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How to scan and save paper documents as PDF using your smartphone

Posted: , by Nick T.

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How to scan and save paper documents as PDF using your smartphone
Chances are that you know what a flatbed digital scanner is. You've probably even used one to make digital copies of documents or photos. 

What would you do, however, if you need something scanned, yet a dedicated scanner isn't nearby? Well, using your smartphone instead is an option – just take a picture of the paper that you need digitized. Or just get one of these apps made especially for the purpose. There's a ton of "scanner" apps, most of which are available for free, and in this post we'll introduce you to some of the best among them.


CamScanner is one of the most popular mobile apps for "scanning" documents, notes, business cards, and so on. It is also extremely rich in features. The app can automatically straighten, crop, and enhance the taken image in order to make it more presentable and easier to read. Scans can be saved as JPEGs or as PDF, whichever suits your fancy. Registered users may take advantage of cloud storage space for storing and sharing scanned documents. Those who upgrade to Premium ($4.99 per month, or $40 per year) may take advantage of the app's OCR abilities, which converts scanned images into editable text documents. 

Developer: IntSig Information Co.,LtdDownload: Android, iOS, Windows Phone
Category: ToolsPrice: Free (with in-app purchases)

Google Drive

Google Drive is generally used to access Google's cloud service, but the app can also serve as a quick and easy-to-use document scanner. Like the previous offering, the software enhances and straightens the image, which then gets saved in PDF format straight in the user's cloud space. OCR is also featured in the app. Searching your drive for a particular string of text will yield results from within scanned files as well. Note that while Google Drive is available for iOS, this version of the app doesn't support document scanning yet.

Developer: GoogleDownload: Android
Category: ToolsPrice: Free

Genius Scan

If for some reason you're not quite happy with the previous two apps, give Genius Scan a try. It is rather simple, but effective in getting its job done well. The mandatory auto-cropping and image-enhancing features are present, of course. Saved documents can be uploaded to Box, Dropbox, or Evernote, as long as you choose to buy the full version of the app. 

Developer: The Grizzly LabsDownload: Android, iOS
Category: ToolsPrice: Free, $4.99

General tips

  • Don't take pictures of documents from an angle as doing so may leave parts of the image out of focus
  • Try to get as close as possible and fill the entire frame with the paper you're scanning
  • Place the document on a surface where it is lit well. Use the phone's flash if that is required
  • If the document is inside of a plastic pocket, take it out. This will eliminate reflections and the scan will turn out better

  • Options

posted on 16 Mar 2014, 18:21

1. warrenellis (Posts: 102; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)

this is new? ive been using cam scanner for more than a year

posted on 16 Mar 2014, 20:48 1

4. lyndon420 (Posts: 4956; Member since: 11 Jul 2012)

Might be new for someone who just came over to android.

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 02:53 2

7. alumoyo (Posts: 369; Member since: 26 Aug 2013)

NOBODY SAID ITS NEW - they do app category reviews all the time for games, camera apps, gallery apps, cloud storage apps, music streaming apps, note taking apps etc. Often involving long established apps.

posted on 16 Mar 2014, 18:24

2. sun0066 (Posts: 169; Member since: 12 Feb 2011)

this is not new , I used to save doc using the whiteboard feature in bb long time ago, and then Cam scanner has been 4-5 years already in the market , UI has changed though

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 01:14 2

6. androtaku (Posts: 242; Member since: 12 Dec 2013)

i don't see phonearena state in the title or anywhere that this is "new"
its an introductory articles of a technology to people that doesn't notice it just yet,and opinion about the better ones

posted on 16 Mar 2014, 18:38

3. JunitoNH (Posts: 1934; Member since: 15 Feb 2012)

App pretty good, finicky at times, but it gets the job done.

posted on 16 Mar 2014, 21:40

5. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

Eat my shorts, Minox spy camera!

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 03:19

8. amoodaa (Posts: 8; Member since: 27 Sep 2013)

There's “scanner pro by readlle"
Too in the app store

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 18:40

9. rallyguy (Posts: 620; Member since: 13 Mar 2012)

$5 a month? I downloaded My Scans Pro for 99 cents.

posted on 18 Mar 2014, 09:44

10. Crispin_Gatieza (Posts: 2084; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)

This is definitely not new since I've had MobiScan on my WinMo devices since '08.

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