Microsoft's handy Office Lens scanner app for Android leaves beta

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Microsoft’s Office Lens scanner app for Android came out of beta Wednesday and joined the Google Play Store after almost two months of testing, marking the next step in the company’s push to bring its services to a wide variety of platforms beyond Windows.

The app, which was released as a preview in early April, allows users to turn their smartphones into scanners that connect to OneNote and OneDrive. Once opened, the app will detect the corners of a document, screen or other rectangular media (even those placed at an angle) and then allow users to capture them. After scanning a document, Office Lens will use optical character recognition (OCR) to recognize printed text and make the resulting image searchable.

In addition to scanning paper, Office Lens has a mode designed to capture handwriting on highly reflective surfaces, so that people can capture meeting notes that were scrawled on a glossy whiteboard. After scanning, users can save the image locally, add it to a OneNote notebook, and bring it into OneDrive as a PowerPoint, Word or PDF file for use with other applications. On Android, users can save to multiple sources at the same time, so they can store the same image in OneNote and with the rest of their phone’s images.

The release of Office Lens on Android is a part of Microsoft’s ongoing campaign to bring its full suite of productivity apps to multiple different platforms. The app began life in 2014 on Windows Phone before expanding to iOS and Android this year. It has proved quite popular on the Windows Phone Store and iOS App Store, and already has a 4.9 star average rating from 21 user reviews on the Google Play Store.

According to Microsoft, the testers for Office Lens for Android had devices that represented 270 makes and almost 2,600 models of phone, which speaks to both the beta program’s popularity and the overwhelming fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.

Microsoft has been taking major steps to become a bigger player on Android. Wednesday’s news comes just a day after the company announced it had inked 20 more partnerships with Android tablet manufacturers to pre-install apps including its Office suite on new devices, and said it will be bringing its Cortana personal assistant to iOS and Android.

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