It's really handy to be able to scan documents when you're away from your computer - e.g. in a library, lecture, or meeting. Taking a photo is fine but scanner apps do even more!
Scans vs. Photos
- Photos of documents will be saved to your phone's 'camera roll' along with all your regular photos. Scans are send to a special folder that is shared between your phone and computer (Dropbox or Evernote)
- A photo of a piece of paper will also show what was around the paper. Scanner apps hone in on just the document - they crop away the background.
- Photos represent things in 3D, showing foreshortening, shadows and natural light. Scanner apps use your camera to make a flat, hight contrast, image - just like the scan made with a desktop scanner.
We've picked our two favourite scanner apps to talk about. The first is OfficeLens, from Microsoft.
Pro: The app recognises text so that you can highlight it, search for keywords and vocalise it with text-to-speech software.
Pro: OfficeLens is a Microsoft app so it works really well with Microsoft Office - e.g. you can send your scans to the digital notebook, OneNote.
Con: You can't make a multipage scan - each snap is its own file. So if you are scanning a section of a book you will have to merge the pages together later.
Our second scanner app is Evernote Scannable, one of the many fantastic Evernote apps.
Pro: You can scan as many pages as you like into a single file.
Pro: Evernote Scannable lets you quickly send your scans to Evernote - a digital notebook.
Con: The text of your scan is only searchable when the file is in Evernote. If you take the file out of Evernote, your computer will treat the file like an image - so you can't select the text, search for keywords or use text-to-speech. However, there are lots of other programs that will convert the file to recognised text - we've even written a guide to those programs.
(note: Evernote Scannable is only for iOS; Android users can get the features by downloading the Evernote app and adding a scan widget)
Why I Love Scanner Apps
My heart used to sink when someone handed me an important piece of paper - because I knew I would lose it somehow! Now I scan it with my phone - and find it again anytime I need it by searching for keywords within the document.