Copying text from an image is super easy on iPhone, iPad and MacOS thanks to Apple’s marvellous Live Text feature and Google have a similarly excellent app on Android called Google Lens. Then there’s good old Windows, which unfortunately (but sadly not surprisingly) lacks any such feature.
Luckily, for PC users, there is a work which I’ll get to a little bit later on in the post. However, I’ll start by explaining how you can copy text from an image in iPhone and MacOS, and then move on to Android, and finally Windows.
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How To Copy Text From An Image on iPhone
With the release of iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, Apple introduced Live Text. On an iPhone or iPad this means you can point your phone at anything with text, while in the Camera app, and a yellow text icon will appear in the bottom, right corner of the image.
It’s worth noting you don’t actually have to take the photo to be able to copy the text; you simply need to click on the icon. If you don’t see this icon, head over to your Settings app, click on Camera and make sure Show Detected Text is enabled.
Click on the icon to grab the text from the image. Now it’s just a simple matter of dragging your finger over the text to select it, and copy/pasting it in the usual way. If you want to get really Geeky you can take the process one step further using HandOff, which links your iphone and ipad to your Mac laptop or desktop, allowing you to copy text on your iPhone and paste it on your Mac.
The Live text feature on iphone is also really useful for grabbing specific information like someone’s contact details, such as their phone number or email address. Again, in the camera app, click the text icon to grab the text as per normal. iOS automatically recognizes the text refers to a mobile number or email address and you can tap the text to quickly dial the number, send the person a message, or compose an email.
Live Text works just as well for photos you’ve already taken and saved to your Photos app. You’ll see the same text icon as before and you can grab the text from the image in exactly the same way by either selecting the text, or if it’s contact details, like a phone number, you’ll get the same options to call the number or send a message.
Just to note, Live Text is only available on iPhone XS or XR onwards.
How To Copy Text From An Image on MacOS
With MacOS Monterrey, Apple extended their LiveText feature to the desktop. Now in the Photos or Preview app, you’ll notice the cursor changes when hovering over text allowing you to select the text, and copy/paste it.
As with iPhone, if the text relates to someone's contact details, you’ll notice a little drop-down arrow to the right of the text providing you with additional options such as calling, facetime-ing or messaging a mobile number. Or, if the text is an email address, you’ll see an option to compose a new email to the address. If the text is a URL, you can ‘Open Link’ to open it in Safari.Live text also works exactly the same way on images you find in Safari. You can simply select the text, or click on the drop-down menus for different options.
How To Copy Text From An Image on Android
Where Apple has Live Text, Android has Google Lens. Google Lens works in a very similar way to Live Text. You can activate it several ways either by opening the Google Lens app. Or, if you’re in the camera app, you can click on modes from the menu, or just long press on the screen.
Having activated Google Lens, you’ll notice the menu along the bottom of the screen offers a multitude of different options and features. Google Lens is much more than just a tool for copying text. It also allows you to to translate text or search the internet for whatever you point your camera at.
However, to copy/paste we’ll click on Text from the menu running along the bottom of the screen. Drag your finger to select a portion of the text or choose ‘Select All’, and then press and ‘Copy Text’.
As with iPhone’s Live Text, Google Lens also recognises when the text includes contact details and automatically offers you options based on the type of information presented. You can compose an email or browse to a website. Alternatively, you can of course just copy the text.
If you already took the photo rather than it being in front of you, open your Photos app and you should be prompted to copy the text or, if not, open Google Lens from the menu. Either way, opening the image in Google Lens gives you exactly the same options as before.
How To Copy Text From An Image on Windows
As I said at the beginning of this post, sadly Windows, to my knowledge, doesn’t offer any built in features to copy text from an image. It would appear that you need to subscribe to Office 365 to have access to this feature in a Microsoft application, which is a real shame.
The best free solution I could find was to install an app from the Microsoft Store called Photo Scan. Open the Store, download the app and once installed, click to open.
Then it’s simply a matter of dragging and dropping your image onto the PhotoScan app window. The text will appear on the right of the image but in my experience it didn’t do a perfect job and there were a few typos that needed correcting. There’s also no option to work with contact details, in the same way Apple and Google offer. All in all, very disappointing by Microsoft.