Use Genius Scan To Be An iPhone Scanning Genius

Use Genius Scan To Be An iPhone Scanning Genius

Longtime readers of my newsletter will remember the update that I wrote while sitting on a mall floor, waiting in line for an iPhone 4. I didn’t actually get an iPhone that day (missed the cutoff by 4 people, not that I am bitter), but I did eventually pick one up.

Prior to having an iPhone, I was pretty skeptical of document scanning apps on mobile devices. Did they really work? I personally didn’t believe it.

Now that I have my baby phone, I have been giving some of the apps a whirl.

First up is Genius Scan from The Grizzly Labs. Why did I start with Genius Scan? The basic version, which does most of what I’d need is free (my favorite price!).

How These Apps Work

Document scanning apps work pretty much the same. You use the iPhone’s camera to take pictures of the pages of your document, and then they do some cleanup and processing and in most cases export as PDF somehow.

Taking A Picture

When you first start the app up, you have a choice whether to import a document from the camera or your library, you’ll also be presented with a list of your recently-taken documents, of which I don’t have any here.

Genius Scan

In our case we’ll take a picture so I’ll hit Camera.

You’ll be tempted to put the iPhone over top of the document and take a picture straight down. In most cases this won’t be ideal because you’ll create a shadow on the image. Try to take it at a slight angle. Don’t worry, the software is going to correct that.

Picture Preview

When you are happy with your image, hit Use.


Once you’ve taken the picture, Genius Scan will try to guess at what part of the image contains the actual document. Usually it is pretty good, though in this example it only picked out a bit of it.

Orange box

Not a problem, just use your finger to drag the orange part over the whole document, and it will look like this.

Orange box corrected

Once you’re done, hit Select.

It has now cropped out the rest of the image and brought the information forward. You can click the Enhancement button and switch between Color and Black and White. Since this document is B&W, I am going to change that.

At this point if you need to rotate it, go for it.

Image Processed

If you are ready to send it to someone (or yourself), you can hit the Share button on the bottom right, but I am going to save it as a new document by tapping the icon on the bottom-left.

Save New Document

Once you do that, you can rename it and then at that point you can either export it to Email or iBooks, or add a new page.

Taking Multiple Pages

To create a multiple-page document, the easiest way is to hit the plus sign icon in the bottom left after saving the first page. After you take the image, tap the folder icon at the bottom left (like you did with the first page), but this time choose “Save To Current Document”.

Two pages

Notice that in this screenshot I had forgotten to set the second page to Black & White like I had the first page. Whoops. If I hit the Edit menu, you can see that I can delete or move around the page. In this case I will delete and re-take the page.

Delete Page


Taking a bunch of pictures of documents doesn’t do you much good if you can’t get them off your phone. There are a number of ways to share.

Share By Email

You can email the PDF from your device. When you are looking at the document, hit the share button in the bottom-right corner. Tap “Email” to share by email. The document will be sent as a PDF attachment.

Email document

Share By Wifi

When you are at the main Document menu of Genius Scan, tap on the little Gear icon up in the top-left. From there, you can set Wifi Sharing to On.

Wifi Sharing

If you have a computer on the same wifi network, you can use a web browser to go to the listed address. Unfortunately I am writing this at Starbucks and I think they must be blocking the port so I can’t get to it to show you a screenshot.

Upgrade to Genius Scan+

If you want more sharing options, you can upgrade to Genius Scan+. Aside from getting rid of the ads, it allows you to save the document to Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Docs.

Since my love affair with Dropbox (and Evernote for that matter) is well-documented, in the interests of science I will upgrade and try it for you.

Note: If you are going to upgrade, make sure you do it by clicking the link inside the app. If you buy Genius Scan+ through the app store in addition to plain old Genius Scan, you will have two apps and your documents will still be in the free one.

Now that I have upgraded, you can see I have a number of new sharing options.

Genius Scan Plus

Let’s try Dropbox. Once I authenticate and choose the folder, it uploads it to Dropbox.

Document uploaded to Dropbox

Hey look, there it is!


Here are some examples of a black and white menu and a color magazine article that I snapped using Genius Scan if you want to check them up.


There are a few drawbacks of these iPhone apps in general and Genius Scan in particular.

In general, these apps are really dependent on the light that you have around. In the magazine article above, there was a lot of sunlight coming through the window and shining on the page, which is why it looks a bit washed out.

With respect to Genius Scan, it does (in my opinion) a really good job at taking a skewed image and making it straight. Using that magazine article again, it wasn’t at all flat when I took the image.

Another drawback is a lack of OCR. Any documents that I take with Genius Scan that I want made searchable will have to be done later. Not a biggie, but just something to be aware of.

All in all, I like Genius Scan a lot. If you want to see a cool video that the company made to show the software’s capabilities, check this out:

Do you use a mobile scanning app? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 15 comments

Claudia - September 14, 2017 Reply

I’m an old-fashioned “girl”. I want INSTRUCTIONS. Where does one find such an apparently outmoded set of sequential HOW TOs, so as to most efficiently absorb all the possible info, thereby maximizing Genius Scan’s full potential?

nancy - January 8, 2017 Reply

how do you delete saved documents off of IPHONE?

Aaron - November 7, 2016 Reply

How can I edit my scanned document

Epenny - July 21, 2014 Reply

I accidently erased app and lost all my documents how do I retrieve them

Sandy - June 24, 2014 Reply

I’ve been using genius scan here at work on new report requirements and sent to send it to my home office and it would not send. Now, it won’t cancel, inorder for me to get back to the app. When I turn off my phone and go back into the icon, I get the same page – not my scanned documents.

Page reads:

Cancel New Message Send

I cannot get out and go back to the scanning page.
Help, please
Thank you,

Genius Scan Is Coming To Android | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - March 15, 2012 Reply

[…] scanning apps for smartphones are becoming better and better. One great one that I have written about a few times is Genius Scan. It has been one of my favorite iOS scanning apps for quite some […]

DocumentSnap Time Machine | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - December 25, 2011 Reply

[…] Use Genius Scan To Be An iPhone Scanning Genius This was my first foray into the world of iPhone scanning apps. Genius Scan is still a great, free choice. […]

@eugmandel - December 24, 2010 Reply

Lack of OCR in Genius Scan is not a big deal for me – if you send the scanned PDFs to Evernote, they will run OCR and make the documents searchable (at least the pro version does that). Genius Scan and Evernote is a "match made in heaven" – the first does one thing well (high quality scanning), the other provides storage, tagging, search and access from multiple devices (e.g., your iPhone and your laptop).

    Brooks Duncan - December 24, 2010 Reply

    Good point about using the right tool for each job. Thanks for your comment!

      Brooks - August 12, 2011 Reply

      Has anybody tried a new product called ShopNote by King Jim out of Japan. seems like they have a way to organize your notes, without sending it to a organizatio tool like drop box. Not sure if it is cumbersome, becasue you are required to use thier paper witch has markings to allow for organiatiion, more for note taking?

pendolino - December 23, 2010 Reply

Welcome to the club! I've been using Jotnot on my iPhone for a while now and still think its the best after using Genius (free version) and another one that's name I forget.

What I found annoying about Genius was that there was no way to make a scan B/W instead of a shaded/colored format. Jotnot does this nicely. Otherwise Genius is pretty cool too.

They both also upload to Evernote.

    Brooks Duncan - December 23, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the tip, I'll check out JotNot. Genius actually can change it to B&W by hitting the Enhancement button before saving it, but maybe that's a recent change. I'll check out JotNot and maybe do a future post about it.

      pendolino - December 23, 2010 Reply

      Interesting. I will take another look at Genius as well. FYI Jotnot developer responds to emails regularly if you need help.

    timi - August 15, 2011 Reply

    I found that the latest Genius Scan actually does allow to enhance to b/w as well as colour.

      Brooks Duncan - August 17, 2011 Reply

      Thanks timi, I've been meaning to do a follow-up post on the new Genius Scan. You've given me extra motivation.

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