A little-known feature of your Android phone is a cutting-edge machine for connecting the real world to the digital world on your smartphone. One of Google’s best-kept secrets is this. You can also save a tonne of time and work this way.
It’s a tiny something called Google Lens, and it has been silently gaining capabilities and skulking around on Android for years. Strangely enough, Google doesn’t make a big deal out of it, and you really have to look for it to even know that it exists. You’ll feel like you have a magic wand in your pocket once you find it, though.
Google Lens can best be characterized as a search engine for the actual world at its core. It employs artificial intelligence to recognize language and objects in photographs as well as in a live view from your phone’s camera, and it then gives you a variety of exciting ways to learn about and interact with those aspects. However, while Lens’s abilities too, for example, identify flowers, seek up a book, or provide information about a landmark are astounding, the system’s more commonplace-appearing productivity abilities are much more likely to find a home in your daily life.
Grab the Google Lens app from the app store on your nearest Android device, if you haven’t already, and get ready to teach your phone some incredibly helpful new skills.
1. Steal Text from The Real World
The most useful feature of Google Lens, and the one I use the most, is its capacity to extract text from tangible documents, including papers, books, whiteboards, suspiciously wordy tattoos on your rear, and copy that content to your phone’s clipboard. From there, you can quickly paste the text into any type of document, including a Google Doc, a note, an email, a Slack discussion, and more.
Want to learn even more about Android? Find out a tonne of time-saving tips for your phone by taking a look at my free Android Shortcut Supercourse.]
Simply launch the Google Lens app and select “Search using your camera” from the menu that appears. You can select the exact section of text you want as if it were conventional digital text on a webpage by pointing your camera at any nearby text and tapping your finger on any area of the viewfinder.
Every word will be on your system clipboard and available for pasting anywhere your thumpy little heart wishes after you simply click the “Copy text” command in the panel at the bottom of the screen.
2. Text Your Computer from The Outside World
The majority of us don’t work exclusively from our Android phones, let’s face it. The lens can also help you if you need to upload any real-world text to your computer.
Just follow the same steps as before, but this time, scan the panel at the bottom of the screen for the “Copy to computer” option. Any machine, running Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome OS should have that choice available as long as you are actively signed into Chrome with the same Google account. And when you tap it, you’ll see a list of all the locations that are accessible.
Simply select the desired system, and, as if by magic, the text from the real document will be on that computer’s clipboard and available for pasting wherever you desire. Ctrl-V (or Cmd-V on a Mac) will do the trick. It will automatically appear in any text field within a compatible app or process.
3. Hear Text from The Actual World Being Read Aloud
You might have recently received a lengthy memo, a printed-out brief, or a letter from your cherished aunt Sally. Whatever it is, while you’re on the go and in between meetings, give your eyes a break and let Lens read it for you.
Simply repeat our previous procedure of pointing your phone at the paper and selecting the “Text” option. Choose any text you like, and this time, seek the tiny “Listen” option in the panel at the bottom of the screen.
When you press that button with your pinky, the Google Lens app will read the selected text aloud to you in a calming voice. Hello, Google While we’re about it, how about reading a bedtime story?
4. Interact with Text Within an Image.
In addition to the real-time content, Lens can extract and analyze text from photographs, including screenshots as well as the actual photos you’ve taken.
The last sentence raises some intriguing possibilities. Let’s say you recently received an email with a tracking number, but the tracking number is some weird form of text that annoys you by not being able to be copied. (It seems to me that this occurs far too frequently.) Or perhaps you’re viewing a web page or presentation where the text isn’t selectable for some reason.
So, take a screenshot by simultaneously pushing the power and volume-down buttons on your phone, and then go to the Google Lens app. On the Lens home screen, locate the screenshot, tap it, then select “Text” at the bottom of the display. The text you desire can then be easily selected.
You can then copy the text, email it to a computer, or use any of Lens’s other cutting-edge techniques. In relation to that…
5. Search for The Text from Any Physical Document or Image
Swipe your finger to the left on the row of options in that bottom-of-screen panel, the one with “Copy text,” “Copy to computer,” and so on, once you’ve picked any type of text from within the Google Lens app. Even more, possibilities are hidden to the right of those first choices, but you’d never know it by looking.
One of them is the straightforward yet incredibly helpful “Search.” (And occasionally, Lens may even display relevant results in the bottom-of-screen window without requiring further search.) Remember that as a super-simple method to obtain text information from any physical paper or captured image without having to manually type the words in.
And on a related note…
6. Look for Comparable Images
The lens may search the web for other photos that resemble the actual object in your photo or screenshot in addition to looking for text extracted from an image. It’s an excellent approach to locate visually comparable photographs or even to pinpoint details like a certain phone type or item visible in a picture.
The “Search” option, which is confusingly different from the text-oriented “Search” command we just discussed, can be found in the main sliding bar of options at the bottom of the Lens interface and is what you’ll need to perform this bit of Google-y sorcery.
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7. Add an Event to Your Calendar
Open the trusty Google Lens app whenever you come across something with a date on it, such as a flyer, billboard, appointment card, or even a physical invitation to your dear Aunt Sally’s weekly canasta game. This will save you the trouble of entering the information manually into your digital calendar.
Tap the date after pointing your Android phone’s camera at the paper. At the beginning of its bottom-panel options, Lens should present you with a “Create calendar event option.” Tapping it will immediately beam the information to your favorite calendar app, where you can make any necessary adjustments and save it.
Also, remember that all of this will still function even if you raise your phone up to your computer’s screen to take a picture of something. That is a fantastic approach to streamlining your workflow when using several devices.
8. Save a Person’s Contact Information
You should first congratulate yourself on the good use of the word blimey, and then sit back and let Lens do the labor-intensive work for you if you find yourself holding a business card and thinking, “Well, blimey, I sure as heckfire don’t want to type all of this into my contacts app.”
Tap on the person’s name after opening Lens and aiming your phone’s camera at the card. The Google Lens app ought to identify the type of information and ask you to add a contact.
The action is completed with one more tap.
9. Use Email, a Phone Call, a Text Message, or A Website Navigation
You need to save an address or phone number to your phone in order to do a certain operation. It might be written there on a letter, a business card, or even the door of an unrelated establishment. Open the Google Lens app, point your phone at it, and tap the text in any case. (Alternatively, use option B to take a picture of the relevant information and then access it in the Lens app.)
When Lens notices it, it will propose to take the action that is most suited for the type of information involved. Without having to waste time typing, you can then quickly access the address to roll into a new email draught, the phone number to call or text in your messaging app, or the website to view in your browser with just one press.
10. Transform Text from The Actual World
Remember that the Google Lens app has a built-in translation option if you ever find yourself staring at a sign in another language and wondering what in the world it means. Open the app, point your phone at the text, and press “Translate” on the bottom border of the screen to locate it.
Before you realize it, Lens will nearly instantly replace the words on your screen with their English translations (or, if English isn’t your tasse de thé, with a translation in whichever language you choose). It’s so quick and efficient that it almost seems eerie.
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