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If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for the fastest way to find information or solve a problem.

Google Lens is my favorite solution for identifying objects, plants, and animals but it is so much more –providing fast solutions to solving problems like translating text when you’re traveling, or copying text from textbooks, PDFs, and printed documents!

Google Lens is easy to use and it’s free, and yet many people still don’t know about this useful resource.  We’re here to help!

This beginner’s guide to Google Lens explains how Google Lens works, how to get started, and provides lots of tips and tricks for getting the most out of it.

Guide to Google Lens

The Basics – What is Google Lens?

Google LensGoogle Lens is image recognition software released in 2017 by Google. It was originally designed to provide relevant information about an object using visual analysis.

It’s a fast free solution for reading and understanding information within images. The latest version of Google Lens has five modes:

  • Auto: Lens automatically provides relevant search results based on the image it sees.
  • Translate:  Point at text and Lens provides a translation on top of the original words.
  • Text: Point Lens at the text you want to copy.
  • Shopping:  Point Lens at an item that you would like to find in a store or scan the barcode.
  • Dining:  Scan a menu and Lens can highlight which dishes are popular, provide reviews, or tell you more about a particular dish if you tap on the text.  You can also scan your receipt to get Lens to calculate the tip and split the bill.

How To Get Started With Google Lens

On Android phones, you can install the Google Lens app from the Play Store, use it inside Google Photos or use the Google Lens icon in your Google Assistant.

On iOS phones, you can access using the Google Lens icon inside Google Photos and the Google app.

Identifying objects, plants, and animals

Using Google Lens with a place

Google Lens is the fastest way of identifying plants, flowers, animals (or their breed), identifying an object and how it might be used!  It can also be used for exploring popular landmarks and places to learn about them and their historical facts when traveling.

Lens options vary depending on your device so I’ve decided to demonstrate how to identify objects using Google Lens inside the Google Photo app since you can use this option on both an Android and iOS.

Here’s a quick video to show how it’s done:

You identify an object, plant or animal by analyzing a photo you’ve taken inside Google Photos as follows:

1. Open Google Photos.

Launch Google photos

2. Tap on photo of the object and then tap on Google Lens icon.

Tap on Google Lens icon

3.  This launches Google Lens which is their image recognition software designed to bring up relevant information using visual analysis.

Google Lens analyzing

4.  Results are displayed below the photo.

Google Lens results

5. Tap on an image in the related results to find out more.

This search was to find out what the item my husband received in a gift basket was used for.  It had us all stumped!

The answer was:

It’s a ‘Click on leaf-shaped colander’ that you use as follows:

Object identified

Copy-Paste Text From Textbooks and Documents

Google Lens’ ability to copy-paste text means you now have a fast way to copy study notes from a textbook, or from a document, into your own document.  Its OCR (Optical Character Recognition) allows you to read any character from an image and turn it into editable text.

The easiest way to copy-paste text is by using the Google Lens app if you have an Android phone. The alternative option is to use the Google Lens icon inside Google Photos if you are using an iOS phone.

Here’s a quick video to show how it is done:

Here’s how to copy-paste text using the Google Lens app:

1. Open the Google Lens app (Androids only).

2.  Point your phone’s camera over all the text you want to scan (so it is all highlighted).Highlight the text you want to scan

3.  Tap on the Text icon.

Tap on Text icon

4.  Tap on Select All (or you can tap on sections of text you want to select).

Tap on Select All

5.  Tap on Copy text.

6.  Open up the app or document you wish to copy the text into (I use Google Docs on my phone).

7.  Long press the cursor in your document to summon the selection menu.

Press cursor

8.  Tap Paste.

Paste Text

9.  Save the document and open up on the desktop to make edits to the text (if needed). My example needed editing as I was scanning an old document that has faded text.

Tap on the Photo icon on the top right of the Google Lens app if you want to copy-paste text from a photo you’ve taken. 

Tap on Photo icon

Here’s how to copy-paste text using the Google Lens icon inside the Google Photos app:

1. Open Google Photos.

2.  Open the photo you want to copy-paste text from.

3.  Tap in the Google Lens icon.

Tap on Google Lens icon

4. Tap on the Search Icon to launch the Google Lens mode options.

Tap on the Search icon

5.  Tap on the Text icon.

Tap on Text icon

6.  Tap on Select All (or you can tap on sections of text you want to select).

Tap on Select All

7.  Tap on Copy Text.

Tap on copy text

8.  Open up the app or document you wish to copy the text into (I use Google Docs on my phone).

9.  Long press the cursor in your document to summon the selection menu.

Press cursor

10.  Tap Paste.

11.  Save document and open up on desktop to make edits to the text (if needed). My example needed editing as I was scanning an old document that has faded text.

Translate Text in Textbooks and on Signs

Google Lens is able to quickly translate foreign words in any image into your own language. Handy for when you are traveling or need to translate text from a textbook.

Here’s a quick video to show how it is done:

Here’s how to translate text using the Google Lens app:

1. Open the Google Lens app (Androids only).

2.  Point your phone’s camera over all the text you want to translate.

Point camera at text

3.  Tap on the Translate icon and the translated words will appear over the original words.  Tap on Copy All if you want to copy-paste the translated text into a document.

Translated Text

Here’s how to translate text using the Google Lens icon inside Google Photos app:

1. Open Google Photos.

2.  Open the photo you want to translate text from.

3.  Tap in the Google Lens icon.

Tap on Lens icon

4.  Tap on Search icon to access Google Lens modes.

Tap on search icon

5.  Tap on Translate icon.

Tap on Translate icon

6.  The translated words will appear over the original words.

Translate text in a sign

Scan QR Codes

Google Lens is able to read QR codes so there is no need to install a QR Code Reader.  Thanks to Frank Cademartori for sharing this tip!

In Google photos you tap on the QR code you want to read once you’ve tapped on the Google Lens icon and the URL from the QR code is displayed below the image.

Reading a QR code using Google lens inside Google photos

Inside the Google lens app on an android phone you tap on the QR code to reveal the link and then tap on the link to visit the website.

Reading QR codes using Google Lens

Any Tips or Questions?

I hope this information helps you get the most out of Google Lens.  I haven’t included instructions for how to use Shopping or Dining mode – refer to the following video to see how these two modes work.

Please leave a comment below to provide tips on using Google Lens or let me know if you have any questions.

9 Comments

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  1. I think I would like to try Google Lens with my six grade students. This would teach my students that social media can be for learning and not just for games and socializing. This would make Science more fun as well and get the students out of the classroom.

  2. I use Google Lens all the time, especially for identifying flowers and other plants. It also is a useful translator and can scan QR codes!

    • Hi Frank

      It is incredible how far their visual recognition software has come! Thanks for sharing the tip about QR codes. I hadn’t thought of QR codes. I’ve added the information to the post and thanked you for sharing the tip.

      Sue

  3. This is indeed valuable information and as a student myself, I may consider using google lens. It seems very useful, as I am not normaly to identify famous landmarks or rare items without searching it on google.

    • Hi Noelle

      It definitely is a much faster way of finding information once you are used to using it.

      Sue

  4. Thank you for this information! This will be a great way to engage students when we take field trips to museums or historical sites. Sometimes museums can be so overwhelming and they may miss numerous things. I would love to use this as a tool to capture some of the things they may have seen and to share back with the class when we return.

    • Great idea for trips to museums and historical sites. They could take a series of photos and analyze them in more detail once back in class.

      Sue

  5. Oh, my gosh, Sue, Thanks for this. Now I can figure out which plants are weeds on my newly purchased property! (I almost pulled out dahlias and missed their flamboyant flowering.) I can’t wait to try out with text as well. SUPER information.

    • Patricia Emerson
    • Hi Patricia

      Hopefully it helps prevent you from pulling out the wrong plants. The translate text and copy-paste text are amazing features.

      Sue