Screenshot Hero scans through your screenshots (and other saved photos) and makes then instantly searchable by text in them.
I wanted to build a simple utility app that would run OCR through my photos (all 5000+ of them) and make them searchable. I had following constraints for it:
I am primarily a web developer and am not a skilled mobile developer. So I attempted this project with three different frameworks and here are my notes:
SwiftUI is appealing as it’s a React-like framework. I wanted to learn SwiftUI but I struggled with the documentation and even writing a simple grid of photos was challenging. The community is tiny so there aren’t that many samples online either. I really wanted to use this but it was taking a bit too much of my time. Sadly, I had to ditch SwiftUI.
Expo is a React Native framework which bypasses the whole Android SDK + XCode step of making the app. It’s very easy to get started and the dev experience is great. Having written a React Native app before, I really wanted this to work. The only problem occured when I wanted to write the OCR part:
expo eject workflow is kinda broken. In my case, the
CameraRoll API broke due to some unlinked native module when I tried to run it via XCode after ejecting the app. I spent a few hours fixing the native modules but that didn’t work.
Without ejecting, I could have gone with Tessaract.js but it’s not fast enough to process thousands of images quickly.
There also isn’t a way to do background processing with Expo. I feel expo is great for simple CRUD apps for now and will fail you if your app needs a custom functionality.
In the end, I had to fallback to what I already knew. I copied views which I had created earlier for expo.io into a new ReactNative project. I then created a custom Swift native module which had all my business logic:
I learned that React Native is fast enough if used only for views (and maybe lightweight logic) only. I used
FlatList for the grid photo view (with some optimizations to lazy load photos) and it is very smooth even for thousands of photos. Real-time searching/filtering is also really smooth. React Native also has great community support.
This means writing more backend code per platform, which sucks but is straight-forward. It’s still better than writing front-end for each platform and dealing with all the quirks of each of them.
Try Screenshot Hero here.