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Lesson 7: How to Scan Documents with a Smartphone


Scanning documents with a smartphone

illustration of a smartphone scanning a document

Have you ever needed a digital version of a paper document? For example, if you need to get a document to someone quickly, you might be able to email a digital copy instead of sending it through the mail or faxing it. Digital copies are also a great way to back up important documents in case the originals become lost or damaged.

You may already have experience creating digital copies with a desktop scanner, which is similar to a photocopier. However, many smartphones and tablets can actually capture high-quality scans of paper documents with their built-in cameras, which makes the process faster and more convenient than a traditional scanner.

Downloading a scanner app

Before you can scan a document with your smartphone, you'll need to download a separate mobile app to your device. These apps can convert text documents into PDF files, which is something most built-in camera apps can't do. There are many applications to choose from, but they all work in the same basic way. Some of the most popular scanner apps include Tiny Scanner (Android and iOS) and Scanner Pro (iOS), but you can also search your device's app store to find even more options.

downloading a scanner app

To scan a document with your phone:

  1. Place the document you want to scan on a flat surface, like a desk or table.
    placing the document on the table
  2. Open the scanner app on your phone, then follow the instructions that appear. The exact process will depend on your app, but you'll usually be required to place the device directly above the document, then use the device's camera to take a photo.
    scanning the document with the phone
  3. The document will be saved as an image or PDF file on your device. You could then email the file to someone else, upload it to your computer, or simply save it on the device for your records.
    the scanned document

Mobile device scanning tips

Scanning documents on a mobile device is quick and easy, but the results aren't always as consistent as you might get with a desktop scanner. Here are a couple of tips to improve the overall quality of your mobile scans:

  • Use bright, direct lighting on your document. Shadows and indirect light may cause certain parts of the document to be unreadable after scanning.
  • Hold the device directly above the document to avoid distorting the scan. In the image below, the phone is not directly above the document, so the app is requesting that we move it before scanning.holding the device at an angle instead of directly above the document