Skip to Content
© Denis Biryukov | Dreamstime
Smartphones & gadgets

Tech how-to: Search printed text with your phone’s camera

Most Windows and Mac users are familiar with keyboard shortcuts. If you aren’t, you should be. These key combinations make it simple to perform a variety of tasks on your desktop that can save time and make you more productive.

Once you explore all the available shortcut options, you will notice many are identical to both operating systems, albeit, Windows uses the Control key while Mac relies on the Command button. Tap or click to discover the Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts you need to know.

One shortcut, Ctrl or Cmd+F (find), allows users to quickly locate a word, phrase or symbol within the text of a document or webpage. This feature saves tons of time and has left those who must search through books jealous. But now, thanks to a few apps, you can enjoy the same search function on physical texts

iOS SearchCam

Described as the Ctrl+F for the real world, the free (ad-supported) iOS SearchCam app can look through any printed typescript, including print within images. Want to go ad-free? No problem. It’s only $2.99.

Whether you need to locate a specific word within a textbook, product packaging, picture or a document, SearchCam works quickly to find your keyword. The app can further locate a partial word; however, it is unable to detect more than one word at a time.

RELATED: 7 shortcuts and secret features in your iPhone

SearchCam is simple to use. Once installed, launch the app. The search bar will automatically display. In the upper right corner, you can opt to take a photo of your text with the camera icon, or search the text of a stored photo with the image icon. The far-right figure allows you to purchase the app and remove ads.

When searching text, make certain your flash is off, as indicated below. In the search bar type in your word and tap Find. The app will highlight all occurrences.

Find It for Android

Save yourself from spending hours looking for that one phrase or multiple individual words. Using a live camera feed and optical character recognition (OCR), Find It – Real World Document Search can help Android users search for a word or group of terms in a block of typed text.

Like SearchCam, this free (contains ads) app is easy to use and quick to display its results.

In addition to physical documents like books, contracts and receipts, Find It can search other printed items such as labels, computer screen text and support materials written in a Latin-based foreign language, including Spanish, German, French and Italian.

Unlike SearchCam, this app allows you to search for multiple expressions or word strings at one time.

RELATED: 4 Android shortcuts to help you save time

Find It is easy to navigate. Once downloaded, open the app and you will observe three icons in the upper-right corner. Tap the cup of coffee to purchase Find It for 99 cents if you’d like the ad-free version.

Depending on ambient lighting, the flash icon can either be turned on or off with a quick tap. Last is the magnifying glass. This icon is your search button. Tap it and enter a single word, sentence or multiple search terms, by click + Add search term. To remove any term(s), tap on the X next to the search line.

When you’ve entered your search words, Find It immediately highlights them in the text. To hide the keyboard so you can view the entire reading area, simply tap the magnifying glass icon.

While both of these apps are relatively bare of additional options and features, they do perform the major job you’re looking for: quick and effective searches across a variety of printed texts.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a student trying to study or a businessperson looking for something specific — SearchCam and Find It are the perfect apps for your iOS or Android device.

Ask me your digital question!

Navigating the digital world can be intimidating and sometimes downright daunting. Let me help! Reach out today to ask your digital question. You might even be on my show!

Ask Me