The Best Mobile Scanning Apps

Scanbot (available for Android and iOS) combines excellent scan quality and solid OCR results with a logical, easy-to-use layout. It also offers more extras than Adobe Scan and Microsoft Office Lens—stuff like file organization, advanced file-naming templates, additional PDF-markup features, automatic uploads to various cloud services, and PDF encryption. However, the iOS version of Scanbot relies on subscription pricing ($4 per month or $22.50 per year) that makes it vastly more expensive than Adobe and Microsoft’s free apps. The more affordable Android app, meanwhile, doesn’t require a subscription but lacks some of the iOS version’s features. Either way, unless you really need some of its added features, we don’t think Scanbot is worth it over our other picks.

Most scanning apps have similar layouts, but Scanbot’s is our favorite thanks to its elegant simplicity. When you fire it up, it automatically opens the camera and captures the document in front of you. (If you prefer, you can set it to go to your library instead, and you can turn auto-capture off.) We also like its dedicated multipage scanning mode, its reminders to rotate the camera for landscape documents, and its prompts to square up your scans when there’s too much perspective distortion. However, it’s missing one thing we like in Adobe Scan and Microsoft Office Lens: dedicated modes for different content types. Scanbot does have a unique feature called Actions that analyzes OCR results and extracts actionable elements such as URLs and email addresses, but we found that feature only marginally useful in practice.

Scanbot not only recognizes documents but can also capture them automatically.
Scanbot not only recognizes documents but can also capture them automatically.

The captured document goes to the editing screen, where you can apply an array of filters, adjust the automatic crop, rotate it, and name the scanned file. (You can also set up a custom naming template, if you don’t want to name your documents each time you scan.) The library view is straightforward, grouping your scans by capture date. From there, you can tap into each scan, view the recognized text, annotate the PDF, and share it. You can also create folders to better organize your scans—a feature no other scanning app we tested offers—and you have an option to make folders show up at the top of the library view. (Folders are available only in the iOS version of Scanbot, however.)

Scanbot helpfully magnifies the crop corners so you can more precisely shape your document.
Scanbot helpfully magnifies the crop corners so you can more precisely shape your document.

Scanbot performs automatic OCR on every scan, and can do so in 60 languages (including options like Cherokee and Middle French). In our testing, its results were nowhere near as accurate as what we’d get from a hardware document scanner but still ranked near the top of the pack for scanning apps. ABBYY FineScanner and, to a lesser extent, Adobe Scan and Microsoft Office Lens still outclass it, but Scanbot is fine for quick OCR work.

Scanbot’s OCR stumbled on particularly small fonts but did well at 8 points and up.
Scanbot’s OCR stumbled on particularly small fonts but did well at 8 points and up.

The auto-cropping functionality was reliably excellent, producing clean edges and straight text. In the rare cases when it messes up, Scanbot’s cropping tool snaps to the detected edges of documents and has a magnified view to help you precisely place the corners. The two “Magic” image filters—Magic Color and Magic Text—reliably enhanced contrast and eliminated shadows and creases in our scans, leaving clean, white backgrounds and clear, readable text. Scanbot also did a better job with photos than most apps, with the Color filter producing natural colors and contrast even as it removed shadows and other aberrations. We don’t recommend using scanning apps for photo reproduction, but we like that this one works in a pinch.

Scanbot lets you share scans via email with one touch (PDF only), or you can tap the Share button to bring up the familiar Android or iOS share menu (PDF or JPEG). You can also share OCR results as a TXT file or copy it to your clipboard. In addition, you can configure Scanbot to automatically upload all scans (again, PDF only) to one of 17 cloud services, including popular storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive; note-taking apps like OneNote and Evernote; and more esoteric options such as FTP servers and WebDAV. Finally, you can send your scans as a fax, but that costs extra—each page costs one “credit,” and you can buy credits individually or in packs of 10 (about $7) to 100 (about $35), with increasing volume discounts.

Scanbot provides plenty of ways to share your scans, though it could offer more file formats.
Scanbot provides plenty of ways to share your scans, though it could offer more file formats.

Unlike some competing apps, Scanbot doesn’t send any of your data to its own servers or perform OCR in the cloud, so it presents a minimal security risk. If you’re an iOS user, it also offers PDF encryption, allowing you to password-protect your files.

One caveat: Although we think Scanbot is great on both iOS and Android, the developers clearly prioritize the iOS version over the Android version. In addition to PDF encryption, other iOS-exclusive features include passcode and fingerprint app locks, Wunderlist integration, folders, and the ability to reorder pages in multipage scans.

If you prefer a one-time purchase instead of a monthly subscription, Scanbot is also available as Scanbot Pro for $70 up front, which works out to roughly three times the cost of a yearly Scanbot subscription. According to Scanbot CEO Christoph Wagner, people who buy Scanbot Pro at this higher one-time cost still get access to new features that are added in the future, so if you expect to use the app for more than three years, this purchase may be the more cost-effective route.

All Rights Reserved for Ben Keough

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