Having a digital scanning app on your phone makes it easy to get an instant copy of a receipt, drawing, or important file, and with these handy apps you can forget ever using a bulky copy machine again.
What to Look for in Document Scanning Apps
There are plenty of mobile scanner apps out there claiming to be excellent, but really only a few are worth consideration. Even fewer come with the added tools that really make them powerful. Here are the most useful features to look for in these apps:
- High-Quality Scans: If a scanner app can’t produce a great image, what’s the point? Mobile scanning apps should be able to capture high-resolution images on the majority of tablets and smartphones. And, no matter what you scan (be it a book, whiteboard, receipt, or drawing), you should expect a bright and clear digital version of it. The best scanning apps should also offer light image editing tools to remove unwanted shadows and marks, and even offer to “straighten out” an image if it was taken at an angle. Bonus points if an app optimizes your file automatically.
- Text Recognition Support: Scanning a doodle is one thing, but if you’re trying to digitize an important text document or form, the scanning app you use needs to have support for optical character recognition (OCR) technology to accurately identify every last bit of text, ensure that it shows up properly in the scanned file, and even convert it into an editable searchable document.
- Editing Options: Sometimes, you might need to mark up a document once it’s been scanned. Whether you need to edit text, highlight an important passage, mark where a recipient should sign, or draw on a document before you save it or send it off, these apps should let you at least lightly mark up scanned PDF documents. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a separate program to edit or annotate PDFs.
- Plentiful Export Choices: Sharing something you scanned with friends or coworkers should be easy with a good scanning app. It should offer a variety of ways for you to share a file, sync it with a cloud service, or send it to a printer or fax.
- Easy to Use: A scanning app is meant to be helpful, not a hindrance. As such, it should have an intuitive layout with clearly labeled options. It should be a cinch to find editing and export options and start scanning as well.
Best Mobile Scanning App Overall: Adobe Scan
Adobe Scan (Free) is the best scanning app not just because it’s free, but because it makes scanning, editing, and sharing files easy. The app isn’t picky about which formats you try to scan—it has no problem with magazines, forms, business cards, whiteboards, handwritten notes, or anything else you throw at it. It scans documents into PDFs and offers multiple capture modes to help ensure everything you scan looks clean and professional.
Adobe Scan uses Adobe Sensei AI technology to identify and sharpen handwritten text and remove unsightly blemishes, shadows, and other elements. You can also open scanned PDFs in Adobe Reader to annotate them or work on them collaboratively with a team. The app also makes it easy to convert a scanned document into one you can fill out and sign.
Best Premium Scanning App: Scanbot ScanPro
Scanbot ScanPro ($9.99) is an awesome mobile document scanning app for those who don’t mind dropping a few bucks for it. The app produces high-quality scans of everything from sketchbooks to whiteboards, with 200+ dpi and the ability to crop, rotate, apply filters, and optimize the look of your scans. OCR support lets you search and edit text, and you can edit and annotate files in a variety of ways, from modifying and correcting text, to highlighting passages and adding notes or doodles.
Exporting files from the app is also a cinch with ScanPro. Send scanned documents to any popular cloud service, share it online as a PDF, or send it as a fax. It’s worth noting that there is a free version of the app, but it limits you to scanning and saving documents only. The Lite version ($4.99) offers OCR support and automatic uploads, but to access everything the app offers, the Pro version is the way to go. In addition to all the features listed here, the Pro version gets you more filters, smart naming, and themes.
Best for Cloud Storage: Microsoft Office Lens, Dropbox, or Google Drive
Unless you’re only saving scanned files to your hard drive, choosing an app based around cloud storage is a great idea, as it allows you to access your files from any computer. You probably already have one of these apps on your phone. How easy is that?
Microsoft Office Lens
If you’re a big Microsoft Office Suite user, don’t ignore Microsoft Office Lens (Free). The app works on everything from whiteboards to handwritten notes, and makes it easy to trim, crop, and enhance a scanned file so it is readable and professional looking. It uses OCR to identify printed and handwritten text and to make it searchable, which is handy if you’ll be scanning lots of text-heavy documents. Lens can also convert scanned images to PDF, Word, and PowerPoint files, and it lets you save files to OneNote or OneDrive.
Dropbox Doc Scanner
Because it’s primarily a cloud storage service app, Dropbox (Free) makes for a great medium for document scanning. As such, it lets you easily scan a variety of surfaces to capture your notes, doodles, and ideas, then uploads and organizes them in your Dropbox account. The scanner app also lets you adjust an image’s contrast, apply filters, crop and rotate it, reorder scanned pages, and choose between saving as a PDF or a PNG. For Dropbox Professional and Business users, you can even search for text within a scan using OCR technology.
Google Drive (Free) isn’t just a powerful suite of office productivity software—it can also scan documents for Android users (sorry iOS users). Scanning in Google Drive is as simple as tapping “Add New” then “Scan.” It supports OCR, so it can convert any text you scan into an editable document, which you can then edit and store in the app.