TextSniper, OCR any image instantly from your Mac’s menu

Sometimes you really need to OCR text from an image, not just from a PDF. Most OCR products, though, only work with PDF because the developers associate text recognition with documents. Until recently, all you could do about that was convert the image to a PDF and then run OCR on it with an app like ABBYY FineReader or DEVONthink, or any other OCR capable app. No more; there’s now a menu app that recognises text in anything you can take a screenshot of.

TextSniper caught my attention a couple of months ago when I accidentally saw it in the Mac App Store. I immediately decided to buy it. At €9.99 it wasn’t a deal breaker even if it would only have marginal use. It turned out to be much more than marginal, my use of this little but powerful app.

Let me give you an example. When I download updates in the App Store, I like to read what has changed so I can try the new functionality at a later time. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow you to just select the updated features list, drag-copy it to your Desktop and read it when you have time. No, that would be too easy. Enter TextSniper. You can capture text by selecting the menu app and clicking on Select Text or using the customisable keyboard shortcut. What you then get looks much like what you get when you hit Command-Shift-4: a screenshot camera pointer that you can move around.

When you select the text with it, there’s a short pause and then a popup appears telling you the text has been saved to the clipboard. That’s it. You can now paste the text in any app or document you like. The OCR is as good as ABBYY’s (I wouldn’t be surprised the developer uses ABBY’s engine). In other words, it’s not always perfect, but in most cases it is.

I do have one wish for TextSniper: I would love it when it also recognises text regardless of the orientation. I often have images of text printed materials that I couldn’t take a picture of with the text horizontally orientated. Text Sniper cannot OCR those without first running them through an image editor which beats the purpose I love so much — saving time. Perhaps that is impossible; FineReader cannot OCR text when it’s placed vertically or at an angle, either.

The latest version of TextSniper also lets you decode most barcodes. It’s become an indispensable companion tool to me and if you’re writing non-fiction for a living, it will help you save a lot of time too, I’m sure.

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