Is That a Scanner in Your Pocket? How to Scan Documents with Your iPhone or iPad

December 7, 2017

Earlier today a client emailed me and asked for my mailing address because her scanner wasn’t working. As I was replying (using my TextExpander snippet for my office mailing address), I thought to myself: there has to be a better way!

Turns out, there is. And it’s even easier than my initial recommendation, which was to go to the app store on your smartphone or tablet and download one of the many excellent apps that use the device’s camera to scan and create PDF files. I’ve used Scanbot for iPhone to do this for years.

Caution: from here on out, this post is a complete Apple lovefest. If you have an Android or Microsoft device, you can read on and see what you’re missing, or just check in with Brandon Harter – I’m sure he can give you a tip in the right direction.

On the iPhone and iPad, there’s an even easier solution that’s built right into iOS 11, which is the latest version of Apple’s operating system (to see if you’re up to date, go to Settings > General > Software Update). Tucked away in the Notes app, there is a full-fledged scanning feature that allows you to create PDF files. Here’s a video demonstration and a step by step guide for how to use it:

  1. Open Notes on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap the New Note icon in the lower right corner.
  3. Tap the + icon above the keyboard.
  4. Tap Scan Documents.
  5. Hold the device over the document that you’d like to scan. You can either manually tap the shutter button or if you hold the device steady enough, it will automatically recognize and capture the document.
  6. If there are multiple pages, it will prompt you to scan the next page with the text “Ready for next scan.”
  7. When you’ve finished scanning all pages, tap Save in the lower right.
  8. Tap on the scan you’ve created in the note.
  9. From here, you can crop, adjust the color, or rotate the document.
  10. Once you’re done with any adjustments, tap the Share icon in the top right corner.
  11. Here, you can share the PDF via email, save it to a cloud service like Dropbox or iCloud, or further modify the document by marking it up, or (gasp!) print it to a wireless printer.

So there you have it. If you’ve got an iPhone or an iPad, you also have an easy to use document scanner no matter where you are. Even though Notes is a fine scanning solution, I still keep Scanbot because it offers even more features like optical character recognition (OCR), auto-upload to your favorite cloud service, and support for workflows. Happy scanning!

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs. How’d Matt make that fancy demo video? Another new feature in iOS 11 allows screen recording.