Do you have a lot of receipts, business cards, or other printed documents that you want to digitize and store? If so, one tool up to this job is Microsoft's free mobile Office Lens app. With Office Lens for iOS or Android, you can use your device's camera to snap a photo of a note, card, or other document. You can capture the image as a whiteboard, a document, a business card, or a photo. Then, you can then edit and revise it by cropping it, flipping it, drawing on it, and adding text to it.
When you're done, you can store the image as a PDF file, a Word document, a PowerPoint slide, or a OneNote file. You can also save the image to your mobile gallery or to Microsoft OneDrive; in fact, the latest version of OneDrive for iOS directly integrates Office Lens. Let's look at how to use Office Lens to capture your printed documents.
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First, download and install the Office Lens app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Open the app and give it the necessary permission to access your photos and camera. Now, aim your device's camera at the printed document you wish to scan. Choose the format that best matches the item you're scanning—whiteboard, document, business card, or photo. Turn the flash on or off or set it to automatic. To best capture the item, position your device so the border frames it and then snap the picture (Figure A).
At the screen showing the image of the item, you can now view and modify it. Double-tap or pinch on the image to zoom in or out. Tap the Crop icon and move any of the fill handles to crop the image. Tap the rotate button to rotate the image. Tap the third icon at the top if you want to change the format of the image. Tap the T icon to write text on the image. At the text screen, you can change the size of the font by tapping on the A icon. You can also change the color of the font and the background. Tap the Pencil icon to draw lines or objects on the image. When finished, tap Done (Figure B).
The Export To screen offers a variety of options. First, you can change the title. Next, choose how and where you want to save the image. You can store it in your photo library, save it as a PDF, direct it to OneNote, or upload it to OneDrive. If you want to tweak the text or visual elements in the image, you can save it as a Microsoft Word document or a PowerPoint file. How and where you decide to store the file will vary based on the file type; for instance, a photo may work best in your photo library, while a straight text document that you want to edit might be suited for Word. Let's try the latter option. Tap on Word. The file is transferred. Tap on the thumbnail to open the file in Word where you can now edit the text (Figure C).
When done, tap the left arrow at the top to return to Office Lens and go back to the Export To screen. To share the file via email, tap the link for Outlook or Mail. To access other share options, tap the entry for More Apps. You can now share the file via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. You can also print it and share it to various apps (Figure D).
You can work with certain options in Office Lens. Return to the main viewer screen and tap the three-dot icon in the upper right. Tap Settings. Tap Sign In and then tap Add An Account. Enter the credentials for your Microsoft Account to avoid having to sign in each time you access a Microsoft app or service through Office Lens. Tap Settings and then tap Done (Figure E).
Tap the three-dot icon again and tap My Files. You can now view and open any of the documents you've scanned. Tap the three-dot icon on this screen and tap Delete to remove a document (Figure F).
Finally, you can trigger Office Lens from the OneDrive app but only for iOS. Open the OneDrive app on your iPhone or iPad. Position your document and tap the camera lens icon in the middle of the bottom toolbar. You can add multiple scans to a single document. Tap the Plus sign to snap another scan. Swipe the image to move from one scanned document to another. Tap the trash can icon to delete the file. Tap the Crop icon to crop it. Tap the Rotate icon to change the rotation. Tap the last icon to change the format of the file. When done, tap the checkmark icon. Name the file and save it to OneDrive (Figure G).
- OneDrive tips and tricks: How to master Microsoft's free cloud storage (ZDNet)
- Microsoft OneNote: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- How to back up your desktop, documents, and pictures with Microsoft OneDrive (TechRepublic)
- How to scan and apply OCR to documents in iOS (TechRepublic)
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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.