Scanning Documents with Your iPhone: 5 Apps Compared

It’s Productivity Week here at iPhone.AppStorm, and all week we’re going to have app reviews and how-tos, all based on getting things done. Plus, we’ll even pull some classic reviews out of the archives. Stay tuned all week!

There’s no doubt that going paperless increases productivity: paperless communication is instant, hassle-free, cheap and less wasteful. Much of the world, however, still relies on paper documents to relay important information. How can you, the forward-thinking iPhone user, integrate all this paper into your digital records? Many developers have created apps to help digitize paper documents into PDF files by scanning them with your iPhone’s built-in camera, without requiring you to take a perfect picture from a straight angle.

In this round-up, we’re putting five popular iPhone scanning applications to the test, comparing their features and how they all handle processing the same image. Find out which apps come out on top after the jump!

Starting Point

I’ve taken a picture of our test document using my iPhone 3G’s camera, in decent lighting, but from an angle. It should be a pretty easy document to process, since it’s black and white, matte and easy to read.

I found this bizarre sheet of home safety tips in the mail

I found this bizarre sheet of home safety tips in the mail

I could certainly clean this up to be readable using Photoshop, but it would take me a couple minutes, and that wouldn’t be very productive, now would it?

Genius Scan

All of these apps basically work the same way: you either take a photo or grab one from your library, then you outline the corners of the document so that it can be “flattened.” Then the app processes the image, adjusting brightness, contrast and color.

Adjusting the corners of your document is tricky in Genius Scan (though the auto-detect is decently effective). It’s hard to see what’s directly beneath your finger! You can choose from black and white or colour processing, or use neither.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the quality of the image using Genius Scan, the contrast was much too high and the text looked blocky.

Sharing: Email and Twitter on the free version, Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs with Plus version
Price: Free ($2.99 for “Plus” version)
Developer: The Grizzly Labs
Download: App Store

Genius Scan is the only one with integrated Twitter support

Genius Scan is the only one with integrated Twitter support

JotNot Scanner Pro

JotNot Scanner Pro’s most notable feature is Wi-Fi sharing via bonjour. Point your browser to the address specified when you click the Wi-Fi icon, and you can view all your documents online. JotNot also features an “Open In” option (when you click the icon that looks like the Adobe Acrobat icon) which allows you to view your PDF in iBooks.

While JotNot has some handy features, I found it’s image quality to be quite poor. Text was compressed horizontally and had a blurry yellow glow.

Sharing: Email, Wi-Fi (via Bonjour), Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net, WebDAV
Price: $0.99
Developer: MobiTech 3000
Download: App Store

I'm not sure how the "Fax Document" option works, but I know it's not free

I'm not sure how the "Fax Document" option works, but I know it's not free

Scanner Pro

Scanner Pro definitely has the most attractive and easy-to-use interface. It has a very handy magnifying feature when you’re defining the corners of your documents, where a little magnifying glass appears away from your finger so you can actually see what you’re doing. It has little crosshairs in the middle to help you line things up.

Scanner Pro also has more processing options than some of the other apps, with a grayscale option in addition to black and white or color, as well as photo or document settings. Once you’ve processed a document, you can adjust brightness and contrast with a slider, allowing for much more precision than the other apps offer. It also makes it easier to create multi-page documents, letting you take pictures of all the pages first before processing them.

The output quality was pretty good with Scanner Pro. The default settings made the document too washed out, but I was able to get some good results by adjusting the contrast.

Sharing: Evernote, email, Google Docs, Dropbox, WebDAV
Price: $6.99
Developer: Readdle
Download: App Store

Scanner Pro has a much cleaner interface than its competitors

Scanner Pro has a much cleaner interface than its competitors

DocScan

DocScan is the newest entry in the category, and it boasts many of the same features as the more expensive apps for a more affordable price. DocScan also features Air Print printing on supported devices, and creates zipped JPEG files for emailing.

The basic functions of DocScan are available for free, but only allows you to save 5 documents of 2 pages each. The upgrade to DocScan Pro is only available as an in-app purchase, which I’m never a fan of.

DocScan produced some of the better quality scans of the bunch; it straightened the text as well as Scanner Pro, but without the loss of clarity on some letters. DocScan also had the best auto-detection of the corners of a document. After using the “brighten up” function, DocScan produced some pretty high quality scans (relatively speaking).

Sharing: email, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, iTunes
Price: $1.99
Developer: IFUNPLAY
Download: App Store

I never like seeing an "upgrade" button

I never like seeing an "upgrade" button

TurboScan

Despite the dated interface, TurboScan is my pick for the top scanning app. TurboScan processed documents way faster than the other apps and produced the best quality scans.

TurboScan has a feature called SureScan, which prompts you to take three pictures of the same document for a sharper image. I found this process pretty time consuming, but it does produce a slightly sharper, straighter scan.

One of my favourite features in TurboScan is the “Send to Myself” option, something I think should be included in all document or picture sharing apps. Unfortunately, TurboScan does not have as many sharing options as the other apps.

Sharing: email, Dropbox, Evernote
Price: $1.99
Developer: TurboScanApp
Download: App Store

It's not pretty, but it does the job

It's not pretty, but it does the job

Conclusion

All five of these apps do a decent enough job of getting your paper documents onto your phone, but TurboScan and DocScan Pro stand out as the most effective scanning apps. To give you a quick comparison of the quality output for all five apps, I’ve put them all side-by-side:

Which do you think is best?

Which do you think is best?

Though none of the scans stand out as far superior, if you take a closer look you’ll probably notice that some of the scans are pretty distorted or have too much contrast.

I only have an iPhone 3G, so the quality of my scans is pretty limited, and I wasn’t able to try out all of the available apps. Have you tried scanning documents with your phone? Have you found an efficient workflow? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  • endoftheQ

    Tested on a 3G? Most of these apps do an OK job with a 3GS or 4 as these iPhones have higher resolution cameras and have the ability to macro focus. Then combine with Ricoh’s free Image To Text OCR app for editable text!

  • Melwan

    Why even bother if u don’t have good hardware? U can’t compare these kinda apps with a 3G.

    • Daryl

      Sorry Melwan but that’s an ignorant response – and rude to boot.

      Why the hell shouldn’t the comparison be made using an older bit of kit that loads of people are still using and for whom therefore the comparison is extremely valid. I bet if it had been done using an iPhone4 there would’ve been a ton of people complaining that “it’s all very well but what about those with lower spec hardware” :-)

      P.S. I use an iPhone4 by the way!

      • TheAssassin

        In actual fact Daryl…it is YOUR response that is RUDE and IGNORANT……try using manners when replying in future !!!

  • Daryl

    I installed the GeniusScan app in the last couple of days or so and the detection of the page corners is pretty poor and the Auto Enhancement on the small sample of docs I’ve used it on has been mostly useless. Fortunately you can turn that off by default or per scan. I found that non-Auto B&W worked well enough for me but it was an extra step in the workflow.

    On the basis of the images (once I realised they were in a different order to the article!) and your write up I think I would choose to go for TurboScan.

    I’m not altogether too fussed about the look of the app, so long as it has a good workflow and produces a good quality output.

    Sharing to Dropbox Evernote and email is sufficient for me. Especially if it’s possible to have it default to a chosen one of those (but over-rideable).

    Anything I want to share to twitter or facebook is much more likely to be a photo so I would be using a photo app for that anyway.

    I may have to give it a try! Thanks for the tip.

  • http://twitter.com/otaviocc Otávio

    I’m a DocScanner user. IMHO it’s the best app for document scanning.

  • Jordan

    I use DocScannerApp.com on my 3GS and find it to be great, both in quality and the simplicity for adding my scans to Evernote.

    Will have to check out Turboscan to see if it’s any faster.

  • Mich

    DocScan UI is a ripoff of Genius Scan UI and it’s quite bad! You shouldn’t present that app there.

    Also a note, in Genius Scan you can tap anywhere you want on the grid. You don’t have to tap on the corner to move the corner…..

  • Michael Spurlock

    You “scanned” a black and white image and then did not force the processing to be black and white. That would immediately remove the artifacting you see in JotNot and others. Not to mention, as already stated here, using an iPhone 3G to test with is hardly an indication of what these apps are capable of.

    • Tessa Thornton

      I actually tried both and came up with a better result with colour scans in those cases.

  • Dave

    I have used all of these apps except for Turbo Scan. I also use Cam scanner pro..and it seems to be the best. I like the features: Dropbox; evernote using Cam Scanner Pro and Doc Scanner Pro. I use a 3gs and 4s … output is great from both!!

  • Steve Fischer

    Instead of arguing perhaps we can be of help to others.

    1. Has anyone used this with the IPhone 4s- if so how are the results?

    2. Do any of these have the ability to sort what’s scanned – perhaps if its names,addresses, emails – and one wants to use the results for mail merge -is one program better than the other?

  • Scranton

    Thanks for this detailed review. I’ve been using TurboScan on my 4s for about two weeks now. It’s been a sheer unexpected joy. Just a utility, right? To my surprise, this little app is turning out to be among the most gee-whiz apps on my phone. I get asked to demo it more often than any other app.

    It has a lot of Apple-like cleverness in its user interface. (You know, the kind of software that anticipates accurately how/where you’re headed and keeps you right on course to get there?)

    And the image quality of the device astonishes me – the scans are even good enough to use as the legal copies of record.

    I really wish I could decrease file’s resolution during post-processing. I mean, if I’m scanning a simple receipt, it need not be saved as many hundred KB! …But I doubt the other apps have that ability, either.

  • http://www.scanjig.com Pat

    I have tried all of these apps, except DocScan with the iPhone 4S (8 MegaPixel Camera) and have had great results with both CamScanner Pro and Turbo Scan. There is also a new accessory that works with all of these apps, the “ScanJig” . You do not have to adjust the borders each time and get consistent, uniform images. See http://www.scanjig.com.

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  • Jeremy H.

    I find turboscan for its mere 2 dollars being the best imo, it has a crisp yet smooth edges where needed.

  • http://www.bing.com/ Peggy

    Reading posts like this make surfing such a pelsraue

  • Scott A

    I have used both scanner pro and jot not pro on a 4s phone and although the review states that there is a color option with Scanner Pro, I havent been able to find the setting for that. I like the greater controls on Jot Not Pro but for most things, Scanner Pro is easy and I like the folder options… It would be great if these programs would allow multiple scans to be combined into one.

  • http://www.scanjig.com Patrick Harold

    I have used all of these apps. I tend to prefer JotNot, TurbScan and Scanner Pro. In addition all of the scanner apps work with a new accessory called ScanJig. ScanJig holds your smart device (iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone, iPod5 or Galaxy) in a fixed position as you change document pages. This improves productivity and you get consistent image quality. ScanJig.com

  • http://Orangesodapop.com Garth wilson

    Thanks for all the opinions, it helped me make my choice. Also thanks to the original contributor Tess. To those who got upset earlier in the posts… The most you’ll spend is $5 why get so heated? If you buy the wrong one… Spend another (gasp) $3.99 and get another scann app. I just upgraded a software suite I use all the time…$899 ouch now there’s something to get heated over.

  • Muzzi

    i use this one

    Scan to PDF (Scan Multi-page documents to PDF) for Iphone and Ipad:
    Scan, Print, Fax, Download and Store Microsoft Office, PDF and Text Documents and images.
    This app turns your iPhone or iPad into a Handy Scanner, Fax, File Storage or an Air Printer in your pocket.

    info and Download Link : http://nexsciencellc.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/scan-to-pdf-scan-multi-page-documents-to-pdf/

  • Tim

    Sorry folks, but none of these worked as good as CamScanner. A free App with many great options PDF dropbox Google Drive for both iPhone and iPad. JUST GIVE IT A TRY AND SEE BY YOURSELF. Cheeeeeeeeeeeers

    • kate miller

      thanks for the info, free and it worked GREAT!

  • Jean ray

    The only one I’ve used is scanner pro. The quality is fine(using iPhone 4S) but it crashes a lot –close to 50%of the time. Scanning is a time intensive process any way you do it, and having to scan the same document twice doesn’t cut it. Thus, here I am, looking at other options.

    • Gareth

      You are so right about scanner pro. It crashes all the time, previously scanned documents disappear, often leaving you with a file full of blank documents.
      When it works it is great, but it causes so much inconvenience and duplication of work to recover the lost scans when it fails, I am consigning it to the bin.

      Worst of all the support from the supplier is very poor. It is as though they have a list of stock replies and if this does not resolve the problem they just go quiet and ignore all requests for help.

      If they ever sort this out and make it reliable then it would be a real asset, but as they cannot and appear to have no appetite to do so I would recommend you avoid and spend your cash elsewhere !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.benesch.1 Patrick Benesch

    Good review, another app to mention is Scandock which creates high quality scans

  • Charlee

    This really helped me thanks! :)

  • PaperScanApp

    Great review.

    Might want to try PaperScan.
    It is quite robust against wrinkled documents and scans automatically when a document is in front of the lens.

    You can download it here from https://itunes.apple.com/app/paperscan/id670210933?mt=8

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