3 Ways to Convert a Picture to Text: A Comprehensive Guide

ways to convert a picture to text for a comprehensive guide

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Image to text conversion has become a game-changer for so many of us, whether we’re students trying to digitize our notes, professionals archiving important documents, or just someone who needs to pull text from an image for convenience. Imagine the time and effort you can save by simply snapping a photo and turning it into editable text! 

In this guide, we’ll dive into a variety of methods and tools that can help you convert pictures to text quickly and accurately. 

Let’s get started and make your life a little easier!

Basics of Text Extraction

What is text extraction?

Text extraction involves identifying and pulling text from images, scanned documents, or other visual media. This technology is often powered by Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which converts different types of documents, such as scanned paper documents, PDFs, or images captured by a digital camera, into editable and searchable data.

Common terminologies

Before we dive into the various ways to convert pictures to text, let’s get acquainted with some key terms you’ll frequently come across:

  • OCR (Optical Character Recognition): A technology that recognizes text within a digital image.
  • Text converter: A tool or software that converts text from one format to another.
  • Text extractor: A tool specifically designed to extract text from images or documents.
  • Intelligent OCR (Intelligent Character Recognition): An advanced OCR technology that integrates artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of text extraction from pictures. 
  • Image translator: It’s a feature that converts extracted text from an image into other languages.

Use Cases and Applications

Here are the various ways you can use OCR technology: 

1. Digitizing printed documents

Imagine having a stack of printed materials that you need to keep organized. By converting these documents into digital formats, you can store them more easily and access them anytime, anywhere, without the clutter.

2. Data entry automation

Manual data entry can be tedious and time-consuming. By extracting text from forms and documents, you can automate the process, saving time and reducing the risk of human error.

3. Accessibility

For visually impaired users, accessing text from images can be challenging. Extracting text from images makes it possible for screen readers to read the content aloud, making information more accessible to everyone.

4. Translation

Need to understand a foreign language document? You can extract text from an image, and quickly translate it into your preferred language, breaking down language barriers with ease.

For example, Google Lens allows you to search what you see, and its translation feature is quite popular. It helps users understand foreign signs, menus, and more, making travel and communication in different languages much easier.

Google Lens interface showing text translation from image
Screenshot of landing page for Google Lens

How to Convert a Photo to Text in 3 Main Ways: 

Converting a photo to text doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You can do a manual transcription, which is essentially typing out the text from an image. While this method can be accurate, it’s incredibly time-consuming.

The next alternative is using automated tools that you can find online, on your smartphone or computer. This method is much faster, saving you both time and effort.

Let’s dive into some of the most effective automated ways to get the job done: 

Method 1: Using mobile and built-in device features

Depending on which device you’re using, here are various in-built tools that you can use whether you’re using an iPhone or Android device: 

How to convert image to text on iPhone?

iPhones come equipped with powerful features that allow users to convert images to text seamlessly. There are two ways to do this natively. Using the notes app: 

  1. Open the Notes app.
  2. Create a new note and tap the camera icon in the toolbar.
  3. Select “Scan Text.”
  4. Position the camera over the document and the text will appear in the note. 
  5. After capturing the text accurately, tap Save. 
  6. Make the final edits to your text in your Note, and tap “Done.”

To copy text from an image using the Photos app on iOS, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Photos App and select the photo or video containing the text.
  2. Tap and hold a word, then adjust the grab points to select the desired text. If you’re copying text from a video, you can pause it first if necessary.
  3. Tap “Copy” or “Select All” to copy all text.
iOS Photos app showing how to copy text from an image with a selection and copy option highlighted

You can then paste the copied text into another app. On iOS 16 and later, you can also isolate and share the subject of a photo via apps like Messages or Mail.

iOS Photos app demonstrating how to paste copied text from an image into a new message

How to convert an image to text on Android?

Android devices also offer built-in features and apps for text extraction. The Google Keep app is especially good at working with handwritten text. 

  1. Open Google Keep.
  2. Create a new note and tap the camera icon.
  3. Select “Take photo” or “Choose image.”
Open Google Keep, create a new note, tap the camera icon, and select 'Take photo' or 'Choose image'
  1. Tap the image to open it.
  2. Tap the three-dot menu and select “Grab image text.”
Tap the image to open it, then tap the three-dot menu and select 'Grab image text' in Google Keep
  1. The text will be added in a new note. You can give it a title, and share it in other ways including converting it to a PDF. 
The text will be added to a new note in Google Keep

We’ve also covered how to convert a picture to PDF on Android.

Method 2: Extract text from an image without installing any software or app

Sometimes, you just need a quick and easy way to extract text from an image without the hassle of downloading or installing anything. Maybe you’re on a shared computer, running low on storage, or just want to keep things simple. Luckily, some fantastic online tools can help you do this in no time. Let’s dive into how you can effortlessly convert images to text using these handy web-based solutions.

Using online tools

When it comes to extracting text from images, there are plenty of online text to image converters that can make the process quick and easy. To use these tools, follow this step-by-step guide: 

  • First, visit the Online OCR website. 
  • Next, upload your image. 
  • Select the language and output format. 
  • Click “Convert.” 
  • Finally, download the extracted text.

By following these steps, you can easily convert images to text using online OCR tools. Here are the top online tools to use, each with its unique features and advantages:

  • Online OCR: Supports multiple languages and can convert images, PDF files, and scanned documents into editable formats like Word and Excel.
  • Smallpdf: Offers a straightforward interface to convert images to text, along with a suite of other PDF-related tools.
  • i2OCR: Supports over 100 languages and provides a simple interface for uploading images.
  • OCR.Space: Offers high accuracy and supports batch processing, making it ideal for handling multiple images at once.
  • Soda PDF: Provides an easy-to-use online OCR tool that can convert images and PDFs into editable text formats.
  • Convertio: Supports multiple image formats and offers cloud storage integration for seamless text extraction.
  • New OCR: This image to text converter allows you to extract text from images and PDFs and supports multiple languages, making it versatile for various needs.
  • Easy Screen OCR: This other image to text converter provides a simple drag-and-drop interface for extracting text from images, with support for multiple languages.

These online tools offer a range of features to suit different needs, making text extraction from images a breeze. Visit each link to explore the tools further and find the one that best fits your requirements. 
One of the main advantages of these tools is that they require no installation and are accessible from any device with an internet connection. Besides, several of these tools offer many other functionalities on top of image to text conversion, such as image format conversion (ex: PNG to JPG), image to PDF conversion, etc. However, they do have some drawbacks, such as dependency on an internet connection and potential privacy concerns.

Using browser features to convert picture to text

Modern browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge have built-in features that can help extract text from images, making it easier to digitize and utilize the information contained within pictures.

Google Chrome

This feature leverages Google’s powerful image recognition and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities to extract and present the text.

  1. Upload the image file to Chrome by dragging and dropping it into an open tab. 
  2. Right-click on the image. 
  3. Select “Search Google for image”: This option will initiate a reverse image search using Google’s search engine.
  4. Open the search result and use the “Copy text” feature: Once the search results are displayed, you can find an option to copy the text from the image.
Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge uses integrated OCR technology to recognize and copy the text, making it immediately available for pasting and further use.

  1. Upload the image to Microsoft Edge by dragging and dropping it into an open tab.
Microsoft Edge context menu showing the option to search the web for an image to convert picture to text
  1. Right-click on the image and select “Search Web for Image.”
  2. Hover over the image and “Click to enter text mode.”
Microsoft Bing interface with a text extraction tool for converting a picture to text
  1. Select “Copy text from picture”: This option directly extracts the text from the image without needing to perform a search.
Using other Google and Microsoft services

There are more Google and Microsoft services you can use to extract text from pictures without installing any app: 

  • Google Drive: Upload the image file to Google Drive. Right-click the image and select “Open with” > “Google Docs.” Google Docs will open with the image and extracted text.
  • Microsoft Word: Insert the image into the document. Right-click the image and select “Copy text from picture.”

Method 3: Using specialized text extraction software (Adobe Acrobat & ABBYY)

When extracting text from images, having the right software can make all the difference. Two of the leading tools in this space are Adobe Acrobat and ABBYY FineReader. Both offer powerful features but cater to different needs and preferences. 

Adobe Acrobat

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, & Android 

Adobe Acrobat is a popular tool for handling PDFs. But it also utilizes Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert photos and scanned documents into editable text. Recently, they have integrated AI and machine learning to improve text recognition, especially for different fonts and handwriting. It supports multiple languages, allows batch processing, and offers robust editing tools. Additionally, Adobe Document Cloud integration makes sharing and collaboration easy.

ABBYY

Platforms: Windows, macOS & iOS 

ABBYY FineReader is known for its high accuracy in text extraction. It uses advanced OCR technology and incorporates AI and machine learning to handle complex layouts, tables, and graphics. ABBYY supports over 200 languages and includes a document comparison feature. It also allows batch processing and integrates well with various document management systems, making it suitable for professional use.

Comparison table: Adobe Acrobat vs ABBYY FineReader

FeatureAdobe AcrobatABBYY FineReader
Pros– Easy to use
– Integrates with Adobe products
– Cloud integration
– Robust editing tools
– Highly accurate text extraction
– Supports 200+ languages
– Advanced AI and machine learning
– Document comparison feature
Cons– Higher cost for premium features
– Fewer languages supported
– Steeper learning curve 
– Higher cost for enterprise solutions
Pricing– Subscription (from $22.99 per month for individual use)– Monthly subscription from $16 for Windows Standalone 
Top Features– Advanced OCR, AI-enhanced
– Multi-language support
– Batch processing
– Cloud integration
– Advanced OCR, AI integration
– Supports 200+ OCR languages
– Document comparison
– Batch processing

Both tools excel in their own right: Adobe Acrobat for its comprehensive PDF solutions and ABBYY FineReader for its superior accuracy and language support.

Recommended Tools for Different Text Extraction Needs

Extracting text from images is useful for various tasks, from online searches to archiving documents. Here are some top tools for different use cases:

Use CaseToolDescription
Extracting Handwritten Text– Microsoft OneNote
– Google Keep
– Notes App (Apple Devices)
Converts handwritten notes into editable text.
Extracting Text in Batch– ABBYY
– FineReader
– Adobe Acrobat
Powerful OCR tool for batch processing.
Professional Text Extraction– ABBYY
– FineReader
– Adobe Acrobat
Accurate and versatile with support for complex documents.
Personal Use– Google Keep
– Notes App (iPhone)
– Microsoft OneNote
Simple, integrated with mobile app services. Tools also come with organizational features.
Extracting pictures to text without any app and on any device– Online OCR
– Smallpdf
– i2OCR
– OCR.Space
– Soda PDF
– Convertio
– New OCR
– Easy Screen OCR
Work through any ordinary browser regardless of the operating platform and device. Most of them are free.

Summary

Converting pictures to text can be achieved through various methods and tools, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Built-in mobile apps like Google Keep and the Notes app on iPhone offer convenience for quick and simple tasks. 

Online tools and search features from Google and Bing provide easy access for occasional use. For more advanced needs, specialized OCR software like Adobe Acrobat and ABBYY FineReader offers robust capabilities, including batch processing of image files and high accuracy for complex documents. 

Each method caters to different requirements, and you can choose the right tool for your specific text extraction needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you copy text from an image easily?

Yes, using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, text can be easily copied from an image. Various tools and methods mentioned in this guide make this process straightforward.

What is the best free OCR tool?

SmallPDF and Online OCR are among the best free OCR tools available. They offer reliable text extraction without any cost.

Is OCR accurate?

OCR accuracy depends on the quality of the image and the tool used. High-quality images and advanced tools like ABBYY FineReader provide better accuracy.

AUTHOR
Winston Kirimi
A graduate in chemistry by training, Winston writes about technology, software and SEO.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Need free pics?

Download our free Google Docs add-on to easily find free images to insert in your blog posts

Discover the fastest way to find great images for your articles
ImageSuggest is a free tool that uses A.I. to find relevant images from Pixabay, Pexels and Unsplash for your article.