How to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS

How to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS

Scanning documents is one of those things that we all deal with every once in a while in both our professional and personal lives. Thankfully, we longer have to rely on a big, clunky machine for digitizing our documents. All you need is a phone with a camera, really. There are a lot of ways to scan documents using your smartphone. The process is slightly different in the case of Android phones versus iPhones but there’s not much to it. In this article, we’ll tell you how to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS.

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There are many ways to scan a particular document and digitize it in your preferred format using a smartphone. Both Google Play Store and the iOS App Store are probably filled with hundreds of apps that can do it for you in a pinch. We’ll be focusing on one particular app in this article that we think is highly reliable and lets you generate a digital version of your documents in no time — Microsoft Lens.

The Microsoft Lens is a standalone app that you can download from the Google Play Store as well as the App Store. You don’t have to use Microsoft’s Office suite or its other service to be able to take advantage of this particular app. You can download Microsoft Lens on your phone for free and it’ll give you everything you need to digitize your physical documents. The steps involved in scanning a document using the Microsoft Lens are practically the same on both Android and iOS, so we’ll only show you the screenshots captured on an iPhone to make it easier for you to understand with limited screenshots.

How to scan documents on Android and iOS

  • The first thing you need to do is download the Microsoft Lens on your smartphone. Android users can grab it from the Google Play Store while iPhone users can download it from the App Store.
  • Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it and give all the necessary permissions to get started. Microsoft Lens will ask permission to access your phone’s camera to, well, scan the documents. It’ll also seek your permission to access the photo gallery on each platform as it can also scan the documents that are already stored as images on your phone.
  • Now that you’re ready to scan the documents, swipe at the bottom to switch between different modes. You want to be using the “Document” scanner for this task.
  • After selecting the right mode, line up your document in the viewfinder and wait for the app to detect it. It’s almost instantaneous on both Android and iOS.
  • Once it’s properly aligned, simply tap the shutter button to capture the document.
  • After capturing the document, you can either tweak the image before saving it as a digitized version or scan more pages to add to the same document. Tap on the Add icon to add more pages or simply hit the Done after making necessary adjustments to save the digitized version.

Scan documents in Android

  • On the next page, you’ll first see an option to rename the document along with a bunch of exporting options. You can save the digitized version of the document in either Gallery (Photos app on iOS), or export it as a PDF. Select your preferred option and you’re good to go.

Well, that’s how easy it is to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS. Microsoft Office Lens, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the many apps that lets you do the same thing. You are free to explore other options too, but we think the Office Lens app on the list is the easiest to use.


Alternate ways to scan documents on Android and iOS

If you don’t want to use Microsoft’s Office Lens app to scan the documents, then here are some alternate ways in which you can scan documents on Android and iOS:

Use Google Drive on Android

Alternatively, you can also use the Google Drive app on Android to scan and save documents as PDFs. The reason why we recommend Google Drive as an alternative on Android is that most phones come with it out of the box, so you probably don’t need to download and install anything new. Here’s how you can scan a document using the Google Drive in a few simple steps:

  • Open the Google Drive app and tap on the “+” floating action button on the main screen.
  • Now, tap on the Scan option for creating PDFs.

Scanning documents in Google Drive

  • After that, just line up your document in the viewfinder and hit the shutter button to capture it. The app can automatically correct perspectives, so you don’t need to worry about it.
  • Once done, you can easily tweak the scanned document and save it as a PDF. Additionally, you can also retake or even add more pages to the existing document.

Scanning and saving documents in Google Drive

Google Drive, in case you don’t know, won’t let you save scans as images. The PDFs will be exported directly to your Google Drive that’s linked to your account. From here, you can either download another app to convert your scanned PDF into a JPEG or simply take a screenshot of the scanned document to save it as an image on your phone.

Note: Grabbing a screenshot of the PDF to save as a JPEG is just a shortcut method. While the quality of the screenshot itself may be good, it’s not a proper replacement for an actually exported image file using a dedicated app.

Use Apple’s Notes app on iOS

On iOS, you can use Apple’s Notes app that comes pre-installed on all the iPhones out of the box. This simple note-taking app comes with an option that lets you scan documents and save them as PDFs on your phone. Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the notes app, and create a new note. Now, tap on the camera icon and then select the Scan Documents option from within.

Scanning documents using the notes app on iOS

  • As you bring the document into the view of the camera, the app will automatically scan the document and take you to the next page. The Auto mode is enabled by default, but you can also disable it to manually capture a scan using the shutter button.
  • You can then crop the scanned document to select the portion you want in the scan.

Scan and crop documents in Notes app on iOS

  • If you’re not satisfied with the scan, simply tap on the retake option to try again, or press the Done button to save the scan. Alternatively, you can also apply filters and change the look of your scanned document on this page.
  • As you view the document on the next page after hitting done, you’ll see a share button with which you can save the document as a file on your iPhone or share it with your friends or other saved contacts via different apps.

Saving and sharing documents on iOS

As is the case with Google Drive on Android phones, the document scanned using Notes on iOS cannot be saved as an image. You can either grab a screenshot of the scanned document or download a third-party app to export the PDF as a JPG. A lot of apps including ‘PDF Export Lite’ and ‘PDFelement’ will let you do this in a few simple steps.


Closing Thoughts & popular alternatives

Well, that brings us to the end of this particular tutorial. The Microsoft Lens is one of the best apps for this task, which many of us at XDA use on a day-to-day basis to scan and digitize documents. However, it’s not the only app that’s available on Android and or iOS. You can also use the other methods mentioned in the article or check out some popular alternatives if you don’t like the Microsoft Lens for some reason.

Adobe Scan is a popular app that turns your Android phone or iPhone into a powerful scanner. Similarly, Fast scanner is also a reliable app that comes with most of the typical features including PDF and JPEG support, document scanning, and more. The Google Camera app also comes with a built-in document scanner which you can use in case you don’t want to download a separate application for this job. And those looking for open-source apps to digitize documents can check out OpenScan or Open Note Scanner too.

So which method do you think is the best to scan a document and save it as a PDF or an image on Android and iOS? Let us know by dropping a line in the comments below.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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