Forget the paper madness and go paperless with your iOS device

Stop storing pieces of paper that you can easily lose. Instead, learn how you can organize and store paper documents on your iOS device.


Store paper documents on iOS

In a world where paper is increasingly becoming outdated, mail, receipts, and other needed pieces of paper go missing or end up in a folder that we think is organized, but it really isn't. Paper organization is more like a chore, but there's an easier way. With a little app called Scanner Pro for your iOS device and a few seconds of your time to snap a photo of the paper, you can finally achieve a paperless office and rid yourself of paper cuts and disorganized paper messes. This app will help you become better organized and able to display any scan with just a few taps anywhere or anytime. Using apps like this provides better camera and organizational tools than just taking a photo of your document, including the ability to automatically correct parallax issues with the photos and provide contrast and color correction that makes scanned text "pop" in the scan.

What you'll need

Here are the things that you'll need before you begin:
  • iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with a back-facing camera
  • Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, or WebDAV account (if syncing)
  • Scanner Pro by Readdle 
  • Paper to scan

Creating a scan

To create a scan, open the Scanner Pro application on your iOS device, and follow these instructions:

  1. After opening the application, tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen if you'll be capturing a photo right then, or press the image button if you'll be selecting a photo that you've already captured on your device.
  2. The camera preview will appear and let you take a photo. If you want to scan a single document, then make sure that the top right icon is set to one-page mode. If you need to scan multiple pages, tap this button to select the multi-page icon. You'll be prompted to add more pages after the initial scan.
  3. Move the camera around until the entire document is in view. The application will automatically try to detect the edges of the paper, but you can always set that manually in step 5.
  4. Press the camera button in the center of the bottom toolbar to take the photo (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  5. Next, you'll be prompted to set the edges of the document within the photo (if they're not automatically detected). Tap and drag the edges to fix them to the document borders (Figure B), and  tap Next.
    Figure B
    Figure B
  6. You can also select what type of document you scanned in: color, black and white, or grayscale, and the application will automatically set the proper color and white balance to make the photo look just like a scanned document or photo.
  7. Tap Save

After viewing your scan, tap the back button, and you'll be prompted to enter a name for the scanned document. Enter a name that's both descriptive and provides context for the item that you've scanned. This title will become important whenever you organize and look for your documents later on.

Syncing your scanned documents

Scanner Pro can automatically sync your scanned documents to one service, and it can upload to multiple services manually (Figure C). The supported services include Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and WebDAV. Uploading to Google Docs or Evernote can provide you with Optical Character Recognition, while the other services can upload your files to your remote devices.

Figure C


Figure C

Be sure to name your document something that you can easily remember later on.

To enable these services, visit Settings, then tap on the service that you wish to use (Figure D). 

Figure D


Figure D

The Settings screen lets you configure the compatible services that Scanner Pro can talk with via the internet.

You'll sign in to the service, then return to this Settings screen. Tap the Auto Upload button, then select the service that you would like to automatically sync with your documents (Figure E). For some services, you'll be prompted to select a location that will contain your scanned documents.

Figure E


Figure E

Set an Auto Upload service, and all of your scans will be automatically whisked away after saving them.

Organizing and viewing documents

Your documents can be organized into folders. To do this, tap and hold one document, and drop it on top of another document (similar to home screen organization within iOS). When you do this, you'll create a folder that can be renamed on the spot (Figure F).

Figure F


Figure F

Folders let you organize your scans more efficiently.

Once your documents have been organized, you can view them easily by tapping on the documents inside or outside of the folders. By doing this, you can zoom in on certain sections of the document (Figure G), share the document via email, printer, fax, or upload it to any of your connected services by tapping the action button in this view.

Figure G


Figure G

In the Preview mode, you can easily add pages to your document by tapping the camera+ or image+ buttons at the bottom center of the screen.

Scanning tips and tricks

Because Scanner Pro is using the camera on your iOS device to take a photo and convert the photo into a scanned document that's cropped down to the paper dimensions, it's important to take a good photo.

The first step to taking a good photo is to make sure that you have enough contrast between what you're trying to scan and the area the paper is lying on. If you're scanning a dark piece of paper, then choosing a light background will help the software automatically crop the image more effectively. If you're scanning a light piece of paper, then take the photo of the paper against a dark background.

Before taking the photo, be sure to stabilize your movement so that the image doesn't turn out blurry. You'll also want to tap on the paper in the camera preview so that the iOS camera automatically focuses on the paper before the photo is taken.

Using OCR

Using Scanner Pro in conjunction with either Evernote or Google Drive, you can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) provided with those services. With OCR, the document will be searched using Google or Evernote OCR technology to convert the images of the scanned document into text that can be selected on a computer. Using this service does require you to first upload your document to your Google Drive or Evernote account, but it means that your documents can automatically become searchable.

To use OCR in Scanner Pro:

  1. Open the scan
  2. Navigate to the page you want to render
  3. Tap the action icon at the top right corner on iPad (or bottom right corner on iPhone).
  4. Tap Upload
  5. Tap Google Drive or Evernote (Figure H) and Page as JPEG
    Figure H
    Figure H
  6. Make sure that the OCR radio button is selected
  7. Tap Send

To use either of these services, you to have set up your account credentials within the application first. You can do this by following the instructions in the "Syncing your scanned documents" section above.

Do you currently have a scanning solution for your computer or mobile devices? What do you use, and how well does it work? Let us know in the discussion thread below.



By Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...