Paper. The curse of our record management as 21st century humans. The promise of computers has always been “the paperless office,” but most computer users have produced more paper, rather than less. The need for a piece of paper for giving information to someone else, “sign and return” situations like leases and contracts, and the wealth of information available only on paper has contributed (via photocopiers) to this avalanche of paper in which we find ourselves. What if I told you that virtually everyone reading these words has, in their possession, a device that will prevent you from ever having to seek out a photocopier. Think I’m crazy? Nope, that device is your smartphone or tablet. These devices have enough horsepower to scan any document, store it, send it, and convert it to text. All that’s missing in most cases is a handy, easy-to-use software package. That’s what SharpScan Pro for iOS offers, and in many ways, it lives up to the hype. Let’s take a closer look.
Note: Images may be clicked or tapped for larger versions. Some text is blurred or obscured for privacy.
SharpScan Pro by Pixelnetica is an easy to use app, delivered, as they all are, through Apple’s App Store. At $3, it’s well within the means of anyone using an iOS device, but if you’re not sure, there’s a free version to try, too. The app opens by asking you to create a document from a camera image, or from an image in a photo album. This page stays in the background, and a popover then loads the excellent video help pages (with YouTube videos of every step of the scanning and converting process). You can choose to skip or view them, but either way, they are easily available from the settings gear in the app.
Once you’ve gotten the general idea of how the tools for post-processing work, you’ll find yourself snapping documents with the regular camera and saving them to edit later, but you may want to start with taking a photo of a document that you’d like to have in your electronic file cabinet. Once you’ve chosen the document, you’ll get an edit screen where you can choose to leave color or grey-scale in the document, or remove it for a black-and-white version. This is the best for straight text. One of the unique things about SharpScan Pro is that, unlike some other scanning programs, they preserve the entire change history of the document. This means if you burn out some details by setting the contrast too high, you can go back in and lower it. The original image data is still there.
I was surprised just how clear the text can be from my iPhone 4s’s camera, with just a little attention paid to lighting details and shadows from folds in the subject. After defining the edges and doing a little bit of editing, it’s easy to get the text from most documents.
Once it’s processed, you can easily move it to your PDF manager of choice using the “Open in…” command. You can also save it as an image file or as a PDF. Glad they don’t force you to use their own PDF editor or storage location, since I’ve got a pile of various other PDF managers and cloud storage. It would be nice if they could integrate Evernote and Google Drive, or maybe even iCloud as alternate storage. But I think everyone who might use this app has a DropBox account.
There are a lot of nicely done features, such as the quick-zoom when you grab a handle to place it on the corner of your scanned item. There’s quite a bit of this type attention to details throughout the app. The flexibility of document handling (save as jpeg in various levels of compression, Dropbox integration, “Open In… with no huge production, like emailing it to yourself) is one of the hallmarks of this app. It’s really clean, simple to use, and powerful.