Fast OCR to clipboard


Just give me the text

I wanted to share a surprisingly elegant solution I found to copying text into the clipboard where for one reason or another it's otherwise not possible.

flameshot gui --raw \
  | tesseract stdin stdout -l eng \
  | xclip -in -selection clipboard
  • flameshot :: Powerful yet simple to use screenshot software
  • tesseract :: Tesseract Open Source OCR Engine
  • xclip :: Command line interface to the X11 clipboard

If you're using Wayland, substitute xclip for wl-copy:

flameshot gui --raw \
  | tesseract stdin stdout -l eng \
  | wl-copy
  • wl-clipboard :: Command-line copy/paste utilities for Wayland

I didn't come up with this incantation, rather found it after a lot of searching for a tool that solves this problem.

The flameshot gui launches a GUI that allows you to select a region of the screen, and then press enter. The image output is piped to tesseract which does the OCR and in turn pipes it to xclip or wl-copy which copies it to the clipboard.

Note that tesseract has a lot of options, and you can specify the languages.

That beautifully demonstrates the power of the unix tools philosophy.

Flameshot knows nothing of OCR, tesseract has no gui and doesn't need it.

Do one thing and do it well. — u/Dee_Jiensai 1

Flameshot Alternatives

  • maim :: (make image) takes screenshots of your desktop.
  • grim :: Grab images from a Wayland compositor

Some Reddit users suggested these alternatives to flameshot:

grim -g "$(slurp)" -
maim -s

I haven't tried grim because I'm not using Wayland yet, but maim is a great! One advantage of maim in this use case is that it doesn't require pressing Enter.


Check out the r/linux discussion on this blog post.

Reddit is dead. Check this out instead:

Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I have updated this post with them in mind. You can see the diff here if you want to see what changed.


The above is a quote from a user on Reddit in the discussion of this blog post referring to the Unix Philosophy.