Know what's not fun? Keeping track of hundreds of physical documents stuffed into folders, stuffed into filing cabinets, stuffed into closets and storage. Whether you're looking to go fully paperless or just want to keep digital copies of your documents, scanning apps can make quick work of your seemingly unconquerable stack of papers. These apps are some of the best to help you digitize your docs!
Notes (in iOS 11)
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When iOS 11 ships, you'll be able to use the Notes app to scan your documents and create digital files. Using the new, more intelligent camera system in iOS 11, your iPhone will automatically recognize, capture, crop, and enhance documents you "scan" using Notes.
The Notes app supports multi-page documents; editing features including four-pin cropping, color filtering (color document, grayscale, black & white, and photo), and rotating; and PDF markup and export. That means you can scan in a physical document; mark up the document with arrows, sketches, and notes; and export a brand new PDF all via the Notes app.
Scanned documents are stored in a note, but you can export the file to a storage service or share it using iOS's built-in Share Sheet.
- Free - Coming in iOS 11 (opens in new tab)
Scanbot is one of the most beloved document scanning apps for iOS. It's a three-in-one-package, providing document scanning, QR and barcode scanning, and — just recently — faxing capabilities. While the free version is already a scanning force to be reckoned with, a $6.99 in-app purchase gives you access to Scanbot Pro. With the pro version, you can get text recognition (OCR) for your scans, markup capabilities, searchable documents, passcode and Touch ID authentication, templates, special color themes, and folders for document organization on iOS. Scanbot is compatible with a whole host of cloud services, including iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive.
For a document scanner app that provides a great user experience alongside high-quality scans, check out Scanbot.
- Free with IAP - Download Now (opens in new tab)
Dropbox for iOS includes a convenient, powerful document scanning feature. The app will automatically recognize and scan documents as you bring them into view. It will automatically crop and edit the photo, apply a color correction filter, and give you the chance to add more scans to an individual document. Multi-page document scanning can be a bit of a hassle — Dropbox makes it easier to organize pages within a file by providing a drag-and-drop interface for arranging pages. The feature lets you save documents as either PDF documents or PNG files.
If you're a Dropbox user and plan to use it to store your paperless document library, this feature is a no-brainer! You can do all your scanning and organizing in the app where you're saving your files, anyway. To use OCR with Dropbox you need to have a Dropbox business account, but you can link it to your personal account and reap the benefits on both.
- Free - Dropbox (opens in new tab)
Adobe Scan might be a simple app, but it's easily one of the best document scanners we've seen. The image filtering and auto-cropping and straightening are excellent, making what could otherwise be a blurry photo into a high-quality scan. With built-in OCR, auto-capture, and image editing features, Adobe Scan is a great choice … as long as you're an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber. Non-subscribers who want to be able to export PDF documents will have to pay a $9.99 in-app purchase. While we think the image filtering is near perfect, free apps do a fine job of color-correcting images and still allowing you to export PDFs without an in-app purchase.
If you want a high-quality scan and you're already paying a monthly Creative Cloud subscription fee, get this document scanning app!
- Free for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers - Download Now (opens in new tab)
Scanner Pro by Readdle has a great interface and is one of the easiest scanner apps to just pick up and use. Scanner Pro also supports scanning of both documents and images as well as the ability to store them in PDF format or jpeg formats. Scanning is fast and accurate and cleans text up extremely well. You can upload images and documents and scan them directly to Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Docs. You can also sort documents into custom folders to keep them organized. Readdle also has several other document and PDF management apps that play nicely with Scanner Pro and create a completely virtual office environment. Our favorite Scanner Pro feature is the Radar, which scans your Photo Library for receipts and documents, making it super-simple to import, edit, and create PDFs of all your document snapshots!
If you're looking for a scanner app that's well supported and has many other companion apps to go with it, you want Scanner Pro.
- $3.99 - Download Now (opens in new tab)
Developed by Microsoft as part of its Office line, Office Lens is an extremely fast, easy, and simple document scanning app that has OCR from the start.
You can scan a wide variety of documents, photos, business cards, and even whiteboards with Office Lens and with OCR, it means you can search for words in images and then copy and edit them.
As for integration, Office Lens can export to a PDF, Mail app, or Apple's Photo Library with just a tap of a screen, but the real strength is for users who are in the Microsoft ecosystem. Office Lens is able to export to most of the Microsoft Office suite of apps including, PowerPoint, Word, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, and more, making it extremely handy for send your scans anywhere our Microsoft account can access them.
- Free - Download Now (opens in new tab)
What app are you using?
Do you have a favorite document scanning app? Did it make the list? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know how you're managing your paperless lifestyle!
Update November 2017: We've added Microsoft Office Lens to the list as a fast, free, and simple OCR document scanning app.
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.