I recently discovered an amazing application for my T-Mobile G1 (Google Phone), called Alchemy Clip. It is currently available free of charge in the Android Market, and it is the only application I have found so far that does OCR (optical character recognition) conversion of images to text.
How To Use Alchemy Clip
The program comes with the following simple instructions:
1. Photograph a paragraph of newspaper or magazine text.
2. Alchemy Clip will attempt to OCR the photograph, extracting text from the image.
3. Browse the detected text. Any text is automatically copied into your Android clipboard, so you can paste into email, chat, etc.
I have found that the process really is that easy. Using my Google Phone, I have photographed a number of typed documents, and the OCR transcriptions by Alchemy Clip have been remarkably accurate. There have been a few of failures (for example, an embossed business card with fancy lettering returned garbage), but even large paragraphs of text have generally been translated correctly, and quickly.
After Alchemy Clip converts your photograph to text, the text is stored in you Android phone’s clipboard. I had never even used copy and paste on my phone until I downloaded this program. To perform these functions on the T-Mobile G1, hold down the roller ball. A menu then pops up, giving you the option to copy or paste.
I have been pasting the Alchemy-Clip-generated text into AK Notepad, a simple text program. You can also paste into Gmail or other e-mail accounts. If you want to get fancy, it is possible to paste the text into an e-mail, and then send the e-mail to a Google Docs account, where it is automatically converted into a Google document, which can then be exported in a number of formats, including Microsoft Word.
Bottom line: Alchemy Clip is really cool.
What Can I Do With Alchemy Clip?
Now that I have this amazing new Alchemy Clip tool, I am dying to use it, but I am not entirely sure what to do with it. Here are the most practical uses I have come up with so far. Feel free to add others in the comment section:
1. Clip your favorite quotations out of books/articles you read in print. Sometimes you just want a pithy, little snippet of text you encounter. This is one way to grab it. You could even keep a file full of such quotes on your phone, adding to them from time to time.
2. Add data from business cards to your contact files. This is a great idea (I hate re-typing contact data), but as I noted above some business cards contain stylized writing and graphics that will confuse Alchemy Clip.
3. Create book lists. In libraries and bookstores, I constantly encounter books that I want to read in the future, but it’s a pain to write down their names and authors. Now I can just photograph the title page, Alchemy Clip it, and paste the text into my list of “books to read.”
I’m sure there are many brilliant uses I have not discovered yet. These three are brilliant enough to keep me going for the present, though.
What Can I Not Do With Alchemy Clip?
One idea that occurred to me was that I could use Alchemy Clip to turn my handwritten notes into text, as long as I wrote very legibly (i.e., like typewritten characters). This would be really useful. You might jot down a note on the go, and then later photograph it and save the resulting text. Unfortunately, I have not been able to make this work. I have tried to write neatly, but my handwriting just isn’t neat enough for Alchemy Clip.
If you have an Android-based phone, try Alchemy Clip. It is one of the few applications (and I have tried many, many random programs) that have really blown me away.