Scanning Documents With Your iPhone

scanning documents with iphone

As we’ve downsized our technology onto portable smartphones, scanners have become less common in homes. That might not be an issue most of the year, but we’re coming up on tax time and you probably have a stack of documents you would like to digitize to make tax prep easier. It’s time to break out your iPhone and discover how it can be used as a document scanner.

There is more than one way to harness the power of your iPhone’s camera to scan documents. You can either use its built-in abilities or download an app. Apple introduced a nifty document scanning feature with iOS 11 in 2017, but you have to know where to find it. 

While scanning is great for gathering your receipts and other critical tax-time paperwork, you can use it year-round to help you declutter your paper piles, capture back-up copies of important documents, and for sharing files with colleagues or clients. Let’s start scanning!

Use the Notes app

Apple’s Notes app is already set up to work as a document scanner. Start a new note, or open an existing note. Touch the plus-sign icon and choose Scan Documents. If you don’t see the plus sign, make sure you’re running iOS 11 or higher and that Notes is turned on in your iCloud settings.

The scanner should be set to Auto mode. Point the camera at the document to be scanned. It will automatically seek out the corners of the documents and scan an image. In manual mode, you can adjust the focus and hit the shutter button. You will then need to adjust the corners of the document and save it.

The scanned document will now be inserted into your note. Tap on it to open it. The small square with the curved arrow lets you reorient the document. The overlapping three dots let you put the document into grayscale, black and white, or treat it as a photo. You can also crop the document further or share it through email.

The sharing button, which looks like a rectangle with an arrow pointing upward, also lets you turn the scan into a PDF, print it, copy it, or use the Markup feature. Markup lets you draw on the document, add text, or add a signature.

The Notes document scanner is simple to use and will get your documents digitized fast. If you need more capabilities than it gives you, then check out our recommendation for a powerful scanning app, CamScanner.

Use CamScanner

CamScanner is one of the highest-rated document scanning apps in Apple’s App Store. If you need more features than you can get through Notes, then this is the app to try. It’s a free download.

As with Apple’s Notes, CamScanner has an auto feature that finds the corners of your document and crops it automatically. You can quickly turn your documents into PDFs, making it easy to store and share them.

One particularly useful feature is OCR, optical character recognition, where CamScanner will recognize and extract words inside your documents. This helps with searching and editing documents. Just keep in mind that OCR isn’t perfect and doesn’t always get the words right.

CamScanner manages to pack quite a few more features into the app, including the ability to mark up a document and make template-based collages. There are also some fun extras, like a greeting-card wizard and a QR code scanner.

If you like CamScanner, you have the option to upgrade for a $4.99 per month subscription. You get more cloud storage space, no ads and the ability to export PDF files without a watermark.

Apple’s Notes app is a great starting point for basic document scanning. It’s capable and ready to go, but you can always check out CamScanner if you need to up your game. Either way, you’ll be ready to tackle your tax documents well before the filing deadline.


“Use Your Iphone To Scan Documents.” The Kim Komando Show, 2019

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