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The Best Mobile Scanning Apps

Don’t get left holding the paper. Mobile scanning apps turn everything from business cards to receipts into digital information that your business can turn into data and take action on. Not all scanning apps are created equal, so we tested 10 great options covering a range of features and business uses.

Our 10 Top Picks

Abbyy FineScanner

Dropbox Business

Evernote Scannable (for iPhone)

Genius Scan Plus

Adobe Scan (for iPhone)

Intsig CamScanner

Microsoft Office Lens (for Android)

ScanBot

Shoeboxed

TurboScan

How to Choose the Right Business

In a world quickly moving towards the digitization of every document, mobile scanning applications remain necessary tools, as some organizations cling to using printed paper documents. Things such as government and hospital forms still tend to be printed on paper, and we can’t forget business cards as well. Because not everything has moved to digital media, the most productive solution is simply to quickly transform any paper you’re handed into digital copies and data, which you can then store and edit on your computers and mobile devices.

We create a remarkable amount of information digitally—spreadsheets, software documentation, receipts, financial records, even baby’s first Photoshop image—and that’s just the beginning of what for most people is a gargantuan data mountain. But a huge amount of that information is still on ephemeral paper: business cards, boxes on a grocery store shelf, tattered restaurant receipts, photos, brainstormed ideas scribbled on a white board, or otherwise trapped in the durable and sometimes difficult-to-access physical universe. If you need to capture that data or image for posterity, or at least for your tax records, you probably need a scanner.

Your first thought might be to purchase a standalone scanner or choose an all-in-one or multifunction printer that includes scan-and-fax features. That makes sense when the workload is heavy, frequent, and concerns material that can be easily passed through a printer’s feed mechanisms (so primarily separate, letter-sized pages). A high-end scanner gives you precise control over image resolution, image correction, and optical character recognition (OCR), usually along with a fast paper feeding mechanism. That’s appropriate if you have a 2-foot stack of important legal proceedings to turn into text for analysis or you were given five banker’s boxes of family slides to import into an online photo album.

For casual scans, however, as well as scans of items not easily passed through a printer-style device, you no longer need a full-on desktop scanner. That’s particularly important for things like capturing a brainstorming session off a white board. Want to save grandma’s recipe before it’s lost? Share a long excerpt from an old Analog magazine without typing it in by hand? Capture travel receipt data? There is, indeed, an app for that. The camera you have handy is the best one to use, and that means the astonishingly capable one bundled into your smartphone. The availability of a mobile scanning app that runs off your smartphone and uses your phone cam to snap the image can encourage you not only to capture more information, but also to properly parse and leverage it later.

That said, however, it’s hard to make a bad choice in this category, because even the free versions scan images quickly and accurately. It’s important to match up your needs to the right app, however, because each puts more emphasis on one or another feature.

As Far as the Eye Can Scan

The key issues are the type of documents you want to capture, where you want to save or share them (such as in the cloud), and what kind of post-processing you need (such as recognizing the text on the page and turning it into a Microsoft Word ( at Amazon) document). In every case, you can scan an image, such as a restaurant receipt, and save it in a common form, such as a PDF or a JPEG image.

If your primary need is to turn scanned images into editable text, look for advanced OCR features. For example, when Abbyy FineScanner captures the pages of an open book, it separates the two pages and straightens them before analyzing the text. If you intend to capture text in PDF format, consider whether those need to be encrypted files (which Intsig CamScanner, for example, supports).

Also consider where documents should end up. Apps you already use will influence your choice of scanning app. Most of the apps can save the images in the cloud, but Shoeboxed is integrated with a large selection of other web services, such as Intuit QuickBooks Online , Xero, and Salesforce.

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Some mobile scanning apps assume that you want to do everything on your phone. The smartphone camera certainly makes for a fast way to capture the image. But the scanned image (and text) has to be stored somewhere, and that’s where the tools diverge. For example, some apps (such as Abbyy FineScanner) assume you’d like to keep the results in a cloud storage app such as Dropbox. Others have a service of their own for organization and further processing, such as Evernote, Intsig CamScanner, and Shoeboxed. We found the latter more convenient to work with, but you may feel otherwise.

You can scan a receipt in any of these apps, but their focus is on the scanning rather than what you do with the document afterwards. If the purpose of collecting receipts is to get the expenses reimbursed, check out the apps in our expense tracking roundup; all the apps there depend heavily on mobile scanning as part of the data collection process. For solo entrepreneurs who just want to capture information for their own records, those apps may be overkill. In that case consider Shoeboxed, which scans receipts without a “get reimbursed” process and also makes it easy to scan business cards and track mileage.

Beyond Image Capture

With each app, we scanned text in various forms, such as a recipe printed in Courier, prose from an open book, business cards, restaurant receipts, and a restaurant menu. We also evaluated how the apps managed handwritten pages, photos, a crumpled newspaper story with a photo, and signatures. We did scans in low light. We considered the quality of the OCR (when it was offered), the file formats supported, and the options for saving documents.

The user interfaces vary widely, and we encourage you to experiment with the free versions that most offer. For example, you might decide it’s important to tag images as you scan them, such as by category (travel receipt, office supplies) or project (Client A). The ease of use for this feature is all over the map, from “meh” (Abbyy FineScanner) to ready-for-the-accounting program (Shoeboxed). But sometimes they make up for it in other areas.

Don’t expect immediate text recognition, either. The files are usually uploaded to the vendor to perform the OCR, whereupon they save the file to a destination of your choice. That’s mainly because accurate OCR is a CPU-intensive task and the silicon in most smartphones plays Sling Blade to the average server’s Real Genius. That makes for much more accurate OCR results, but can represent up to a 24-hour delay between the time you performed the scan and the time you’ve got a complete, OCRed version of the document. Microsoft Office Lens does impressive OCR even with imperfect, odd-angled images so that you can start editing in Word Mobile in a matter of seconds. With some apps that perform the OCR operation locally, there’s generally a noticeable trade-off in quality and accuracy, as with Intsig CamScanner.

Finally, consider whether you need to add anything to your scans. Maybe you have to sign a document, add a watermark or date, or draw a big fat X across a drawing. Remember, this is a product category in which your functional needs define what’s best for you, rather than one product’s overall excellence.

Best scanning software of 2020: apps to digitize your paper documents

Convert your paper archive to digital PDFs

Best scanning software

Read on for our detailed analysis of each app

Scanning technology has become increasingly available and accessible, meaning that the paperless office now has a clear chance of becoming a reality. The ability to scan documents into electronic copies that can be stored locally or in the cloud are now a common feature of many businesses.

However, there are many different types of scanning software available, and different document types available. The best scanning software will be able to cater for a range of different needs and especially be able to store documents in different formats as required. Often this will be PDF files, as this is a universal file, but sometimes Word or other office file formats will be required, as well as different image formats.

Quality is also an essential consideration, as scanned documents need to remain accurate and readable, which means that scanning software that is unable to properly represent numbers and letters will necessarily be no good. Luckily, these days most scanning solutions provide excellent quality documents, but if you’re not confident about your own software, you can always deliver your documents to a scanning company to do it for you.

From powerful, enterprise-focused Adobe platforms to pick-up services perfect for small businesses, check out the very best of the document scanning and converting world below. We took into account available features, relative costs, professional reviews and user experiences in making our recommendations for the best scanning software.

  • We’ve also highlighted the best document management software
  • Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to [email protected] with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.

1. Abbyy FineReader

An excellent OCR tool

Abbyy is responsible for a number of enterprise-oriented software tools and among them is its platform for document scanning, FineReader. This software lets you edit, review, protect, compare and convert PDFs and scans.

The editing feature allows you to comment and annotate your PDF, making it perfect for collaboration. Compare, meanwhile, helps you identify text changes between different versions of the same document, saving time on proofreading and back-checking.

FineReader calls its OCR (optical character recognition) technology ‘world-leading’ no less, promising accurate conversion of paper documents, scans and PDFs to Word, Excel, searchable PDFs, and other file formats.

If you’re dealing with scanning on a large scale, the Hot Folder feature is on hand to help schedule batch processing and track documents for conversion with ‘watched’ folders. FineReader can recognize a whopping 192 languages, so you should be covered no matter where your documents are coming from. Prices start with the Standard software at $199 (£189), and it includes a perpetual license.

2. PaperScan

The universal scanner software

PaperScan takes the approach of upgrading your scanner’s software to a more robust solution to get the most out of the device. After all, while most scanners ship with software, the manufacturers too often focus on building the hardware, relegating the software to more of an afterthought.

The current version is PaperScan 3.0.77, which comes with plenty of features including support for over 30 languages, optical character recognition (OCR), and the ability to manipulate PDFs (such as annotating them with sticky notes).

PaperScan offers a free tier if you just need basic scanner functionality. Move up to the Professional tier which supports scanning, OCR, annotations, and PDF compressions for $149 (£117) for a single license.

3. Adobe Acrobat DC

A powerful tool from the software behemoth

If there’s a software company that knows how to handle a document or two, it’s Adobe, and when it comes to PDFs, you’re in safe hands with Acrobat DC ,which stands for ‘Document Cloud.’ After all, just about everyone has used Adobe Acrobat Reader for opening a PDF at some point.

The platform allows you to create PDFs from just about everywhere: Microsoft Office applications, the camera of your phone when you’re out and about, HTML pages, and even from disparate emails, spreadsheets and documents which can be merged and organized into a simple PDF file.

Key features include passwords and permission for added security, standardized templates to keep your documents consistent in style, the ability to edit and annotate both normal text and data in tables, a comparing tool to identify differences between different versions of the document, and ‘reverse’ conversions from PDF to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Storing all these converted files is made easier too, thanks to integrations with Dropbox, OneDrive and Box.

With Adobe Acrobat, scanning your document really is just the beginning, but the caveat with this platform, like so many Adobe tools, is that it doesn’t come cheap. For businesses, prices start at $12.99 (£10) per person per month for the Acrobat Standard DC plan, on an annual subscription.

4. OmniPage Standard

Copy complete documents with ease

Another key player on the enterprise productivity scene is Nuance, and which brings its scanning tech to the market via OmniPage Standard.

OmniPage Standard’s OCR technology takes care of scanning all types of documents in quick and efficient fashion, “enabling you to focus on more rewarding tasks,” it says. Anyone who’s ever had to go through the drudgery of typing up a whole document to make it ‘digitally’ usable will know where they’re coming from.

The platform promises high quality conversions that maintain the features of the original document – columns, tables, bullets, graphics and all. It also supports a wide range of editing platforms, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel, Wordperfect, and Nuance’s own Power PDF tool.

Conveniently, Omnipage can process via a whole range of devices that capture text as an image, so if your phone, tablet or camera is at hand, you can scan, convert and manage your files on the move.

This accomplished scanning all-rounder app will set you back $149.99 (£117).

5. Docufree

The pick-up and delivery guys who do the scanning for you

Docufree works a little differently from the scanning services we’ve seen so far by physically picking up the documents you want scan and taking care of the dirty work for you. This outsourcing approach is used by a number of top corporations, including Applebee’s, ExxonMobil, Bose and Travelocity.

How exactly does it work? You place the documents you want scanned in a box, which the Docufree team picks up and takes to their conversion center. Here, they prepare and scan the docs to PDFs and TTFS, perform OCR character recognition if needed, and store the converted files digitally and online for you. They’ll return the original documents if requested, or shred them for you, offering the attractive option of removing endless boxes of paperwork.

If you’re inundated with documents each day, you can opt for the day-forward scanning service where Docufree collects your documents as they arrive in the post each day. Users can also take advantage of the free online account that comes with the service, allowing you to access and review documents as they’re converted and track the status of a scanning project.

With Docufree you pay by the box which has a fixed price no matter the number of documents.

6. Readiris

Copy, convert and edit your documents

Now on version 17, Readiris is a scanning tool that captures and converts your documents to editable files thanks to its OCR technology.

The service enables you to convert PDFs, pictures and texts from an image or scanned doc into Word, Excel, Powerpoint or an indexed PDF. Keeping pace with its higher-level competitors, Readiris also allows you to annotate files and make comments, making the platform suitable for collaboration in the process of scanning and converting.

Its audio capabilities are pretty handy too, as documents and books can be converted into MP3 and Wav files, enabling you to digest texts without even having to read them. You can record voice comments too, removing the reading and writing process of editing altogether if preferred.

Readiris 17 comes in three packages, with a $49 (£38) service at the lowest end of the scale and Readiris Corporate 17 at the top, priced at $199 (£156) with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Mobile scanning apps to consider

While we’ve covered some major software above, especially for companies with significant archives to digitize, there are other options available to scan on the go. This is especially the case with apps for Android and iOS which now allow you to photograph documents, and have these turned into PDF files for your records:

The Adobe Scan scanner app is the first on our list, due to Adobe’s range of additional PDF tools. The scanner app is free to download and allows you to preview file dimensions, as well as rotate, crop, and edit the color as required.

Genius Scan is another useful mobile app for phones that allows you to take photos of documents and save them as PDF files. As well as that, features include smart page detection, perspective correction and image enhancement. And with patch scanning, you can create digital copies of dozens of pages within seconds.

Scanbot scan documents, receipts, sketches, whiteboards, business cards, labels, QR codes and barcodes in 200dpi. There are five color modes available, as well as tools to crop and optimize scanned documents. As with similar scanning apps, documents can be automatically saved a cloud service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

CamScanner doesn’t simply allow you to image documents and save them as PDFs to the cloud, it also allows for collaborative editing feature to add annotations and watermarks to documents. Aimed principally at business users, you can save documents to the cloud and also password any files you scan and save.

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