Using a camera to “scan” documents to a digital format is nothing new. There are a number of PC applications available that help users turn photographed pages into PDFs or other document formats. Android enthusiasts can now enjoy the same functionality, as higher resolution cameras on mobile devices have finally allowed this application category to reach maturity. This roundup will cover 5 apps you can use to turn your Android device into a portable document scanner.
Keep in mind with all of these applications, lighting conditions and the surface on which a document or book is placed will have an effect on the quality of each “scan.” You will have the best results if you place the documents as flat as possible on a dark, solid color surface in a well lit area.
Current Version: 2.0
Price: £3.99 (approx. $6.25)
Free Version: Yes. Watermarks are added to generated PDF files.
Scan2PDF Mobile is a very functional, but very basic, scanning application. Options available to the user include:
- the ability to change scan quality (Medium, High, and Ultra are selectable)
- select page size, output folder, output filename
- and the option to email a completed PDF
Overall, I was disappointed with Scan2PDF Mobile. There is no included functionality for cropping an image, changing brightness or contrast, perspective correction, or any other image enhancements beyond rotation. The lack of editing capabilities make Scan2PDF Mobile feel more like an image to PDF converter, rather than a document scanner. A lower price point or an ad supported free version without a watermark would greatly improve the appeal of this app to those who do not need advanced features.
Current Version: 1.0
Free Version: No.
This is another fairly basic scanning application. The features available in Portable Scanner are almost identical to those available in Scan2PDF Mobile with a few minor exceptions. A user can choose
- a quality level (High, Medium, or Low options are available)
- to rotate images before generating a PDF
- and to share a PDF via email once it has been generated
Portable Scanner also includes a “Scan in Grayscale/Mono” option which may help improve contrast and readability in some situations. There is no option for changing what folder a PDF is saved to.
I found Portable Scanner to be about on par with Scan2PDF Mobile in terms of usability and options. However, it is also on par when it comes to downsides. The lower price point would give Portable Scanner an edge if you were able to choose a save location for PDF files. A trial version would also be a big step up.
Current Version: 2.0
Price: $3.98 ($6.96 with perspective correction add-on)
Free Version: Yes. 7 day free trial with ads.
Developer: Pwn with your Phone
Document Scanner is one of the most feature rich scanning applications on the Android Marketplace. Options include:
- image quality selection (Low, High, and Highest options are available)
- paper size selection (US Letter, US Legal, or A4)
- automatic rotation
- and the ability to choose between your phone’s camera application and the camera application built into Document Scanner
After capturing an image, the user has the option to rotate it, convert to grayscale, and increase contrast. Also, assuming you have purchased the perspective correction add-on, you will have the ability to select the page area. Document Scanner will then crop the image to the selection and automatically correct for any perspective distortion (such as if the photo was taken at an angle or if the document was not on a flat surface). The perspective correction add-on also includes automatic edge detection which attempts to select only the desired document page. While not perfect, the edge detection was a big help in scanning multiple pages quickly.
My experience with Document Scanner has been nothing but positive. However, it is my opinion that this app would not be quite so useful without the perspective correction add-on which is currently being provided as a separate download at an additional cost.
I love being able to upload PDF files directly to my Google Docs account and the fact that Document Scanner does not delete your scan session after creating the PDF, thus allowing you to add additional pages at a later date, is a huge advantage.
The only feature I found myself wishing for is the option to change the default export folder. As it stands currently, Document Scanner will only export to the root of the SD card.
Droid Scan 2
Current Version: 2.11
Free Version: Yes. Demo version, cannot save or share scans.
Developer: Trans-code Design
Droid Scan 2 includes several features that sets it apart from other document scanners for Android. The app has built-in integration with Google Goggles, Google Docs, and Evernote which allows for OCR (optical character recognition). This does not add any options above what Google Goggles and the others already have; however, it is nice to have in a document scanning application.
Droid Scan 2 also includes quite a few sharing options. A user can share a scanned document as either a JPEG or a PDF. If sharing as a JPEG, you can upload to Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, Picasa, and most other services that accept images. If you wish to share a document as a PDF, you are limited to email and Bluetooth transfer.
Overall, I found that Droid Scan 2 has many desirable options, but could also use many improvements. The PDF conversion is fairly basic and does not allow for multiple pages. Both manual and automatic edge detection options are included, but I found the automatic detection to be hit-or-miss even under optimal conditions.
Finally, the UI is not nearly as intuitive as some of the other applications on this list. Droid Scan 2 is definitely an app to keep your eye on but is not quite 100% polished.
Current Version: 1.0.6
Price: ¥350 (approx. $4.10)
Free Version: Yes. Image size is limited and ad supported.
If you needed to choose a “middle child” of this list, eScrap Pro would be it. First, unlike every other application on this list, eScrap Pro does not convert documents to PDF. However, it does allow for manual edge and perspective correction, brightness and contrast alteration, and sharing over most services that allows images. You can choose to take pictures in grayscale, choose an image format (JPEG or PNG), and select image quality.
One big downside to eScrap is the inability to edit scanned documents after they have initially been processed. This means that if you make a mistake, you need to scan the document again in order to make any cropping, brightness, or contrast changes.
My favorite part of eScrap Pro is definitely the UI. It is dead simple and extremely easy to navigate. That being said, part of the reason the UI is so simple is because eScrap lacks some of the features that are included in Document Scanner and Droid Scan 2.
The usefulness of these apps depends on what you are going to use them for. The best example that comes to mind is on a college campus. As a student, I was constantly spending time in the reference portion of the library, and paying $0.10 -$0.25 a copy for anything I wanted to take with me became expensive and time consuming. Any one of these apps would save a college student time and money.
Of the five applications mentioned in this roundup, Document Scanner is my favorite by far. It includes almost all the features of the others (when the perspective correction add-on is included) and has a number of others they do not. However, I do encourage people to try the others as well. In many cases, one of the free versions may be enough to meet your basic needs.