Tip of the week: Text extraction tools

Copyfish extension

With the launch of MacOS Monterey last fall, Apple introduced a neat feature called Live Text, which lets you highlight and copy text directly from images, both in Safari and in system apps such as 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? And what if you don’t use MacOS at all? Luckily there are several other text extraction tools that can help.

For Chrome, Firefox, and other Chrome-based browsers, check out Copyfish. Once installed, clicking the extension icon brings up a selection tool, letting you draw a box around any text on the screen. Copyfish then scans the text and displays it in a pop-up window for copying to your clipboard. It even works for text that appears inside of YouTube videos.

Copyfish isn’t the only extension of its kind, but I appreciate its minimal data collection and clear business model, which involves subscription access to advanced features such as auto-translation. I’ve seen some tools with much sketchier privacy policies that, in my view, are best avoided.

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

Neither of these options match the seamlessness of Live Text, which lets you select text without having to draw any boxes around it first, but they’re also less restrictive in where and how you can use them.

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The latest from PCWorld

Over at PCWorld, I wrote about using OneDrive’s Personal Vault feature to store driver’s license photos, tax files, and anything else that you’re squeamish about leaving out in the open on your hard drive. Viewing or modifying files in the OneDrive Personal Vault requires an additional code—sent via email or text message by default—and on Windows 10 or higher, Microsoft stores those files in a BitLocker-encrypted portion of your hard drive. With the right setup, you can keep sensitive documents out of sight even if something happens to your computer.

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