How to scan files with your smartphone

Who hasn't happened, for study or work, or maybe out of sheer necessity, to need to capture a copy of a document on the fly? Photos are an acceptable solution, but specific applications are even better. Before you find yourself in the same situation, better install one of the ones we've selected for you. There are great ones for Android and iOS.

Free apps, and not just portable scanners, have become a rarity now, with a few pleasant surprises, at least in this area. Office Lens - for iOS and Android - is one of them: complete, functional and above all at no cost. Another "white fly", this time (unfortunately) only compatible for iOS is Evernote Scannable, a sort of "spin off" of the homonymous application that allows you to write and save notes, create to-do list and archive everything you find interesting online. Most of the other apps are free, but with limited functionality. We've selected them so that you can try them out, see if they offer the features you need and, if not, upgrade to the professional versions.

Office Lens 

Office Lens - developed by Microsoft - is ideal for easily capturing notes and documents, handwritten notes, posters, business cards, in short anything that contains text, saving you the effort of taking notes or relying on unreadable photos. It is also a perfect application to scan sketches, drawings and mathematical equations, and even images without text. And up to this point, nothing strange. But - as mentioned - Office Lens has an ace up its sleeve that will delight students and maybe even teachers: it has a "blackboard" mode. The program is, in fact, capable of adjusting and correcting reflections and shadows. Printed or handwritten text is automatically recognized through OCR to make it easier for you to find words, copy and edit text. Office Lens, finally, can convert images to Word (*.docx), PowerPoint (*.pptx) or PDF (*.pdf) files. It's free and has no purchase-in-app.


Here's an application that not only scans all kinds of documents, but also QR codes (the modern version of the old barcodes). What are Scanbot's strong points? Two in particular: high quality scans and the speed of execution. The application takes advantage of the most innovative mobile scanning technologies available, which, translated into practice, means that you can scan - in PDF or JPG formats - at 200 or more dpi (dots per inch): performance similar to current fixed scanners. Besides, you'll be able to automatically optimize the document and reduce blurring. Scanbot is also very fast: place the smartphone on any document, including whiteboards, and in less than a second the page can be saved in PDF or JPG. The application, moreover, automatically detects the edges of the document and scans only that, and nothing else. The downside is that this is a "lite" version, so it's free, and it lacks an important feature like OCR that you can buy directly from the application by shelling out a few euros or use some online application.

Mobile Doc Scanner 

Mobile Doc Scanner is a free application that perfectly replaces a portable scanner. The only limitations compared to the Pro version is the scanning limit of only 4 pages in batch mode (multiple pages in one document), a smidgen of advertising and automatic character recognition.  MDScan, as the manufacturer calls it, scans documents, including whiteboards, in PDF format. It is able to automatically detect document edges, correct distortion, perspective and brightness in order to make the text as clear and readable as possible. Mobile Doc Scanner also allows you to send the document to cloud services, including Dropbox, Google Docs or, via email or share it on social media.

Evernote Scannable 

This is a "designer" portable scanner made by the developer of Evernote, the famous application for taking notes of all kinds. And we assure you that it is completely free, unlike other portable scanners. The first feature of Evernote Scannable is that it practically works on its own: once you have framed what you want to capture, your work is done. The application takes care of detecting the document's contours, takes a picture of it, adjusts the brightness and improves the contrast and, in case you need to, rotates it in the right direction. Those who want to can take care of all these details manually. Another point in favor of Evernote Scannable, which doesn't surprise us much, is the management of business cards: all in all, it remains an application that lives on notes and notes. Just point the camera at the "business" card, the application captures it, and is able to extract the information - such as name, address, phone - to create a new contact on your Apple smartphone, if it does not yet exist in the address book, without you doing (almost) anything. Evernote Scannable doesn't only work with the iPhone, but also with iPad and iPod touch as long as iOS 8.0 or later is present. Too bad it doesn't exist (yet) for Android.

Handy Scanner Free PDF Creator 

Finding a free application that offers you all the features typical of a professional mobile scanner - as you may have guessed - is not an easy task, if you exclude Office Lens or Evernote Scannable.Even in the case of Handy Scanner Free PDF Creator there is a Pro version (2.99 euros), but we recommend, in any case, to always try first the edition with limited functionality because you might not like the application or, more simply, the features it proposes are exactly what you need. There is always time to upgrade. The Lite edition allows you to scan multipage documents (only 20 documents of 5 pages each and no more than three shots at a time), whiteboards, business cards and more. It automatically detects document edges and has post-processing filters to mitigate background "noise" and correct color and contrast. It exports documents in PDF or JPEG format to cloud services such as Dropbox,, Gmail, Google Docs and others. On the downside, it adds a "watermark" to documents and displays banner ads. Why did we choose it? Because it performs OCR of files shared with Google Docs by selecting the "Convert to Google Doc" function.

Scan It All 

Another free smartphone scanner that also has a Pro version via an upgrade priced at €1.99 that basically offers unlimited features.  Manufacturer BitsAbound is rather sparing with information about it. The free version scans, stores and emails documents in the multipage PDF format, but doesn't specify how many documents and pages are allowed. Scan It All has features for automatic perspective correction and edge detection, as well as the ability to change the arrangement of pages: reorder them, delete them, and add them within a certain limit. It supports uploading to Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive and imports PDFs, even password-protected ones, from other applications into Scan It All to scan them. But given the cost, if you like the free version, a two euro investment isn't much.