The paperless office is not going to be with us anytime soon. Despite suggestions of digital replacing paper copies, quite the opposite has happened. As technology has made us more productive, so our paper use grew!
This is not a bad thing. The paper we used is largely farmed and manufactured in very ecology-friendly ways, plus those same tree agriculture companies also look after great forested areas such as Tsitsikamma and Magoebaskloof. Also, it’s nice to have a physical piece of paper in your hand.
But there are also times when you need a digital copy. This means a trip to a multifunction printer or digging a scanner from that bottom drawer. Then you have to convert it to a PDF before it’s ready to go.
Or you can just use your phone with one of these great scanner apps. Smartphone cameras are very powerful and can capture clear, sharp images. When combined with the right software, they instantly become very decent document scanners that you can use anywhere. Need a copy of that contract or want to capture a receipt? Done!
Let’s take a look at five options you can start using today:
Price: Free (requires Dropbox account)
Dropbox needs no introduction. But did you know the Dropbox app has a built-in document scanning feature? It auto-finds the page edges and snaps the scan if the phone is stable for a few seconds.
You can add more pages and edit each as well as arrange their order. Then you can save the file as a PDF or PNG, using a slider to change the quality. To access the feature, open the Dropbox app, tap on Create and select Scan Document.
One downside is that the file will then be saved to your Dropbox folder and not locally on the phone. So you will have to download the created document from Dropbox before you can attach it to a mail or share it. But then you also have a copy in your Dropbox storage as a backup.
Apple users should give Scanner Pro a look. Even though it comes at a small price, that promises features that put it apart from free apps. Foremost, you don’t need to sign into any service or create an account - Scanner Pro can work 100% on only your device.
Like other scanning apps, it uses the phone camera and automatically detects the page edges. You can easily scan multiple pages and arrange them, export them as a PDF or JPEG, then save the file locally or share it through other applications on your phone.
Scanner Pro maintains a library of the documents on your phone so you can access them even if you are offline. It also has a built-in OCR feature, which can convert scanned images of text into letters that you can copy and edit.
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
Clear Scan is easily the most popular scanning app on Android and has a lot of supporters. The price is also great, though it has in-app ads and some features need to be paid for. Still, if you want to get started scanning documents, it has all the basic features.
That includes edge detection, local storage, upload to cloud services, editing documents and more. It supports Google Cloud Print if you have that available. The app is well supported and its developers make regular updates. Above all, it’s very fast.
Price: Free (requires Evernote account)
Many people are Evernote fans. It’s a great service for capturing information on the go, from taking notes on your phone to snapping a photo of something you see, such as a phone number on an ad.
The Evernote Scannable app blends Evernote’s document management with proper phone scanning. Evernote is known for its great features, such as OCR conversion, and you can feed the documents directly into your Evernote storage or to another service.
But you’ll need an Evernote account, which while free is still an extra step when all you want is to easily scan and store documents. So keep that in mind. But if you are already on Evernote, you should be using Scannable.
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
All things considered, the Adobe Scan app is probably the best choice on this list - largely because it is free and yet still comes packed with many features. It detects and scans documents, lets you edit the spread and then export to PDF or JPEG. There is even a solid OCR service to convert text from images.
The downside is that, as with several of the free apps here, you have to log in using an Adobe, Facebook or Google account. This is a nuisance since there is no reason why you need to be logged in to use the software features. It’s basically a way for Adobe to keep you on the books as a customer and access some of your personal details for marketing purposes. If you can live with that, then this is an excellent choice.