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Google Photos now lets you search for, copy/paste text in photos

Google Photos has received a major character recognition boost, allowing you to search for text in photos and more.

Published onAugust 23, 2019

Google Photos update - Google Photos app on Google Pixel smartphone

Google has quietly added more optical character recognition (OCR) functionality to Google Photos, essentially allowing users to search for text within photos. The improved OCR tech also lets you copy/paste said text in photos.

The new capabilities were confirmed by the Google Photos Twitter account after a user spotted it (h/t: 9to5Google). The search feature is currently available on smartphones and the web, accessible by typing a search query in the search bar. So simply searching for “beef stew” will result in a picture of a food menu popping up if “beef stew” is indeed listed on the menu.

Google Photos is also taking it a step further, allowing users to copy text from their stored photos with the aid of Google Lens and pasting it anywhere else (seen above). You can use the copy/paste functionality via the instructions below:

  1. Launch Google Photos on your Android phone
  2. Navigate to a desired image
  3. Tap the Google Lens icon
  4. Highlight the desired text you wish to copy
  5. Choose “copy” and copy it at your destination (e.g. WhatsApp chat, email message etc)

Both features are rather cool, and could make life much easier for users around the world. This could be handy if you’ve got a photo of your gran’s handwritten recipe, for example. You should now be able to search for the recipe as well as copy/paste the recipe to send it to loved ones.

We’ve got the feature on our Android phone without updating to the latest version of Photos, so you might be seeing it too. Nevertheless, you can grab the latest update via the button below anyway.

Recent Google Photos updates

Say hello to dark mode

June 5, 2019: Google has quietly brought dark mode to Google Photos (spotted by XDA-Developers), reportedly landing in version However, it’s unclear whether this was a server-side change on Google’s part or if you’ll need to update to this particular version. At the time of the news, we updated to this version and didn’t see the option. This isn’t an OLED-friendly dark mode though, but is a dark grey instead,.

A new gallery view

April 23, 2019: The latest update for Google Photos has added a new gallery view that helps users see which photos and videos have not yet been backed up. Users can then manually select which photos to back up, which will be helpful for those who don’t have auto-backup turned on.

Unfortunately, it appears as though Google has removed a useful existing feature at the same time. The search giant has removed the ability to browse your entire library in yearly view. Comfortable and day view are still live, but further pinching and zooming fails to bring up yearly view. Android Police found that the feature actually last appeared in V4.10, but we’re now at V4.14 and it has yet to be reinstated. Boo.

Auto-crop for documents

March 28, 2019: Google is rolling out a new auto-cropping feature to Google Photos on Android. The app will determine when you are viewing a photo of a document and then suggest you use the new auto-cropping tool.

The tool will also automatically rotate the image if necessary and also brighten it up a bit for clarity. These adjustments happen automatically — all you need to do is tap a button for each category. This new feature is rolling out this week.

Express backup

March 19, 2019: Google is offering a new backup option in Google Photos called Express backup that provides faster backup at a reduced resolution, making it easier to ensure your photos are backed up even when you might have poor or infrequent Wi-Fi connectivity.

The company began offering this new backup option to a small percentage of people using Google Photos on Android in India last December and over the past week, it has started rolling out Express backup to more users in India. By the end of the week, Android users on the latest version of Google Photos should start seeing it as an option for backup. Google has shared that the company will bring Express backup to dozens of other countries, rolling out slowly.

Live Albums

October 11, 2018: Google is rolling out a new feature for Google Photos called Live Albums. The new Live Albums feature allows you to create photo collections on-the-fly using the power of Google Assistant. All you have to do is make a new album within Google Photos and then select the people you would like to appear in that album. Google Assistant will then create a photo collection for you.

The Live Album you create can then get displayed on either your new Google Home Hub, or on your Google Pixel 3 when you dock it on the Pixel Stand. Conversely, you can share or edit the album just like you would any other, manually-created photo album.

Google Photos 4.0 redesign with Material Design

September 6, 2018: The Google Photos 4.0 redesign with Material Design is rolling out to everyone. Along with a Google Photos Material Design theme, the app also gets a new swipe gesture that should make your life a bit easier when you’re looking for photo info.

The refreshed Google Photos Android app functions in much the same way as it did before, but with Google Photos 4.0, everything has a sleeker, more rounded look. There’s also a new swipe gesture included in the app. When you’re looking at a photo, you can swipe from the bottom up and you’ll easily see the information for that photo (device info, storage location, GPS coordinates where it was taken, etc.).

Love Story video theme

June 25, 2018: Google Photos now includes a new Love Story video theme. The theme automatically makes a movie with pictures and videos of yourself and your significant other. The inclusion of Love Story brings the total number of themes to 10.

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