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Turn your phone into a document scanner for free

Good cameras and smart apps combine for easy and efficient mobile scanning.

scannable-by-evernote

Scannable is one example of an app that makes short work of "scanning" documents with your phone.

Evernote

Recently I found an old NeatReceipts document scanner tucked away in a closet. This was an expensive item, so I had to stop and wonder why I wasn't using it.

Oh, right: I use my phone.

Is that a scanner in your pocket?

This is not a new idea; "scanner" apps have been around almost as long as smartphones, but the apps themselves have improved dramatically in recent years, in tandem with huge improvements to phone cameras.

So I thought I'd tell you about my favorite: Scannable by Evernote. The first thing you should know is it's for iOS only. But fear not, Android users: I also highly recommend Microsoft's Office Lens, which is available for both platforms. (If you're a OneDrive user, that app recently added built-in scanning capabilities -- though without the sophisticated document-correction and editing options available in Office Lens.)

onedrive-app-scan

Microsoft's OneDrive app now features built-in scanning -- but Office Lens is better at it.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Needless to say, Scannable is a top choice if you're already an Evernote user; consider Office Lens if you hang your document hat in OneNote.

You may also want to check out Adobe Scan, a relative newcomer in this space. It's also available for both platforms, but relies on Adobe's own cloud service for storage.

Indeed, there are countless other options, many of them platform-agnostic, able to scan to a variety of cloud services instead of just a few. If there's another scanning app you like better than these, by all means shout it out in the comments.

But allow me to gush about Scannable just a bit, because although I don't need it often, when I do, it's insanely useful. (It's also free, same as Office Lens.)

The ol' tap-and-scan trick

adobe-scan.png

Adobe Scan is another app that's good for capturing documents with your phone.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

With Scannable, you simply position your document so it fits within the viewfinder (your iPhone's screen). The app will quickly automatically capture it, then straighten, sharpen and otherwise improve the quality of the image.

With a creased receipt, for example, it virtually eliminated the fold marks from the scan and evened out areas of different contrast. And with those extra-long receipts, I didn't have to capture them in sections -- the app did fine when I pulled back to snap the entire thing at once.

I especially like how it makes short work of multipage documents. After you capture the first page, it's almost immediately ready for the next one. I daresay this is even faster than a sheet-fed scanner -- one more reason I prefer this to the likes of the NeatReceipt.

When you're done with a scan, just tap the check mark icon to review each page in a side-scrolling tray. Don't like how one turned out? Just flick it up and out of the tray to delete it.

So Scannable makes the whole scanning process really easy, and automatically uploads to Evernote when you're done. You also have the option of sharing a scan via email or the other usual iOS share options. You just have to remember to rename it before sending it on its way, or it'll keep the default "Scannable Document" filename.

As I said: It's one option of many. What's your favorite scanning app, and why?

Editors' note: This article was originally published on August 11, 2017, and has been updated with info about Adobe Scan and OneDrive.