Every productivity strategy needs a solution for digitizing paper documents. Fortunately, that doesn’t necessarily require you to plunk down hundreds of dollars on a desktop scanner. Thanks to our smartphone cameras, we’re all walking around with handheld scanners in our pockets. All you need to unlock them is the right app.
The best scanning apps provide everything you need to manage your digital-document workflow: editing tools to clean up the scanned images, optical character recognition (OCR) so you can edit and search document text, and the ability to upload scans to your favorite note-taking app or cloud storage for anywhere access.
Here are four apps that do that and more.
It’s tough to find a better app for simple scanning than CamScanner. It can turn anything from receipts and post-it notes to line drawings and whiteboards into a high-quality digital image. Scan a document and the app auto-crops and enhances it and tags it by type (business card, whiteboard, etc.) for easy sorting.
You can add multiple scans to a single document, extract text from all or part of a page, and even add annotations and watermarks. You can also invite others to view and comment on your scans.
CamScanner comes in a free version, but to get all the features you’ll have to upgrade to the paid app, which is being offered for $1.99 for a limited time (normally $4.99).
Many Evernote devotee’s are probably familiar with the company’s Scannable app. The iOS-exclusive app doesn’t even require you to press a shutter button—just open it and point your iPhone’s camera at a document, receipt or whiteboard, and Scannable captures it and saves it to a tray within the scanning window. From here you can review and edit scans before you save them to Evernote or another app or share them via email or text.
Scannable’s best trick, though, is its ability to turn any business card into a contact. Once you link Evernote to LinkedIn, Scannable will pull in details from your new contact’s profile, including their photo, and add it to the business card’s digitized info.
Scannable is free for iOS.
If you prefer OneNote to Evernote, look no further than Office Lens. This Microsoft app will convert your scans to Word, PDF, or PowerPoint files and add them to your OneNote or OneDrive accounts.
Office Lens offers four scanning modes: Photo, Document, Whiteboard, or Business Card. Business card mode, for example, will extract the contact information from the image and add it to your address book, while whiteboard mode cleans up shadows and glare. You can also export document scans to any of the Office Mobile apps.
Office Lens is free for iOS and Android.
Adobe Fill and Sign
If you deal with a lot of contracts, forms, and other documents requiring signatures, Adobe Fill and Sign is indispensable. The app will scan these types of documents to a PDF so you can fill it out, sign it with your finger or stylus, and return it, all from your phone. Dealing with digital documents is just as easy. And with an Adobe Create Cloud subscription, you can securely store your scanned documents in Acrobat Document Cloud.
Adobe Fill and Sign is free for iOS and Android
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read ouraffiliate link policyfor more details.
Small and Medium Business
Michael Ansaldo is veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and PCWorld.