How to copy text from images: Live Text alternatives


With the launch of MacOS Monterey last fall, Apple introduced a cool feature called Live Text, which lets you highlight and copy text directly from images, both in Safari and in system apps like Photos and Quick Look. (It also works on iOS.)

But what if you want to grab text from images in other apps or web browsers? What if you don’t use macOS at all? Fortunately, there are several other text extraction tools that can help you.

For Chrome, Firefox and other Chrome-based browsers, see Copier. Once installed, clicking the extension’s icon brings up a selection tool, allowing you to draw a frame around any text on the screen. Copyfish then scans the text and displays it in a pop-up window to copy it to your clipboard. It even works for text that appears inside YouTube videos.

Copyfish is not the only extension of this type, but I appreciate its minimal data collection and a clear business model, which involves subscription access to advanced features such as machine translation. I’ve seen tools with much sketchier privacy policies that are best avoided, in my opinion.

For a text extraction tool that works with any application on your computer, try Normcap, a free and open source program for Windows, Mac and Linux. (Installation files are here.) Once installed, you can simply launch the application to launch the selection tool on your desktop. Draw a frame around the text you want to capture and Normcap will instantly add it to your clipboard. The entire character recognition engine works offline, so it’s both fast and private.

None of these options match Live Text’s transparency, which lets you select text without having to draw frames around it first, but they’re also less restrictive on where and how you can use them.

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