Search Printed Text Using Your iPhone's Camera With SearchCam

Photo: PxHere

iOS: Ever read a paper book and wish you could hit Ctrl-F? Use the free iOS app SearchCam to search through printed text using your phone’s camera. It works on documents, books, packaging, even posters.

The app isn’t slick, but it’s quick, and it works in real time or with static photos. Either way, enter a few letters and SearchCam will highlight anywhere that they appear.

Real-time search isn’t perfect, especially if you’re searching the curved page of an open book. When we tested it, SearchCam sometimes lost and found a word if it was in shadow, or curved near the spine of the book. But the natural shakiness of our hand was enough to “jiggle things into place” for the app, picking up every word we searched for.

SearchCam can search typeset text (as in Gretchen McCulloch’s book “Because Internet”), handwritten block letters (as in Mark Alan Stamaty’s comic “MacDoodle St”), and packaging (as on Yamamotoyama green tea). (Screenshot: Nick Douglas using SearchCam)

The great thing about realtime search is that you can flip through a book, scanning each page for a word. So if you know a word appears somewhere in a chapter, you can quickly search through that whole chapter — without saving 30 photos of pages to your camera roll. But if you get tired of holding your phone up, SearchCam works on saved images too.

The app can detect a partial word — you can search “per” and see wherever it appears in longer words such as “perimeter” or “period” — but it can’t search for a multiple-word phrase. And you can only scan for one search term at a time.

SearchCam charges $4.49 to remove ads, but when we tested the free version, we didn’t see any ads.

For Android device users who want to search real-world documents, try Find It and Ctrl F. (The similarly named CTRL-F app, which we covered in 2016, has disappeared from the Google Play app store.)


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