Microsoft has added OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities to the Snipping Tool which allows you to quickly grab text from any image.

Whether it's text from an old receipt, a screen grab of a video, a scanned document, an obscure photo of an old newspaper, or a screenshot of a website, the Snipping Tool can interact with any text found in an image, extract it, and copy it.

Here’s how you can copy or extract text from any image using the Snipping Tool on Windows 11.

Extracting and Copying Text from a Picture using the Snipping Tool

This new Text Actions feature is only available in Snipping Tool version 11.2308.33.0 or higher. To use this feature, make sure you've updated the Snipping Tool to the latest available version. Check our guide on how to update Microsoft Apps on Windows 11 to update the Snipping Tool.

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To extract and copy text from an image, you can either take a screenshot of it using the Snipping Tool or simply open the image with the Snipping Tool app.

  1. To take a screenshot with the snipping tool, open the Snipping Tool app and click the '+' button or press Windows+Shift+S. Then, select the snipping mode (Rectangle, Window, Full Screen, or Freeform) and capture the screenshot.
  1. Alternatively, to open an image with the Snipping Tool app, right-click the picture from which you want to copy the text, and then select 'Open with' > 'Snipping Tool'.
  1. Once the image is loaded into the Snipping Tool, click on the 'Text actions' button (a rounded square icon with three lines inside) at the toolbar.
  1. The tool will analyze your image and highlight the identified text in white as shown below.
  1. Now, you have options to copy all the text or a particular section of text:
  • Copy all text - Select 'Copy all text' to copy the entire identified text on the image.
  • Copy text - If you want to copy only a specific section of the text, highlight it with the mouse cursor (blue highlight), then right-click on it and select 'Copy text' or press Ctrl+C.
  1. You can then paste the copied text onto a word processing program. As you can see below, the tool does a great job of recognizing and extracting text from a picture of a Latvian book page. This shows that the Text actions feature is capable of extracting text from images in a wide variety of languages.

Zoom in and Extract Un-recognizable Text

There will be times when the Snipping Tool fails to extract text from images if the text is too obscure or too small. For example, in the screenshot below, the tool is unable to fully extract text from a picture containing a collection of newspaper clippings because the text is too small.

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In such cases, there is a workaround you can use to copy text from these images:

  1. Open the image in a photo viewer app like Microsoft Photos. If the image is a screenshot, save it to your computer and then open it in the Photos app.
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  1. Then, zoom in on the particular section where you want to extract text from.
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  1. Press Windows+Shift+S to open the Snipping Tool options and select a snipping mode.
  1. Draw around the area that you want to capture.
  1. Once it's done, the picture will be snipped and loaded into the Snipping Tool.
  2. Now, you can use the 'Text actions' feature to extract the text. The tool should be able to copy text from the area on the picture where it wasn't able to earlier.

Checking 'Text Actions' Accuracy

The Snipping Tool's text extraction feature is pretty good, but it's not perfect. Like most AI tools, it has its own limitations. Sometimes, it makes mistakes, like spelling errors, copying the wrong words, or misinterpreting text because of ink smudges or other factors.

For example, in the below image, some words are obscured by ink smudges, making them hard to recognize. Let's copy the paragraph from the below image and verify its accuracy.

As you can see below, the tool is able to extract all the text, but it is full of spelling mistakes.

You can use spelling checker tools like Grammarly to correct mistakes, and you can manually compare the image with the copied text to fix any remaining mistakes.

Redacting Text in the Snipping tool

In addition to text extraction, the new Text Actions feature in the Snipping Tool also lets you redact text in images. With this option, you can quickly censor email addresses, phone numbers, and other sensitive information in your pictures. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open an image with the Snipping Tool or capture a screenshot using the Snipping Tool.
  2. Then, click the 'Text actions' button on the toolbar.
  1. By default, the tool redacts phone numbers and email addresses in the image. But if you don't want to redact that info, click the arrow button next to the 'Quick redact' option and uncheck the information you don't want to redact.
  1. Then, click the 'Quick redact' option to censor the email addresses and phone numbers.
  1. All phone numbers and emails will be redacted in the image. 
  1. If the tool mistakenly redacts text you want to keep or misses any text, you can manually select the text, right-click on it, and select the 'Redact text' option.
  1. To remove the redaction effect from an image, click the arrow icon and then select 'Remove all redactions'. However, you cannot undo specific redactions from an image.

The new OCR functions in the Snipping Tool are a very useful addition, letting you quickly grab text from images with impressive accuracy and redact sensitive information.