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The Best Mobile Scanning Apps of 2017

The Best Mobile Scanning Apps of 2016

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 two-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, such as design plans drawn on a whiteboard, and perhaps most importantly, scans that need to be done “in the wild” like capturing a brainstorming session off a white board on the fly, you no longer need a full-on desktop scanner. 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 application for that. As it turns out, 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 utilizes your phonecam to snap the initial scan image can encourage you not only to capture more information, but also to properly parse and leverage it later.

Our Editors’ Choices are Abbyy FineScanner and Evernote Scannable. Abbyy FineScanner primarily because of the superior quality of its text recognition and the happily-persnickety amount of control it gives for the actual scanning process. It takes a while to get the hang of its user interface, but the results justify the investment. Evernote got the EC nod because of its slick interface and deep integration with not only its Evernote parent app but also competing data storage services such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive.

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 document). In every case, you can scan an image, such as a restaurant receipt, and save it in a common form, such as 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 as PDF, 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.

Some mobile scanning apps assume that you want to do everything on your phone. Surely that’s true, sometimes, and 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, in which all the apps 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 (when available, and most are). 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. By and large, the files are uploaded to the vendor to perform the OCR, whereupon they save the file wherever you indicated at the time of scanning or in your preferences. 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.

Also, consider whether you need to do anything with or to the actual image, such as sign a document, add a watermark or date, or draw a big fat X across a drawing (Intsig CamScanner is the winner). Remember, this is a product category in which your functional needs define what’s best for you, rather than one vendor’s excellence in a particular area.

Featured Mobile Scanning App Reviews:

  • Dropbox Business

    Dropbox Business Review

    Editors' Choice
    $15.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Dropbox Business represents a nice balance between features and security. While the security model could be improved upon, the extensibility of Dropbox’s model is excellent and opens a lot …

     Read Review

  • Evernote Scannable (for iPhone)

    Evernote Scannable (for iPhone) Review

    Editors' Choice
    $0.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Evernote Scannable quickly scans stacks of business cards, notes from a meeting, and documents using nothing more than your smartphone and its camera. It’s even faster than Evernote’s own in…

     Read Review

  • Genius Scan Plus

    Genius Scan Plus Review

    $6.99 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Genius Scan Plus is a solid, basic mobile scanning app, and inexpensive enough to be a handy asset installed on your smartphone. It’s a good value for the money.

     Read Review

  • Adobe Scan (for iPhone)

    Adobe Scan (for iPhone) Review

    $0.00 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Adobe Scan is an impressive app that automatically detects, captures, and converts printed text to digital form, but you need a paid subscription to get all its features.

     Read Review

  • Intsig CamScanner

    Intsig CamScanner Review

    $4.99 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Intsig CamScanner promises many attractive features such as super-fast OCR, document sync, and many document sharing options. But the disappointing OCR quality mars the results.

     Read Review

  • Microsoft Office Lens (for Android)
  • ScanBot

    ScanBot Review

    $7.99 MSRP

    Bottom Line: ScanBot is a Swiss Army Knife of scanning tools, with reliable image capture, text recognition, and document annotation.

     Read Review

  • Shoeboxed

    Shoeboxed Review

    $9.95 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Shoeboxed is a receipt-capturing app with a few nice extras rather than a general purpose document scanning app. As long as your needs match its features, you’ll be happy. Don’t try to stret…

     Read Review

  • TurboScan

    TurboScan Review

    $4.99 MSRP

    Bottom Line: TurboScan provides an excellent way to capture document images, as long as you’re ready to manage those images on your own.

     Read Review

  • Scanner Pro

    Scanner Pro Review

    $4.99 MSRP

    Bottom Line: Scanner Pro provides the fundamentals of mobile document scanning, with niceties including document folders, cloud storage support, and OCR. But it’s marred by a sometimes-confusing user int…

     Read Review

This post first appeared on Nastech, please read the originial post: here

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The Best Mobile Scanning Apps of 2017


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