iPhone Document Scanning App Smackdown

One area of computing that has really exploded in the last year or two is document scanning on mobile devices. Both cameras and apps are getting better and better, and the quality and price (sometimes even free) is pretty remarkable.

I’ve had a number of document scanning apps on my iPhone 4 for quite some time, but have never put them head-to-head until now.

Use Cases

Everyone has different use cases for these types of apps, but here are mine:

  • Scanning Magazines: When there is a one or two page magazine article that I want to capture, or just part of a page, I just use my iPhone to grab it and send it to Evernote. If it is longer than that or I want really good quality, I will typically cut it out and scan it with my ScanSnap S1300.

  • Single Or Attached Documents: If I get something I want to quickly capture, or if it is something that wouldn’t easily go through a scanner, I will use my iPhone. Good examples of this are my son’s swimming and skating lesson report cards. When he (eventually) passed Sea Turtles, I didn’t care about the rest of the booklet, just that one page.

  • Notebook Pages: Sometimes I like to write or sketch in a notebook, and I want to capture this information but don’t necessarily want to rip pages out to scan them. Document scanning apps are great for this.

The Contenders

I have four document scanning apps on my iPhone, so these are the contenders:

The Test

I used the four iPhone document scanning apps mentioned above to scan the following documents. To put it in a “real world” environment, I did the testing and am writing this from my local Starbucks. The elderly couple arguing beside me may or may not influence the results.

  • Two pages from Mazda Canada’s “Zoom Zoom” magazine – glossy pages with rich colors.
  • One black and white page from a school handout
  • A old sketch from my notebook: the first time I sketched out what would eventually be DocumentSnap.com

The Criteria

Here is what I looked at for each app:

  • Quality
  • Adjustment Tools
  • Export Options
  • File Size
  • OCR

Ready? Let’s go.

Quality

Since Quality is somewhat subjective, I will let you judge for yourself. Here are links to the PDFs from the four contenders:

Here are my thoughts:

For the magazine, Scanner Pro and JotNot seem to look the best, and Genius Scan is good too.

For the black & white document, JotNot and DocScanner look the best. In all cases I used Black & White mode (more on that in a moment).

For the notebook sketch, Scanner Pro and DocScanner look the best to me. This was one document where adjustment options really helped.

Adjustment Tools

JotNot has a huge selection of adjustment options that you can see in the screenshots below:

JotNot Adjustment1 JotNot Adjustment1 JotNot Adjustment3

DocScanner also has some simple adjustment options. You can adjust the size, “whiteness”, and sharpen.

DocScanner Adjustment

Scanner Pro has simpler adjustment options as well. You need to be careful with these and make sure that you set them for every page or you will get some surprising results.

Scanner Pro Adjustment

Genius Scan has the simplest adjustment options of all: None, Color, and Black & White.

Genius Scan Adjustment

Export Options

In most cases, a document scanning app is pretty useless if you can’t get the document off of your mobile device.

The usual method, which all document scanning apps support, is to email the document as PDF somewhere. Different apps support different options, so here are the export options for each app:

Genius Scan Free Version

  • Emailing
  • Wi-Fi Sharing

Genius Scan+

  • iBooks
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Google Docs

JotNot

  • Fax
  • Print
  • Evernote
  • WebDAV/iDisk (MobileMe)
  • Google Docs
  • Dropbox
  • Box.net

DocScanner

  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Google Docs
  • Wi-Fi Sharing
  • Synchronization

Scanner Po

  • iDisk/WebDAV (MobileMe)
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Docs
  • Wi-Fi

File Size

Here are the resulting file sizes for each app:

  • JotNot: Magazine: 1.4Meg, B&W Doc: 590KB, Notebook: 594 KB
  • Genius Scan: Magazine: 504KB, B&W Doc: 213KB, Notebook: 176KB
  • DocScanner: Magazine: 516KB, B&W Doc: 340KB, Notebook: 229KB
  • Scanner Pro: Magazine: 1.8Meg, B&W Doc: 541KB, Notebook: 606KB

Clearly Genius Scan resulted in the smallest files, but DocScanner is pretty good. You can download the PDFs and judge for yourself if the size savings are worth it.

OCR

Of these apps, only DocScanner supports Optical Character Recognition, which means it can make the document searchable.

Having said that, in my tests the results were pretty abysmal. If you want your resulting PDFs to be searchable from a mobile app, you are probably better off doing it on your computer or (if you are a Premium Member), sending it to Evernote.

Wrapup

There you go, a smackdown of four iPhone scanning apps. Of these, JotNot seems to score the highest most consistently, but also produces large files. Genius Scan gives good results and is free, but doesn’t have finely tuned adjustment options.

Do you use a mobile scanning app on the iPhone or Android? Which is your favorite, and what do you use it for?

(Photo by Gonzalo Baeza Hernandez)

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38 Responses to “iPhone Document Scanning App Smackdown”

  1. Aloua March 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    I tried all but Genius Scan was the fastest to use so I stick with it!

    • Peter Stothers May 31, 2012 at 2:55 am #

      I agree. Very easy to use and fast. TIP. If you install the free SkyDrive App from MS, you can upload to SkyDrive on the free version using the "Other Apps' option. Works extremely well.

      • BrooksD May 31, 2012 at 6:49 am #

        Thanks Peter, I actually have not tried SkyDrive. I need to get on that.

  2. @brasmi March 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    I use JotNot Pro almost exclusively on my iPhone, but I have Genius Scan installed in case I want a little variety. I find JotNot's editing and export features work best (I'm an Evernote Premium user) .

    • BrooksD March 30, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      Yeah I have started using JotNot a lot more lately. It's a great product! (As is Genius Scan mind you). I can see how the editing/tweaking functionality of JotNot can come in really handy.

  3. MacAndreas March 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    DocScanner is today free

  4. @wmscotthambrick March 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I just downloaded DocScanner for my iPhone. Great stuff. Thanks for the heads up. I'll be importing this scans from my phone into evernote. My company sells electronic document management software and I am going to recommend this for all of our customers.

    • BrooksD March 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      Great, DocScanner is a great app. We're pretty lucky to have so many choices for iPhone apps.

  5. Liz April 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Just started using GeniusScan. I'm also a DevonThink user and have the DevonThink-To-Go app. A little back-door sneak allows me to scan a document and then get it into DevonThink by selecting to upload the scanned document in iBooks and the next pop-up menu has a DevonThink option. Then I can just use the sync feature to get the documents into my database. It's pretty handy!

    • BrooksD April 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Awesome Liz thanks for the tip!

  6. simon July 30, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    excellent article – thanks

    • BrooksD July 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

      Great Simon, glad it helped.

  7. Judy August 10, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Great article. I never thought of using my smartphone in that manner. Since I've only had my smartphone for two months suggestions like these are appreciated. My phone is an android, so I'll have to check out what scanning apps are available.

    • BrooksD August 10, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Glad it helped Judy. I wish I had an Android device so I could do a similar post. If anyone wants to do one, let me know and I'll put it on the blog.

  8. iMac guy August 15, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    DocScan has greater precision on auto-detecting document and a new shadow removal feature

    • BrooksD August 15, 2011 at 6:48 am #

      Thanks for the input iMac guy!

  9. Tom Murphy December 4, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    With regard to OCR you said: "you are probably better off doing it on your computer or (if you are a Premium Member), sending it to Evernote"

    I'm a Premium Member.. so I wonder if you have tested which of the 4 produces the best image that EN can successfully OCR?

    Tom

    • BrooksD December 4, 2011 at 6:48 am #

      No, I haven't unfortunately. Good idea for a future post though.

  10. David February 13, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    What I liked most about this review was that you actually tested them and described the use cases you used. This is objective as can be, very good. So much better than the tripe that appears on the web of supposed comparisons where the author hasn't even tested the apps.

    • BrooksD February 13, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      Thanks David! Whenever possible, I try to only post about things I actually use, especially in a review. Glad it helped!

  11. horhe February 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    the Magazine and B&W Doc links for the DocScanner are broken.

  12. Joseph April 5, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    The only one to retain full image quality was scanner pro..
    Full quality was retained when exported as PDF, something none of the others did.
    Combined with iPhone 4s’s new camera, you can actually call it a scanner

    Thanks brooks for taking the time to make this article.
    I Hit the like button.

  13. Etienne April 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    A noobie question. Are these apps a real value add in document quality compared to EN Premium?
    With my iphone4s and EN i already create 2-3mn files per page.
    Thanks

  14. Lincoln July 30, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    What do you suggest for scanning old photos?

  15. anon October 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    My scenario: dozens of hand-written journal notebooks, written before computers were common. I want to put each notebook into its own multipage pdf file. I downloaded DocScanner, and it worked okay for multipage docs when there was a small number of pages (like 5 pages or fewer). With more pages it got crashier and buggier. I have a 30 pager on there that I can't even pull up, let alone export. I'll try some others and report back if any work better.

  16. anon October 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Okay, here are my results. I tried DocScanner (as mentioned in the prior comment) and it sucked for my purposes. Then I tried Scanner Pro. I figured being $6.99 maybe it was the best option. It didn't crash the way DocScanner did, but the image quality was terrible and it wasn't clear how to make it better. Lastly, I tried JotNot Pro for $1.99. This one wins, hands down. Very easy to use and lots of options. No trouble uploading, no crashes, and a nice clear image. So if you're wondering what app to use for scanning & uploading multipage handwritten documents, JotNot Pro is your answer. I didn't test OCR because my situation doesn't require it.

    • BrooksD October 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Nice anon, thanks.

  17. Pat June 7, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    A new and free document scanner app is Scandock for iPhone and soon for Android.
    Download the app here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scandock/id578835

    It is fast and easy to use and creates scans in awesome quality. Whats also great about the app is that there is no advertisement or subscription.

    Check also this amazing hardware for it to scan in Professional Quality and go really paperless in your office and job . http://www.scandock.com

    and watch the video of the app in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VX9a0oKqa4

  18. DIJO October 23, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    Launch offer! Get it for free for a very limited time!
    Easy and fast document scanner. Take a picture, adjust it, enhance it, perform OCR on it (great for doing searches on documents), and then export it as pdf to any cloud service you like. Or just print it..
    App Store Link : https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/doc-scan/id711327

  19. DIJO October 30, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Check out this discussion on a new fully featured scanner, simply called 'Doc Scan'. It has auto edge detection, document organizing, export to the cloud and OCR, all included. See http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=20

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