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How to use the document scanner in the Notes app on iPhone and iPad

Using document scanner in the Notes app on an iPhone
(Image credit: iMore / Future)

The iPhone and iPad are great ways to keep notes about pretty much anything and everything you may ever need, all thanks to the built-in Notes app. But in case you didn't know, the Notes app can do more than just text notes — it can do checklists, add pictures and sketches, and yes, it can even scan documents.

If you've been using the best iPhone for a while, you have probably downloaded and tried a third-party document scanner app from the App Store at some point. While there are certainly some great options out there, sometimes you just want to use what is already built-in to the device you bought, without having to download another app that is more than likely "free" with a subscription of some kind.

But really, there's no need for that — Apple has a built-in document scanner right in the Notes app! So if you need to scan a document, and just want to store it in the Notes app, here's how to use the document scanner in the Notes app on your favorite iPhone and iPad, like the iPhone 13 Pro.

How to scan a document on iPhone and iPad

The document scanner is tucked away in the Notes app on iPhones and iPad. With just a couple of taps, you'll have a solidly scanned document ready to mark up, convert to PDF, and share with another app.

  1. Open Notes on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Create a new note or tap on an existing one to add a document.
  3. Tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen or above the keyboard.

How to scan documents, showing how to open Notes, create a new note, then tap the camera button (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Scan Documents.
  2. Line up the document you want to scan.
  3. Tap the shutter button if the scanner doesn't automatically scan the document. Repeat this step for every document you want to scan.
  4. Tap Save after scanning all of the necessary pages. The button will have a count of how many pages you scanned.

How to scan documents, showing how to tap Scan Documents, tap the shutter button, then tap Save (Image credit: iMore)

The scanned pages will populate in a new note in the Notes app. Feel free to add other text or images if necessary. After all, this is just like any other note.

How to mark up a scanned document on iPhone and iPad

Once you've scanned a document, you can mark it up with any of the built-in markup tools in the Notes app. With the markup tools, you can highlight, handwrite, cut out and move sections (magic rope style), and add a text box, shape, or arrows. You can also add your signature, all from within the Notes app.

  1. Tap the scanned document in your note.
  2. Tap the share button in the upper-right corner.
  3. Tap Markup. You may need to scroll through the action menu to see this option.

Mark up scanned documents, showing how to tap your scanned document, tap the share button, then tap Markup (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap on the tool you'd like to use.
  2. Tap the color picker if you'd like to change the color that your chosen tool will use.
  3. Tap + if you want to add a text box, signature, magnifier, or shape to your document.

Mark up scanned documents, showing how to tap a tool, tap the color picker, then tap + (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Mark up your document.
  2. Tap Done when you're finished.
  3. Tap Done to return to your note.

Mark up scanned documents, showing how to mark up a document, tap Done, then tap Done (Image credit: iMore)

The scanned document will save all of the markup changes you made.

How to save a scanned document as a PDF

While you were previously required to turn your scanned documents into PDFs manually, the Notes app now does this automatically. But you will need to save your scanned copy to someplace like the Files app. Here's how to do that.

  1. Tap your scanned document.
  2. Tap the share button in the upper-right corner.
  3. Tap the app that you want to save your PDF to and follow that app's procedure for saving a file.

Save a scanned document, showing how to tap the scanned document, tap share, then tap the app you want to use (Image credit: iMore)

How to share a scanned document on iPhone and iPad

Want to send your scanned document to a friend, family member, or colleague? You can do that easily from the Notes app.

  1. Tap your scanned document.
  2. Tap the share button in the upper-right corner.

Share a scanned document, showing how to tap the scanned document, tap share (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap on the app with which you want to share the note using.
  2. Share your PDF.

Share a scanned document, showing how to tap an app, then share your PDF (Image credit: iMore)

How to delete a scanned document on iPhone and iPad

If you've accidentally scanned the same document twice or decide you want to try again after you've saved a scanned document, you can delete a single scan without having to delete an entire document.

  1. Tap your scanned document.
  2. Tap the trash can in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Tap Delete Scan.

Delete a scanned document, showing how to tap the scanned document, tap the trash can, then tap Delete Scan (Image credit: iMore)

You will only delete the specific scanned page you've selected. If you want to delete the entire document, simply delete the note.

Get to scanning with your iPhone or iPad

The above guidance should be all you need to convert some physical documents into digital versions, store them, share them, and so much more. You might find that the Notes app document scanner is just what you need for the basics, which is all you need sometimes.

But if you want something more powerful, one of my personal favorites is SwiftScan. The interface is sleek and clean, it's fast, and automatically uploads your scans to your preferred cloud service, and you can manually back it up to a secondary service too. And if you need a scanner for business cards, we have some recommendations on the best business card scanner apps for iOS too. 

Updated July 2022: Steps are still the same with the latest versions of iOS 15 and iOS 16 betas.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.

With contributions from