Scanning receipts while you travel, notes on a whiteboard, or sketches on an envelope can be easy. The best apps for the job take a snapshot, can do text recognition, save your scan to the cloud for future reference on other devices, and more. This week, we’re looking at five of the best smartphone apps that get the job done.
Earlier in the week, we asked you which apps you used to scan documents on your phone so you don’t have to keep crumpled up bits of paper in your pocket, or risk losing notes on a chalkboard when they’re erased. You gave us tons of great options on virtually every mobile platform, but we only have room for the top five. Here they are, in no particular order:
Google Drive (Android/iOS)
For some people, the best tool to scan and keep track of receipts, notes on napkins, and sketches on whiteboards is one you may already use for productivity. Google Drive’s apps for Android allows you to scan documents and even perform OCR (optical character recognition) on text in the documents you’re scanning. We highlighted the feature when it launched, and while the same feature hasn’t made its way to the iOS version of Google Drive yet, you can still organize snapshots or photos of documents easily, then convert them to PDF later form another device. If you have an Android device though, it’s simple, easy, and likely already on your phone or tablet—all you have to do is open Drive, tap “Add New,” and select “Scan.” Best of all, Google Drive is free on all platforms, and your scans are neatly saved both on your device and in your Google Drive account for safe keeping or retrieval later.
Those of you who nominated Google Drive highlighted that OCR and document scanning is a little-known feature, but it’s incredibly easy to use—to the point where it may not make sense to sign up for or buy another app that may leave watermarks or other unwanted markers on your files. It’s better than just taking a photo or snapshot of your document by far, and the auto-upload backup of the file means you can grab it instantly from your desktop or another device if you need to send those receipts to your account department for reimbursement, for example. Read more in the nomination thread here.
CamScanner (Android/iOS/Windows Phone)
CamScanner is well known and well-loved, and is available for free (or rather, freemium) for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Camscanner is easy to use, scans any document to PDF directly, and performs OCR on your scanned documents to lift out important bits like prices, dates, titles, and details. Multi-page or batch scanning is a breeze, and all of your files are neatly organized for later retrieval. CamScanner will also auto-crop and “enhance” scanned images, like sketches and drawings. You can also annotate your scans with notes and highlighting, and save your documents to the cloud to access on other devices. A $ 5/mo or $ 50/yr premium account gets you additional features like more cloud storage space, editable OCR, auto syncing to other cloud services like Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive, and password protection for your shared PDF documents.
Those of you who supported CamScanner’s nomination noted that the free version is more than enough for most of your needs, and it works swimmingly on just about every platform you need to take it on the go with. It adds a watermark to your documents, but many of you highlighted that you’ve tried other options and eventually always come back to using CamScanner one way or the other. You praised the options to scan in color, grayscale, or black and white as you see fit, and that it works really well with differently- sized types of documents. Many more of you shared your experiences using CamScanner for a variety of different needs, from graphs and equations in textbooks and college notes to legal documents you needed to review and edit on the go. Read all about it in its nomination thread here.
Genius Scan (Android/iOS/Windows Phone)
Genius Scan from Grizzly Labs is a simple, cross-platform document scanner that makes snapping quick images or generating PDFs of receipts, notes, sketches, or anything else as simple as a single tap. The app automatically lines up, isolates, and enhances the final scan, bringing out text and making it more prominent in the final image, and then converting the whole thing to PDF and keeping it in your library so you can email or share it later. The app also gives you some basic editing tools, like auto cropping and archiving. It also fixes image perspective, so even that shot you took of a receipt on the restaurant table at an angle will wind up looking flat when the PDF is generated. It’s completely free, but a $ 7 upgrade to the premium version (via in-app purchase) strips out the ads, unlocks the ability to import PDFs, automatic upload as soon as you scan, and the option to save to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and more.
Those of you who nominated Genius Scan noted that it’s super simple to use and intuitive, so you don’t have to fiddle with menus or drop-down boxes when all you want to do is scan a receipt at a restaurant or notes in a meeting while everyone else is packing up to leave. You also praised Genius Scan for its customer support and regular updates to the app. You can read more in its nomination thread here.
Scannable by Evernote (iOS)
If you’re a die-hard Evernote user, Scannable may be the best option for you…assuming you use an iOS device, that is. Scannable on the iPhone and iPad allows you to instantly scan business cards, sketches, receipts, paper documents, and even multi-page documents with ease, and automatically file and organize the resulting images and files in your Evernote account. Your scans are automatically cropped to remove backgrounds (like the table behind the reciept, for example) and enhanced so the text is readable. If you scan a business card, the contact information from the card is automatically lifted and added to a contact card, so you can call the person, email them, or visit their website or social presence with a single tap. It’s relatively new, and while it works best with Evernote, it also allows you to share your resulting scan with other apps on your iOS device, so you can upload it to Dropbox, email it, or save it to your camera roll. Best of all, it’s completely and totally free—no unlocks, no premium version, although it definitely works best if you also use Evernote.
Those of you who nominated Scannable praised it for being smart about when and how it scans your documents, and for being reliably accurate with its results. The best thing about Scannable is that you don’t have to line up and take a shot—the app handles that for you. Just bring the open camera into view of your document, and it’ll pick the right time to snap, scan, and process the image. Many of you also shared your stories using the app, highlighted how well it worked (especially for business cards and contact information), and of course, noted that it makes sense to use if you’re already an Evernote enthusiast. Read more in its nomination thread here.
FineScanner may be iOS only, but it turns your iPhone or iPad into a rich document scanning tool. The app can handle receipts at the bar or multi-page documents from class just as easily, and the app’s OCR (premium users only) supports 44 different languages (although it doesn’t translate between them.) You can export your resulting file as an image, or as any of 12 different document types, including Office documents, PDFs, text files, and more. FineScanner can remove backgrounds from your scans, automatically enhance the final image to bring out text or highlight graphics. Plus, everything you save is archived in the app for future use, or you can tell FineScanner to save your files to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Evernote, and others. The app is free, but it has some fairly cagey in-app purchases—and you’ll probably want them in order to make use of its best features. For example, $ 2 via in-app purchase disables ads, but $ 5 gets you a “Premium Account,” which preserves things like document formatting, tables, and other style elements. There’s also another $ 5 unlock that adds the OCR that makes it useful, and a $ 20 “Pro/Premium Account” that adds benefits not clearly explained anywhere on their site. Finally there’s another $ 2 IAP that lets you password protect your PDFs. Either way, we’d suggest trying the free version and see if a feature you want is hidden behind an IAP. Then check if it’s available in another app with more straightforward pricing before buying an upgrade that may or may not give it to you.
The nomination thread for FineScanner highlighted its ability to handle multi-page documents, and its interface, which puts a wealth of the app’s features at your fingertips. Most of the rest of the thread were just praises from people who’ve used the app—we think. (Fair warning: Many of the nominees and comments were from first-time commenters.) Either way, check out the nomination thread here before casting your vote.
Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to a vote to determine the community pick:
This week’s honorable mention goes out to Scanner Pro (iOS). Many of you said that it’s the first scanning app that really worked well for you, and offered really superior image quality. By default it doesn’t lock you into its own file storage features or archive—you just scan your documents, and they’re automatically uploaded to Dropbox, Google Drive, or Evernote. The app works well with multi-page documents, oddly-shaped documents like receipts, or even documents with special formatting or images. It also allows you to compress files, password protect documents, and more. It’ll set you back $ 3, but the only in-app purchases you have to worry about are credits if you need to fax documents you’ve scanned right from your phone. Read more in its nomination thread here.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at [email protected]!
Title image made using an image by Evernote.