press Windows + Shift + T and after the screen turns a little dim, select the image or any other area to extract the text.
- Now, open a document processor or note-taking app such as Notepad and press Ctrl + V to paste the captured text.
Similar to iOS devices, you can use the Live Text feature on your Mac. However, your system should be running Mac OS Monterey or a later version. In case you have an older system, you can use the Shortcut app, which has an Extract Text from Image option.
Here, we are using Live Text to capture the names of all the files inside the screenshot.
- Right-click on the image with the text and select Open with > Preview.
- Hover over the text part to highlight it.
- Then, right-click and select the Copy option. Or, click the Edit menu at the top.
- Open up a document editor like Pages or Notes app.
- Press Command + V to paste the text with the same formatting as in the image. To copy text without formatting, press Command + Shift + V.
For Android devices, you can use the Google Lens feature through the Google app or the Google Photos app. Or you can separately install the Google Lens app.
On the other hand, certain Android phones, like Samsung, have a feature similar to Live Text on iOS called Bixby Vision. Check if your smartphone has the OCR feature online.
Anyway, here’s how to use Google Lens on Android smartphones.
- Open the Google app.
- Tap the Google Lens icon next to the microphone in the search bar.
- Then, tap the Camera icon above Search with your camera to take a picture. Or, select one of the images on your device below the Screenshots section. Tap Open Camera if asked.
- Point the camera at the image to extract text on it and tap the Camera icon. Any text Google Lens recognizes in the picture is highlighted in white. So, retake the photo if it doesn’t capture the desired text.
- Once the Text found in image prompt appears from the bottom, tap Select all.
- Next, tap Copy text to save it to your clipboard.
For fairly recent Apple smartphone models like iPhone XR, XS, or newer and running iOS 15 or later, you have access to the built-in Live Text feature. With it, you can copy text from an image in your Photos app. Likewise, you can also scan for text while taking an image. Furthermore, you can translate and look up the selected word on the web in real time.
- Face your iPhone camera towards the image which contains the text you want to extract.
- Tap the yellow Live Text icon that appears in the bottom right corner.
- Swipe across the text to highlight/select and tap the Copy option to save it to your clipboard. Or tap Select All to highlight all the scanned text in the image.
- Open a text editor like the Notes app, long press, and select the Paste option.
- Alternatively, you can even use the Live Text feature within the Notes app.
Using Third Party OCR App
If you aren’t getting the desired result using the built-in feature in your devices, you can try out various OCR apps. You can find them on the App Store, Play Store, or Microsoft Store, depending on your device.
Alternatively, you can also download external programs from the web. Most of those programs are free but can require you to subscribe to a premium plan to get additional features.
On the other hand, note-taking apps like OneNote and Evernote also have built-in text copy options.
For demonstration purposes, let’s have a look at how you can use OCR inside OneNote.
- Open a document with the picture or insert it from your PC.
- Then, right-click on the image and select Copy Text From Picture option.
- Press the Ctrl+ V shortcut on Windows and Cmd + V on Mac to paste the text.
Using Online Tools
If you don’t want to install any software/app on your device whatsoever, you can use several online OCR tools available online. Just open up a browser and search for “OCR online tool.” Then, open one of the sites and upload the picture to the site. Wait for it to process the image and copy the text output.