There are a growing number of apps that will turn your mobile phone into an impressive scanner. Can they take the place of your current flatbed or document scanner? It’s possible, but not probable. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Here’s a look at several scanner apps.
Scanner Pro 7 [iOS – $3.99] can scan receipts, photos, letters, multi-page documents and more into a crisp PDF or image file in seconds. The app will find the edges, capture the image, clean up creases or wrinkles and save it as either a PDF document or JPG image. You can then save the scanned image to any number of cloud storage platforms, email it, export it to Photos and a number of third-party apps. Scanner Pro 7 also has OCR functionality allowing you to extract selected text from the scanned document and paste it into a document in your favorite editor.
Scanbot [iOS & Android – free with in-app purchases] makes it easy to scan and send PDF or JPG files at 200 dpi resolution or higher. It supports many cloud services and even scans QR codes. It supports edge detection and automatic optimization of your scans. In-app purchases ranging from $1.99 to $9.99 add even more features like text recognition (OCR), full-text search, adding pages to existing scans and more.
CamScanner [iOS & Android – free with in-app purchases] also scans to PDF or JPG files and supports a number of cloud services. The free version displays advertising in the app and inserts a watermark on each scan. In-app purchases range from $4.99 to $49.99 and provide OCR funtionality, collaboration and advanced editing to include annotations on document scans.
Scannable [iOS – free] makes it easy to scan and send documents or images to Evernote, other apps or as email attachments. It automatically finds the edges, captures the image, crops, rotates and edits it for you. It supports multi-page documents and JPG images. This app was designed to work with Evernote although it does support sharing to other apps.
Photomyne [iOS – $4.99 with in-app purchases] is a new app designed just for scanning photos. With this app you can scan up to four photos at a time – even photos in photo albums. The app will automatically crop and edit the photos and offers a number of sharing options including email, Facebook and WhatsApp. You can create albums for your photos and Photomyne also provides a backup service to help protect them. This backup service will cost $11.99/year as a recurring in-app purchase but it also provides desktop access to your Photomyne photos.
Unfade [iOS – coming soon] is another photo-scanning app. This one is made by Scanbot and is designed to scan photos in albums and automatically adjust faded photos. Your scanned photos are organized into albums and there’s even mention of slideshows. I’m going to keep an eye on this one!
Lighting is the key to scanning with a mobile device – that and a dark surface to provide contrast so the app can easily find the document’s edges. A table set up near a bright window is often enough. Overhead lighting works well, but lamps frequently leave a glare on one side of the scanned document.
How good are these apps? I used Scannable to scan a family genealogy that had been created on a typewriter and “published” in a copy center. There was no index and the table of contents left much to be desired. I scanned it in batches by family group and saved them as separate PDFs in Evernote. Using Evernote’s amazing search capability, I’m now able to quickly find any person or place in a matter of seconds.
There’s a lot to like about these mobile apps. They can be a very useful addition to your research toolbox.