Best iPhone Scanner Apps to Start Your Paperless, Mobile Office
Myths of the paperless office have propagated for almost as many years as we have been hoping for flying cars. Unfortunately neither has come true. Indeed it seems that we are drowning in paper. The scanner is our one salvation at this point, allowing us to two step the paperless office by converting paper into digital files. Until we communicate in writing completely digitally, scanners will be a fact of life for those of us who prefer our paper to be searchable and stored safely and backed up on a hard drive or even in the cloud.
Scanners, like all forms of technology, started out the size of a volkswagen. And now with the advent of camera iPhones and apps we can carry them in our pocket. These mobile, pocket scanners should bring convenience to many people who are always on the go.
Scanner apps abound in the app store but I found that all are not created equal. Indeed, there seems to be a problem with offering full Optical Character Resolution, with the exception of one app, Perfect OCR.
OCR allows all the words in the document to be searchable. Without OCR searching is limited to title (which you can designate yourself) and date information, Reviews of these apps reveal many people are bitterly disappointed by the lack of OCR. But really, what were they expecting? An iPhone that recognize words and sentences with 100% accuracy?
Best of the Pack
Perfect OCR is a new scanning app released in recent months that promises OCR. I tried it with my 3GS and even in 3G it took over five minutes to try to perform the OCR processing once I had supplied it with three images of my document. I was warned that the phone was suffering low memory. However to its credit it did capture the information mostly and provide me with the ability to place it on a clipboard, email the document in pdf or text, where I was able to search the text. It gave me some error messages about previous unsaved text, but on the whole it is functional, however very slow. With the new iPhone 4, Perfect OCR should run faster and better with its 5 mega-pixel camera and more memory. I give it 4/5.
This scanner has a high score in the App Store and it seems a lot of people are using it for capturing their scans. You can send scans in JPG or PDF formats. It also features smart page detection, perspective correction, grayscale detection, and post-processing of document images. The scans can be made really fast. However the lack of OCR recognition and cloud integration with Dropbox and Google Docs keep it from becoming the one scanner app to rule them all. 4 out of 5.
Other Noteworthy Scanner Apps
Doc Scanner claims to have OCR but fails to deliver so far. It uses existing photos in your iPhone or you can shoot new ones. The quality of the image is not great and you can’t rotate the image at all. OCR is so slow it is not feasible to use, and as you cannot do it in the background your phone is tied up for minutes at a time, you can’t even turn the screen off while it is processing. It allows multiple pages in one document. You can email the document as a pdf or jpeg or you can upload to the popular note app Evernote. Sharing over a wifi network worked first time with Firefox so it looks to be browser agnostic, which is always a good thing. I give it 3/5.
Jotnot does not claim to have OCR but instead adds more options for sharing such as email, Evernote, iDisk, Google docs, Dropbox, and box.net. This app loads the resulting images into your photos which are not stellar quality. You cannot edit them once they are scanned. I loaded camera to pdf documents from the app to Dropbox, Google docs and iDisk. The Dropbox and Google Docs worked, and iDisk failed, which is not out of the ordinary unfortunately. Interestingly Jotnot integrates with Google Doc’s OCR engine. Thus, by using Google, Jotnot is able to achieve OCR. I give it 3/5.
Scannerpro has had a recent upgrade which warrants a mention, adding password protection, edge detection, and allowing uploads to Dropbox, Evernote, Google docs, and iDisk. Like JotNot, integration with Google Doc’s OCR engine makes Scannerpro’s scan searchable. This brings it in line with Jot Not and Docscanner. This app is more like a photo app than a scanner app. You can blow up the image and read it on the iPhone but the quality is not great. You can adjust brightness which helps a bit. I give it 2/5.
Adobe Acrobat.com Mobile (Removed from App Store)
You can use this app if you have an Adobe Acrobat account. You can sign up for a free test account for 30 days. The software package associated with this app costs hundreds of dollars, so you would think it would work like a charm. I tried to use this app but it was so persnickety about login I almost gave up. I honestly did not find it any better than any of the apps previously mentioned. Therefore with the cost involved I would say try Perfect OCR. If you already have Adobe Acrobat, then this free add on is probably worth it! 2/5.
Scanning apps are a dime a dozen it seems however there are only a few meeting our demands for the paperless office. Hopefully time will improve these apps and give us much more progress towards our ultimate goal.