Android doesn’t have a ton of apps that can turn images into text documents, but of the ones available, Google Goggles is free and does everything it promises to do: copy text from an image and let you paste it anywhere.
- Converts images of text to actual text
- Can send that text to your clipboard for pasting just about anywhere
- Can translate resulting text into tons of different languages
- Can recognise business cards and add them to your phone as contacts with one tap
Google Docs isn’t necessarily the ideal OCR app, but it does everything it promises, and it does it well. Take a picture of any text and Google Goggles will turn it into copyable text you can then paste anywhere in your phone — a document editor, your note-taking app, Gmail, SMS, or anything else you could imagine. It can also recognise business cards, which is a killer feature — after scanning the card just one tap will add that person to your Google Contacts. It can also translate that text into a ton of different languages, which is great.
Google Goggles’ main downfall is that it doesn’t actually create a text file for you — it relies on you to do that yourself. That means you can’t just scan text and send it to Dropbox with the tick of a button, you actually have to copy it yourself, go paste it in a document editor, and then save that somewhere on your SD card. This does make the process a little longer, but as of right now, there aren’t really any true OCR apps that can do this either, so Google Goggles wins just by being an otherwise fantastic app.
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of OCR apps available for Android. Our second favourite app was ScanDoc Document Reader, which is a good scanner that can funnel text into many of the apps on your phone with one click. However, many of the apps failed to work for us — sending text to Gmail or SMS worked fine, but choosing Flick Note, Dropbox and Google Docs all failed, kind of defeating the purpose of the “send to any app” feature. And for $5.86 we feel like an app should actually do what it says it does. Plus, the interface is one of the ugliest we’ve seen in a while. But if Google Goggles isn’t your cup of tea, ScanDoc is your only other real choice.
Google Docs has an OCR feature that works very well, though only in Google Docs. It’s the only OCR app we used that actually recognised line breaks, which was a breath of fresh air, though since it’s part of Google Docs and not an OCR-specific app, it wasn’t quite as versatile as the above options, which give you more say in where that text goes. If you use Google Docs to scan stuff, you best believe it’s going to go into Google Docs, and if you want it elsewhere, you’ll have to copy and paste it yourself (and then delete that document). Still, the recognition was the best of all the other apps, so it might be worth it.
Android does have good document scanning apps, but none of them are true OCR. Instead of turning that image into editable text, most of them turn it into a PDF document, which isn’t exactly what we’re looking for in this category. However, if that’s all you need, CamScanner is pretty awesome, letting you scan any image, create multiple image documents, turn them into a PDF, and send them to one of many services like Dropbox or Google Docs. Document Scanner is similar, and lets you use the OCR capabilities of Google Docs and Evernote, but isn’t quite as fast as Goggles’ one-click copy if you wanted to save it in something else.
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