It's been over a year since the pandemic brought students and employees across the globe home to work online. The demand for flatbed scanners and printers have soared, and thanks to Chrome OS 89, its new scanner app makes digitizing your paper documents in a snap. It seems Google is looking for ways to make its scanning app more powerful, as it's adding two new features that should sway you away from your messy filing cabinet.
We've spotted an upcoming Chrome flag in the Chromium Gerrit that will allow you to search for words in a scanned document. When this functionality becomes available to test, enable it from the flags page and reboot your Chromebook. Once your device restarts, the feature will find its way to under the file type drop-down menu in the scan app's preferences.
You'll soon be able to search for words digitized from the scan app.
The commit description doesn't reveal much, saying that you'll be able to create Searchable PDFs by selecting that option from the file type drop-down box. If we peek inside the new strings, they elaborate a bit more on how the feature works: When a person scans a paper document with Searchable PDF selected, the app uses OCR to convert a scanned image into searchable text. Google already uses OCR with Docs, and it's apparently very good at it. It's unclear whether the scan app will make handwritten text searchable — while not incredibly reliable for industrial work, it would help lessen the workload for some PDFs.
There's another substantial improvement coming to the scan app that Chrome Story first discovered: the ability to scan multiple pages at once. Similar to the OCR feature coming soon, multi-page scanning will be behind an upcoming flag, which you can try out when it arrives in a future Dev channel build.
Multi-page scanning is coming to an update near you.
The concept behind this feature is simple: you'll be able to pack multiple scans neatly into a single PDF file. Unlike before, it won't save individual pages as separate files, helping your folders stay clutter-free. Details about its implementation are sparse, but we imagine you'll be able to toggle it on via a checkbox. It's also unclear if the multi-page scan feature is limited to PDFs as implied in the flag's description — we hope that won't be the case.
I've been waiting forever for Google to implement multi-page scannin. It's downright frustrating trying to scan my tax and school documents — actually unusable for me. Nearly 100% of my paper documents have multiple pages attached, and without this feature, the scan app leaves an unpleasant mess in my document folder. I'm happy Google is finally fixing the mess, but as things stand today, it's death by a thousand paper cuts.
OCR is another killer feature that should definitely help streamline my workflow. Instead of rummaging through multiple pages of my class documents to find what I need, I can simply search for any relevant term. It's a great productivity feature that saves a lot of time — I'll take improvements to get things done faster at any time of the day.
If you're anxiously waiting for these scanning features to land, their flags should come to the Chrome OS Dev channel within the next few weeks. These quality-of-life changes are quite significant for people looking to get work done on their Chromebooks, and I can't wait to give these improvements a test-drive soon.