I built the PowerToy Text Extractor!

Text Grab is a great utility but operating system makers are building this functionality as a native feature. Instead of feeling bad for myself I decided to get on board with the evolution of Windows and help shape its future!

There has been an open GitHub issue for “paste text from image” for a while now. The example Clint linked to looked very close to Text Grab but done through some shell scripts. Text Grab is clearly a more polished version of what was in the original GIF. Noticing the similarities, I reached out to Clint and he agreed Text Grab’s “Fullscreen Grab Mode” mode would be a good fit for a PowerToy.

Much of the code for Text Extractor comes directly from Text Grab. The way the overlay is drawn and the selection is identical. The underlying OCR engine continues to be the native Windows OCR engine and works the same way. Today there is no quick way to make the output into a single line, or quickly change the language like in Text Grab, but I suspect those features will come soon.

Also coming down the road will be the right click option to extract text from an image file. PowerToys already adds a few more right click options for resizing image and renaming files, so soon Extract Text will be there too! Other than that the utility will continue to look very similar and behave in almost exactly the same way. Obviously the product will evolve and change with user demands, but focusing on the 90% use case of quickly copying text from anywhere on screen will be the focus.

As always, I am on Twitter @TheJoeFin if you want to connect, and if you haven’t tried Text Grab, I recommend checking out the code here or in the Microsoft Store here. I will continue to develop it as a separate app focused on making text manipulation fast and easy!

The 5 Star Review System is bad for everyone

As an app developer and app user, the 5-Star-Review-System used by all major platforms is bad.

1: Humans do not naturally make decisions on a single number

And app stores know this because they show a review distribution graph and highlights “useful” reviews and the like. But to me all of these tools are a poor way to determine if the app is right for me.

A more helpful bit of information would be if people with my device type got this app. Why did people decide to get this app and what they expected vs what they got.

App stores could send a follow up email to people who downloaded and installed then uninstalled the app asking why they did so. That might help get more clear information to help the developers and interested users better understand what the app is lacking. The follow up email is not ideal but even if a small number of people respond to the email, the follow up should instill a level of seriousness about app quality among users.

The review process needs to be separate from spam/scam reporting and it should be separate from performance and stability issues. The follow-up email could also serve as a way to defend against spammy and scammy apps.

2: A simple review is an illusion of feedback

Connecting users with app developers is the biggest opportunity to make apps better and better refine and clarify app listing. Too many times people give apps bad reviews because they expected something different from what the app ended up being.

A 1 star review will never help fix bugs, not improve the app description or help the developer better connect with current or potential users. I believe the app review should be a place where users can say why they use the app, or why not, but in a more guided way.

A 5 star review is nice, but doesn’t really help shape the app. Modern apps are constantly being updated to fix bugs, but also add new features and adjust the way an app works. It is rarely obvious how to change an app in only positive ways for the majority of users. Hearing from satisfied users and understanding why they use and like an app is critical, but more important is understanding what problem the app is solving in their life.

Windows 11 is an opportunity for Microsoft to stand out

With the new app store coming in Windows 11 Microsoft is at a fork in the road. Continue the boring stale app store status quo… or do something new.

I know criticisms are cheap, but above all I believe this is Microsoft’s chance to experiment with their app store. Investment in the services to support their store developers is long overdue.