The demand for flatbed scanners and printers has never been higher since the global pandemic brought students and employees home. Although document scanning on a PC operating system is easy thanks to broad software support from manufacturers, Chromebook owners have had to rely on workarounds to digitize their papers on Chrome OS. With the release of the native print jobs app on OS 86, it looks like Google is close to bringing a native scan tool to everyone.

As spotted recently in the Chrome OS Canary channel, Google is working on a new scanning app that will allow users to scan their paper documents from their Chromebook. If you're ready to make digital copies of your documents, you can copy and paste chrome://flags/#scanning-ui into Chrome's URL bar and enable the flag from the drop-down menu. Once your Chromebook restarts, you should see a brand new Scan app in the launcher. Here's a quick demo.

chrome os scan

Scan app taking a snapshot of my document from Chrome OS

At a glance, there are several different scanning options to choose from, such as changing the file type or save directory. You can fine-tune the scan settings to adjust the color mode, page size, and resolution. Once ready, clicking on the "Scan" button will take a snapshot of whatever paper document is inserted in the connected scanner's flatbed and save it to your Chromebook. The Scan app's design looks more complete than when ChromeUnboxed covered it in a preceding Chrome OS Canary build, hinting that it may arrive in the Stable channel soon. There is also a scan preview on the left side of the window, but it isn't working yet.

Why it's a big deal

Bringing a native scan software to Chrome OS is a huge deal for many of us who are tired of searching through our physical documents. Whether you're a small business owner or a student, the benefits of converting your papers into electronic copies are virtually limitless. Instead of rummaging through your file cabinet to retrieve something particular, the native scan app on Chrome OS allows you to search, archive, and retrieve your documents on your Chromebook in a snap. The tool will allow students and teams to collaborate on the same document, reducing the need to purchase paper.

With Google Cloud Print being retired in less than a couple of months, I think Google realizes that Chromebook customers need to have a native print and scan app before time runs out. There are still a few rough edges that it needs to iron out: the scan tool can't save documents as PDFs yet, and the scan preview on the left isn't functional. I'm also hoping Google will add the option to combine multiple scans into a single file, reducing the clutter on my Chromebook.

The Scan app on Chrome OS will be invaluable for enterprise, personal, and students when it reaches the Stable channel. Converting your old documents into a digital format and storing them on your Chromebook can make organizing your work much more manageable while increasing your workflow efficiency and productivity.