Scanning receipts while you travel, notes on a whiteboard, or sketches on an envelope can be easy with the right tools. The best apps for the job take a snapshot, offer text recognition, and save your scan to the cloud for future reference on other devices. This week, we're looking at five of the best smartphone apps that get the job done.
Title image made using an image by Evernote
Google Drive (Android/iOS)
For some people, the best tool to scan and keep track of receipts, notes on napkins, and sketches on whiteboards is one you may already use for productivity. Google's Drive apps for Android allows you to scan documents and even perform OCR (optical character recognition) on text in the documents you're scanning. All you have to do is open Drive, tap "Add New" and select "Scan".
We highlighted the feature when it launched, and while the same feature hasn't made its way to the iOS version of Google Drive yet, you can still organise snapshots or photos of documents easily, then convert them to PDF later from another device. Google Drive is free on all platforms, and your scans are neatly saved both on your device and in your Google Drive account for safe keeping or retrieval later.
CamScanner (Android/iOS/Windows Phone)
CamScanner is well known and well-loved, and is available as a freemium product for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Camscanner is easy to use, scans any document to PDF directly, and performs OCR on your scanned documents to highlight important details like prices, dates and titles. Multi-page or batch scanning is a breeze, you can choose between colour, grayscale, or black-and-white scans, and all of your files are neatly organised for later retrieval. CamScanner will also auto-crop and "enhance" scanned images, like sketches and drawings.
You can annotate your scans with notes and highlighting, and save your documents to the cloud to access on other devices. A $US5/month or $US50/year premium account gets you additional features including more cloud storage space, editable OCR, auto syncing to other cloud services like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive, and password protection for your shared PDF documents. One minor downside? It adds a watermark to your documents.
Genius Scan (Android/iOS/Windows Phone)
Genius Scan from Grizzly Labs is a simple cross-platform document scanner that makes snapping quick images or generating PDFs as easy as a single tap. The app automatically lines up, isolates and enhances the final scan, bringing out text and making it more prominent in the final image, and then converting the document to PDF and keeping it in your library so you can email or share it later.
The app gives you some basic editing tools, including auto cropping and archiving. It also fixes image perspective, so even that shot you took of a receipt on the restaurant table at an angle will wind up looking correct when the PDF is generated. It's free, but an $8.99 upgrade to the premium version (via in-app purchase) strips out the ads, unlocks the ability to import PDFs, offers automatic upload as soon as you scan, and adds the ability to save to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive.
Scannable by Evernote (iOS)
If you're a die-hard Evernote user, Scannable may be the best option for you if you're using an iOS device. Scannable on the iPhone and iPad allows you to instantly scan documents with ease, and file and organise the resulting images and files in your Evernote account. Your scans are automatically cropped to remove backgrounds (like the table behind the receipt, for example) and enhanced so the text is readable.
If you scan a business card, the contact information is automatically added to a contact card. It's relatively new, and while it works best with Evernote, it also allows you to share your resulting scan with other apps on your iOS device, so you can upload it to Dropbox, email it, or save it to your camera roll. Best of all, it's completely free — no unlocks and no premium version, although it definitely works best if you also use Evernote.
FineScanner is iOS only, but it turns your iPhone or iPad into a rich document scanning tool. The app's OCR (available to premium users only) supports 44 different languages (although it doesn't translate between them.) You can export your resulting file as an image, or as any of 12 different document types, including Office documents, PDFs and text files. FineScanner can remove backgrounds from your scans, automatically enhance the final image to bring out text or highlight graphics.
Everything you save is archived in the app for future use, and you can tell FineScanner to save your files to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and Evernote. The app is free, but realistically you'll need some of the in-app purchases to make use of its best features. $2.49 via in-app purchase disables ads, and $6.49 gets you a "Premium Account" which preserves document formatting, tables and other style elements. There's also another $6.49 unlock that adds OCR, and a $24.99 "Pro/Premium Account" that adds other unspecified benefits (the site doesn't do a good job of explaining this). Finally there's another $4.29 purchase that lets you password protect your PDFs. We'd suggest trying the free version and see if a feature you want is hidden behind an IAP before committing.
This week's honorable mention goes to Scanner Pro (iOS). This offers most of the expected features, including cloud sync and password protection, and has proved popular for its image quality.
Want to make the case for your own favourite scanning app? Tell us why it's so handy in the comments.