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Turn Your Phone Into a Scanner

camscanner logoAbout 18 years ago, when I bought my first scanner, I had a vision of keeping paperless research files. But it wasn’t really feasible then, given the hardware I had to work with and the time it would have taken me to scan documents.

Today, the hardware and software for scanning, archiving, and OCRing paper documents has dramatically improved. I’m still not living a paper-free life, but I’m able to archive and use items in PDF format much more easily than even a couple of years ago. I’ve written before here at ProfHacker of my favorite sheet-fed scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500, which is the workhorse of my home office. At the university, I can use a photocopier to scan bound items like books. But it’s not always convenient to carry items back and forth, and I sometimes work at other locations altogether.

I have sometimes used my phone to photograph documents when working in distant libraries, for instance, but converting photos to PDFs has required an additional step until now.

The CamScanner app, which is available for both Android and IOS mobile devices, allows you to use your phone to scan items directly to PDF. Some of the features I have found especially helpful include:

  • batch scanning
  • editing of the scanned image, including cropping and rotation
  • creation of user-defined tags for documents
  • easy uploading to Dropbox or sharing via email, social networks, etc.

There is a free version of the app, which limits the number of documents you can create and adds a watermark with the app name to them. Upgrade to the full version is handled from within the app. Of particular interest to ProfHacker readers: A free upgrade to the full version of the app is available to anyone who registers it with a .edu email address. (Android users should also note that the version currently available on the Amazon appstore is an outdated version of the software and lacks the upgrade feature. Go to the Google Play store for the current version.)

Here are some of the ways I’ve been using CamScanner for both professional and personal document management:

  • scan important receipts right when I get them, rather than saving them to scan at a later time
  • scan handwritten notes, mindmaps, and sketches
  • quickly scan a portion of a book page to make a handout for class
  • scan magazine articles with workout ideas or recipes for later reference
  • scan business cards I receive from people I meet at a conference
  • scan whiteboard notes and sketches

None of these tasks are new to my workflow. But being able to do them right away, instead of saving items for later processing, is a great benefit.

What are your favorite uses for mobile scanning apps or devices? Let us know in the comments!

[image from the CamScanner logo]

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