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MacOS Monterey includes "Live Text", which is OCR to use when viewing your photos, including handwriting recognition.

But I have thousands of photos, many of which are photos of presentations, pictures of Powerpoint slides taken from my seat in the audience, etc. I also have hundreds of screenshots with text from YouTube.

I'd like the Mac to slowly work its way through ALL of my photos and add the recognized text as some type of searchable attribute, attached to each photo.

So can I have Live Text OCR my entire photos library?

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On macOS Monterey, your and wjv’s expectations were a common assumption, but the implementation was purely a just in time implementation. No such database of all text is compiled, just the neural engine or intel chip is activated when text may be present.

Live Text appears straightforward: open an image containing recognisable text, macOS runs OCR on it, and lets you select what it succeeds in recognising. But when I came to read the log to confirm how this worked, that wasn’t what happened at all.

https://eclecticlight.co/2022/06/05/last-week-on-my-mac-the-magic-is-how-not-what/

Whether this bulk scanning is something that remains “on demand” or gets turned into the database you seek will play out as we all see what is released in WWDC 22 and betas of macOS Ventura start shipping.

Footnote 4 of https://www.apple.com/macos/macos-ventura-preview/ seems to indicate spotlight can search all local image files for text, so it may not be able to do all of that on demand like the current implementation.

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For reasons that are beyond me, this does not seem to be possible on macOS Monterey — at least not as of version 12.1. If anyone can prove me wrong, I would be delighted! But a quick perusal of the output of mdimport -X does not seem to reveal any relevant metadata relating to public.image. This is really astounding; it seems like a major oversight.

What makes it even more mystifying is that you can search images by embedded text on iOS 15! If you go to the system-wide search on an iPhone (pull down on the home screen) and enter some text there, there should be a "Photos from Apps" section in the results with photos that contain this text.

Let's hope this ability gets added to future version of macOS!

Edit on 7 June 2022:

During the WWDC 2022 keynote yesterday, it was revealed (briefly!) that this feature should finally be included in the version of Photos that ships with macOS Ventura, later this year.

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  • If history is a guide, the macOS follows a year or more from iOS. APFS was longer, faces was about a year, hopefully this will shorten once all macs have “neural processors equivalent” of the 2019 phone. The reason is almost always making sure all supported hardware can run the code as opposed to only the latest hardware can run the code.
    – bmike
    Feb 2 at 10:33
  • I missed the bulk OCR mention in the keynote, very interested to see if this becomes a feature or we need to “hire” another app to do this processing for us.
    – bmike
    Jun 7 at 11:01
  • @bmike As I write here, this feature is advertised right near the top of Apple's Venture preview page. I suppose that makes it more formal!
    – wjv
    Jun 8 at 12:18
  • Exciting find - footnote 4 for live text spotlight search of local images - that could be it!
    – bmike
    Jun 8 at 21:18
  • Ventura Beta1 what I have found: Photos app and Spotlight search successfully for text - but only if the image has already been viewed once (and is in the Photos library). That is, OCR is done automatically when image viewed. Finder search for text in images not in Photos library does not work. And that may change before release.
    – Gilby
    Jun 10 at 0:05

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