Gallery: 10 free apps that make your smartphone a mobile scanner
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There are quite a few portable scanner apps available for iOS and Android devices, but how do they all stack up? Here are 10 free ones that do the basics and a look at what makes them different from their competitors.
First is Genius Scan. Like all the other apps featured in this gallery you simply point your camera at a document and tap the onscreen shutter button. Once you take a photo you can manually crop the document. Genius Scan then adjusts the perspective so that the document is even.
The best thing about the manual crop is the small magnifying glass that pops up, allowing you to get pinpoint accuracy at the corners of the document. There are also a whole bunch of export options available without in-app purchases, which makes Genius Scan a valuable app.
Check out Genius Scan on iOS and Android.
Tiny Scanner does a good job of automatically detecting the edges on documents. Unfortunately it doesn’t do a great job at a whole lot else. The resolution isn’t the sharpest, and the options you have for editing a scan aren’t the most intuitive.
I’m also unhappy with the lack of export options Tiny Scanner makes available: all you can do without a subscription is email the scans or open them in another program. That’s not too convenient if you want to get them on the cloud.
Tiny Scanner is available on iOS and Android.
Fast Scanner is another one that’s able to automatically detect the edges of a document, which is really handy. In terms of look and function it’s pretty similar to Tiny Scanner, minus the constant reminder that you don’t have the pro version.
If you’re looking for bare-bones PDF scanning Fast Scanner is a good choice, but then again so is Tiny Scanner.
Check out Fast Scanner on iOS and Android.
CamScanner is a bit more heavy-duty than the previous apps. You can mark up documents, make notes, highlight, and even reprocess a scan if you made a mistake the first time.
It has built-in OCR that works fast and well, but you’ll have to pay to use it. It will still preview the OCRed text, but you can’t copy it, email it, or save it without having a subscription. That’s right: there’s no flat fee for CamScanner–you have to pay every month. It’s $4.99 monthly or $49.99 for a year. For that amount of money you’d better scan a lot of documents.
CamScanner is available on iOS and Android.
Scanbot has a feature that the previous apps don’t: it recognizes documents and snaps photos automatically. The free version of the app allows sharing scanned PDFs via email and uploading them to a variety of cloud services, but that’s about it.
The premium version unlocks markup features, digital signing, OCR, and other tools, and all for one flat payment of $5.99. Higher tier packages for $7.99 and $9.99 are available, which unlock more features.
You can get Scanbot on iOS and Android.
FineScanner can do the same basic things the other free apps do: take a photo and turn it into a PDF. You can also share the scan easily and upload to a large number of cloud services. Like most other apps mentioned the premium features are locked behind a paywall.
The stand-out feature of the app, Bookscan mode, will cost you money as well. It’s supposed to be able to automatically split an open book into two different images, eliminate page curves, and get rid of other imperfections (like dogear creases). Using Bookscan mode will cost you $2.99 for permanent access to just that element of the app, or Bookscan and other premium features can be accessed through the $4.99 monthly fee.
You can get FineScanner on iOS and Android.
InstaPDF is fast, clean, and easy to use. You also have access to great markup tools without having to pay for them. Sign, stamp, highlight, leave notes, and type right on the PDF without paying a penny.
What makes InstaPDF really stand out is the matching MacOS app. In order to use the mobile app or Mac app you have to sign into an InstaPDF account, but that also means everything is synced between devices. Your scans are all available on your computer right away, which is a huge selling point for this scanning app.
You can get InstaPDF on iOS and MacOS, but not Android (sorry).
Scannable is Evernote’s entry into the mobile document scanning world, and it looks impressive. The interface is simple, scanning is a breeze, and sharing documents to Evernote, other cloud storage platforms, and via email is intuitive.
What it has in simplicity it lacks in specificity, however. There aren’t any markup options, and looking at all your documents is tedious: you actually have to scroll through them like a photo roll.
The lack of deep features makes it obvious that Scannable is a companion app for Evernote rather than a stand-alone tool. Still, if you need simple scanning that’s intuitive you’ll likely benefit from the app.
You can get Scannable on iOS.