Digital Crave

Free app transforms your iPhone, iPad into a flatbed scanner

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free scanner app iphone ipad

Naturally, you don't carry around a flatbed scanner with you to digitize documents, receipts, business cards or hand-written notes and sketches.

But a new and free app called Scanner Mini from Readdle can turn your iPad or iPhone into a powerful – and portable – scanner to accomplish these kinds of tasks.

While it's missing a few key features -- which I'll get to momentarily -- this app works very well, with its exceptional "scan" quality based on my experience with the iPad mini’s rear-facing camera. And hey, it’s free.

Ideal for any hard copies you want scanned and saved, Scanner Mini allows you to capture paper documents, contracts, magazine pages, whiteboards, business cards, checks and receipts – and the digital version shows up on the iOS screen a second later. More so than other scanner apps I've tried, text is incredibly crisp and clear. Paper photos can also be scanned, and they look remarkably good.

For optimum quality, you'd lie the paper down onto a flat surface, like a desk, stand above it with your iPad, and line up the edges with the on-screen grid-lines (such as an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper or magazine article). Tap the photo button on the edge of the screen, hold still, and you'll see a flash and hear a camera click. Once captured, you can tweak the edge alignment, if needed, and select a desired size (e.g. A4, letter, Ledger, Business Card, etc.) or type of scan (photo, document or grayscale).

Once your scan is saved to the iPhone or iPad, you can rotate between landscape and portrait modes or pinch and out with your fingers for a closer look. Scanned papers are automatically saved within the app but you can also email the document -- saved as a PDF -- and save them all in your Camera Roll. You can manually transfer scanned docs to a PC or Mac by dragging and dropping from within iTunes via USB.

While the speed, ease of use and quality of Scanner Mini are all commendable – not to mention the price (or lack thereof) – it is missing a few things found in Readdle’s beefier $6.99 app, Scanner Pro. This paid app lets you create multipage scans, crop out unwanted areas, open up scanned docs as a PDF in a supported app (such as iBooks), wirelessly print scans or upload them to a cloud service like Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs or WebDav (even though Scanner Mini says "keep your files safe in the cloud"). Scanner Pro also lets you assign a password in order to view the document.

Disappointingly, one thing Readdle's two scanner apps can’t do is OCR, or "optical character recognition." This is a handy feature when scanning documents because OCR software can translate typewritten (and in some case, handwritten) words into editable text. Once it can recognize words, you could perform tasks like search for a keyword within a document, get a dictionary definition by tapping on a word or tally up multiple receipts for your expense report. You get the idea. Because the scan quality is so good, it's a shame OCR isn't included but perhaps it will in a future update. (There are other scanner apps for iOS that have OCR features.)

Even with these omissions, Scanner Mini is an excellent app for those who'd like to digitize and organize their paper world – without having to spend a dime.

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