Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is there a web browser or GMail plugin that would allow me to select the text shown in an image attachment?

For example, if I get a screenshot that has an ID or something that I need to copy it would be nice to be able to select it.


share|improve this question

No, because images are not the same as text. Text can be selected and can also be rendered with different fonts. Images, which are typically an organized grid of pixels (or sets of formulas in the case of "vector graphics"), that contain what appears to be text are just drawn (like art), often from what we call "rendered text."

You may be able to use some OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to interpret the text present in an image and provide you with a textual representation of it though (if folks have suggestions for good OCR software for this, please feel free to add links to comments in response to this answer).

share|improve this answer
Randolf is right. Regarding OCR software, unless there is a relatively large amount of text you need extracted from the image, it's probably not worthwhile attempting to get OCR software that will do this for you. Also, with OCR software, you have to worry about the accuracy of the output text. – music2myear Apr 22 '11 at 19:19
@music2myear: Excellent perspective! To add to that, I've seen some terrible OCR results a few times -- the more common errors are, for example, reading the letters "r" and "n" as "m" (because "rn" close together looks very similar to "m"). I'm hoping there are some free OCR solutions though that may be worth the effort of a little bit of testing. – Randolf Richardson Apr 22 '11 at 19:51
I realize you would need to use OCR, I was asking if there was a google labs that did this type of thing. – joe Apr 22 '11 at 21:03
Google apparently does have OCR function that it uses in Gmail as part of it's spam protection. This allows it to scan image spam and block it just like normal text messages. Google can also scan pdf attachments and will give you the option to view them as HTML just as it does pdf search results. However, it does not appear as though there is a plugin that uses that function in particular to handle embedded images in messages. Perhaps there is a browser plugin that will do this? – music2myear May 5 '11 at 19:17
@music2myear: That's very interesting information about how Google uses OCR. Regarding PDFs in search results, however, the vast majority of PDFs contain actual text and Google has been indexing these for many years. For the really small number of PDFs that are just scanned images, the use of OCR to read them may be very good news for users who are blind -- the only challenge will probably always remain is in accuracy with poorly drawn characters. I'm now aware of any browser plug-ins that do OCR though. – Randolf Richardson May 6 '11 at 13:59

It is highly unlikely that a browser plugin will itself handle any OCR. What is more likely is there are full-blown OCR applications that have plugins that enable integration with the browser.

In a brief web search for "OCR browser plugin" TiffSurfer was a prominent result:

Also, while I tend to not like sites like this, it may have apps worth checking into:

I cannot personally vouch for any of these applications as the only stand-alone OCR app I ever used was Caere Omnipage and that was back in 1998. It saved me a lot of work when my brother caused a catastrophic computer crash one week before the end of my first semester of college, before I was familiar with data recovery techniques. :)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.