How to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS

Scanning documents is one of those things that we all deal with every once in a while in both our professional and personal lives. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on a big, clunky machine for digitizing our documents. All you need is a phone with a camera, really. There are plenty of ways to scan documents using your smartphone, and they’re all fairly simple. The process is slightly different in the case of Android phones compared to iPhones, so let’s go through the different ways you can scan documents as PDFs on both platforms.

Both Google Play Store and the iOS App Store are filled with hundreds of apps that can help you scan documents as PDFs for you in a pinch. However, we’ll be focusing on the Microsoft Lens app in this particular tutorial as it’s fairly simple to use and is also available on both platforms. It’s a standalone app that doesn’t force you to use Microsoft’s Office suite or its other service, meaning you don’t have to download a collection of apps just to use one particular feature. The steps involved in scanning a document using the Microsoft Lens are practically the same on both Android and iOS, so we’ll only show you the screenshots captured on an Android phone to make it easier for you to understand.

How to scan documents on Android and iOS

The first thing you need to do is download the Microsoft Lens on your smartphone. Both Android and iOS users can grab it for free from the Google Play Store and the App Store, respectively.

Download Microsoft Lens from the App Store.

  1. Open the app and give all the necessary permissions to get started.
  2. Select the Document mode from the bottom menu.
  3. Line up your document in the viewfinder and wait for the app to detect it.
  4. Tap the shutter button once it is properly aligned to capture the document.
  5. Tweak the selection to ensure you’ve highlighted the text to scan and hit Confirm.
  6. Select Add if you want to add more pages, or hit Done to save and share the scanned page.

And that’s how easy it is to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS. Microsoft Office Lens, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the many apps that lets you effortlessly scan documents and save them as PDFs. Feel free to explore apps if you want, but the Lens app is perhaps among the easiest options out there.

Alternate ways to scan documents on Android and iOS

If you don’t want to use Microsoft’s Office Lens app to scan the documents, then here are some alternate ways in which you can scan documents on Android and iOS:

Use Google Drive on Android

Alternatively, you can also use the Google Drive app on Android to scan and save documents as PDFs. This particular application comes pre-installed on most Android phones, so you don’t even have to download and install anything new on your phone. Here’s how you can scan a document using Google Drive in a few simple steps:

  1. Open the Google Drive app and tap on the + floating action button.
  2. Tap on the Scan option for creating PDFs.
  3. Line up your document in the viewfinder and hit the shutter button to capture it.
  4. You can now tweak the scanned document and move on to save it or choose to retake or add more pages.

Google Drive, in case you don’t know, won’t let you save scans as images, and the PDFs will be exported directly to your Google Drive that’s linked to your account. From here, you can either download another app to convert your scanned PDF into a JPEG or simply take a screenshot of the scanned document to save it as an image on your phone.

Note: Grabbing a screenshot of the PDF to save as a JPEG is just a workaround. While the quality of the screenshot itself may be good, it’s not a proper replacement for an actually exported image file using a dedicated app.

Use Apple’s Notes app on iOS

You can use Apple’s Notes app on iOS to scan documents. It comes pre-installed on all the iPhones out of the box, meaning you don’t have to download any third-party app to get the job done. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Notes app, and create a new note.
  2. Tap on the camera icon and then select the Scan Documents option.
  3. The app will automatically highlight and scan the document as you align the viewfinder and take you to the next page. You can also hit the shutter button to capture manually if it fails.
  4. Crop the scanned document to select the portion you want in the scan.
  5. Simply hit the share button once you’re satisfied with the scan to either directly share the file or save it to your iPhone.

As is the case with Google Drive on Android phones, the document scanned using Notes on iOS cannot be saved as an image. You can either grab a screenshot of the scanned document or download a third-party app to export the PDF as a JPG. A lot of apps, including ‘PDF Export Lite’ and ‘PDFelement,’ will let you do this in a few simple steps.

Microsoft’s Lens is one of the best apps for this task, which many of us at XDA use regularly to scan and digitize documents. But it’s not the only app that’s available on Android and or iOS, as I mentioned earlier. You can also use the other methods mentioned in the article or check out some popular alternatives if you don’t like the Microsoft Lens for some reason.

Adobe Scan is a popular app that turns your Android phone or iPhone into a powerful scanner. Similarly, Fast Scanner is also a reliable app that comes with most of the typical features, including PDF and JPEG support, document scanning, and more. Those looking for open-source apps to digitize documents can check out Open Note Scanner too. You can check out these apps using the links below: