How to Use Google Lens to Capture Any Text With Your Smartphone!

Copy any text with nothing but your smartphone and this one Google app!
Odin Odin (62)
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Text surrounds us everywhere we go, and oftentimes we want to remember the text we encounter. Not that long ago, we’d be inundated by physical copies of every interesting flier, advertisement, or note that crossed our path, and we’d often end up with random hand-scribbled reminders filling our pockets and bags. Then came the smart phone and the ability to grab images directly from the world around us… which led to a huge collection of random images sitting around on our phone or in the cloud, mostly out of date but never deleted.

What if you could just grab the text from those images, though? With Google Lens, the problem is solved. You can easily capture text from both your smart phone’s live camera, or from any still images taken with your camera. Then that text can be easily copied into your favorite note-taking application for easy storage, all without collecting random photo detritus in your hard drive.

The best part? Even handwriting is accessible with Google Lens. Thanks to Google’s massive Optical Character Recognition database, even messy handwriting has a good chance of being copied more-or-less correctly.

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Open Google Lens
Open Google Lens

The first step is to open Google Lens. If you have Google Assistant installed and have given it permission to record your voice, just activate it as normal and tell it to open Google Lens. Otherwise, find Google Lens in your apps and open it from there (some android phones also come with a small Google Lens” icon built into the native camera app which, once tapped, automatically opens Google Lens from within the camera).

  • Now, point your camera at the text you want copied.
  • At the bottom of the screen you should see several options. Tap “Text” to switch to text capture mode.
  • The camera will now automatically highlight any text your camera is pointing at.
  • Tap the big document icon in the middle bottom of the screen and the highlighted text will be captured.
  • Now tap “Select All.”
  • You can now tap “Copy text” to copy all the highlighted text. It’s then easy to open up your favorite note-taking application and paste! Make sure to manually check for errors because Google Lens isn’t infallible.
Copy to Computer
Copy to Computer

You can also copy your content directly to a linked computer running the latest version of Google Chrome. Note that you will also need to be signed into your Google Account.

  • Follow the previous directions to capture text with your phone’s camera.
  • Instead of tapping “Copy Text,” swipe the list to the left — you should see an option labeled “Copy to Computer.”
  • Send to the device of your choosing.
  • Open Google Documents on the device you sent the text to.
  • Navigate to the “Edit” tab.
  • Select “Paste,” and the copied text from your phone will automatically paste over!
Search
Search

Finally, you can also search the web directly through Google Lens via this text capture function.

  • Follow the above instructions to capture text using your phone’s camera and Google Lens.
  • Instead of “Copy Text,” select and tap “Search.”
  • This will automatically search the Internet for an example of text that matches what you copied! (Note that Google limits this search to 32 words, but that should be more than enough to find some matches!)
Google's powerful suite of tools makes copying text from images or PDFs a complete breeze!
Odin Odin (62)
5 minutes

We've all been there before: we have one copy of some vital document to which there is no editable, digital copy.