So. You have in hand a piece of paper that you want on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. And you don’t have a scanner. Lucky for you, scanning documents on iPhone and iPad is pretty straightforward. You can do this with a third-party app, which I’ll cover later, or by using a hidden feature built right into your device.
Here’s how to do it!
How to scan documents on iPhone and iPad
Step 1: scan the document
To scan a document on iPhone without downloading additional apps, first open the Remarks app on your iPhone. Create a new note by tapping the pencil and notepad icon in the lower right corner.
Once in the new app and with the keyboard revealed (you can tap your screen anywhere to bring up the keyboard), tap the camera icon above the keyboard. Then press Scan documents.
This will open the Camera app inside the Notes app. Direct it to the document you want to scan. The iPhone is good enough at detecting the edges of the document, but try to place it on a contrasting surface if you can, like this:
You will notice, like in the screenshot above, that iOS will try to automatically detect the edges of your document. Try to position your document and camera so that the yellow border precisely covers the document. The screenshot above is an example of an inaccurate scan.
Once your document is fully covered by the yellow boundary, press the big white button to take a photo. This will usually take you to a cropped image of your document.
Sometimes, however, Notes will want you to cut the corners yourself. You will see the photo of your document with four yellow circles at the corners of the yellow boundary. Drag each corner of the yellow boundary onto the corner of your document. This tells the image where to crop.
Most importantly, it will correct any distortion on your document. Suppose, for example, that you take a tilted photo of your document, like this:
If you were to save this photo normally, you would have a slanted and skewed image of your document. By positioning the yellow corners, however, the iPhone will correct this tilt and give you an undistorted version of your document.
The last thing you might notice is that Notes automatically scans the document without you needing to take a photo. This means Notes instantly detected and scanned the document without you having to do anything.
Step 2: Edit scanned documents on iPhone and iPad
Once you have scanned all the documents you want to scan, you can tap the thumbnail of the last scanned document in the lower left corner of the camera. It should get you here.
Before inserting this image into your note (or saving it to your Camera Roll), you can edit it. The document we are going to use in this example is obviously empty. In a typical document, however, you will be able to change things like color, cropping, and rotation.
To do each of these things, tap the buttons at the bottom (except the trash can) to edit your scanned document on iPhone and iPad.
Step 3: Save a scanned document to iPhone
Once the document is exactly the way you want it, press Made on the top corner left. This will bring you back to the camera. In the lower right corner, tap Save to insert the scanned document (s) into your notes.
And that’s all! You can now continue to write your notes as usual.
If you want to save this document to your phone, you can tap it in the Notes app and then tap the share icon at the top right of the screen.
You can then choose to save it in the Files app on your iPhone or iPad, or you can copy and paste it into an email, text, Slack, etc.
How to annotate a scanned document on iPad
You can tag (i.e. draw, highlight, etc.) documents on iPhone and iPad quite easily. You can do this from the Notes app by opening the note that contains the document, tapping on the document, tapping the share icon in the top right, and then tapping Markup from the context menu.
However, if you have saved that PDF document in the Files app and want to mark it there, you can! Just open the Files app and navigate to the location where you saved the PDF. Tap the file, then tap the annotation icon at the top right of the screen.
While you can tag files on iPhone, the process is generally smoother on iPad. That’s thanks to the bigger screen and Apple Pencil, so I recommend tagging it on a tablet if possible.
And that’s all! That’s all you need to know about scanning and tagging a document on iPhone and iPad.
The best apps to scan documents on iPhone and iPad
Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about scanning documents on iPhone and iPad, let’s talk about third-party apps.
While scanning documents on iPhone is pretty good, it does have a few flaws.
First of all, you need to do it through the Notes app. The standard Camera application does not have a document scanning option.
Second, your options for editing scanned documents are limited. You can correct the colors a bit and adjust the cropping, but you can’t sharpen the scan, remove noise, etc.
And, thirdly, you can only export the documents as PDF. You cannot save them in the Photos app or as any other type of file.
For these reasons, anyone who is going to scan documents on a daily basis will want to use one of these alternatives.
Microsoft Office Lens: the standard
I call Microsoft Office Lens “the standard” because, in my opinion, this is the basic document scanning option that will suit almost anyone.
- It’s free
- It has a lot of editing and exporting options
- You can import from your photos
- It’s just as accurate and easy as the Notes app scanner
If you just want to get out of this article as quickly as possible and download a reliable iPhone document scanner, just download this app. You will not regret it.
Genius Scan: for better scanning results
For a more robust option than Microsoft Office Lens, I recommend Genius Scan. It is the closest scanner to iOS for iPhone. The interface is clean, it has all the features you’re looking for (and a few extras), and it’s all-in-one. This means you don’t need to save scans to notes, files, or photos.
- Free (unless you want to sync between devices, which requires a one-time payment)
- Stores your documents for you, offering many organizational features
- Can be encrypted and password protected
- Offers high quality editable scans
If you don’t mind paying the one-time fee for syncing and want a document scanning app that will handle it all on its own, this is it.
Adobe Scan: A Professional Way to Scan Documents on iPhone
As you might expect, Adobe’s offering to the document scanning empire is an application designed for professionals. If you need to scan documents regularly for work, you will probably need Adobe Scan. I was surprised at the number of top level features available on this app.
- Easily improve scans of all types, including reorganizing documents in a multi-document scan
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) not only saves your documents in PDF format, but makes the text in your document readable as text in the file. So it’s not just a PDF image of your document, but a PDF with text that you can highlight, copy, etc.
- Easily removes blemishes such as fingerprints and smudges
- The downside: Lots of features are hidden behind a $ 10 / month payment wall
In short, it’s the most expensive option on this list, but if it’s key to your job (like lawyer or accounting), this is probably the option for you.
Evernote Scannable: combine your physical documents with Evernote
If you like the integration of document scanning with Apple’s Notes app, but hate using the Notes app, Evernote Scannable is the alternative you’re looking for.
- The simplest interface of all the apps on this list
- Allows you to extract information from scanned documents, such as contact information
- Easily export document scans to Evernote
Granted, this probably has the fewest features of all the apps on this list, let alone Apple’s built-in solution. However, if you want a simple app that integrates with Evernote, Evernote Scannable is a solid free option.
SwiftScan: a high-end document scanner for your iPhone
Finally, we have a document scanning app for iPhone and iPad that is so high-end that it borders on dumb. But this may be exactly what you are looking for.
For just $ 3 / month, SwiftScan will do everything you ever wanted a document scanner to do and more. Scans can be faxed, scanned at 200 dpi and above, printed with one click, filtered, and more.
- $ 3 / month
- High quality JPG and PDF scanning
- Cloud integration with iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and more
- Feature encryption
- Offers themes for the application and filters for documents
- Scans everything including barcodes and QR codes
While Adobe Scan is the best pro option in my opinion (it has fewer features, but more relevant), SwiftScan’s price tag along with everything you get makes it a solid (and more affordable) option for professionals.
Want to know more about your iPhone and its applications?
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