How to Scan from Your iPad or iOS device – The Basics

Scanner Pro 7 icon Evernote icon onenote-icon-ios acrobat-reader icon

There are times when you are out and want to capture images of documents to use later. These documents could be receipts, tests, business cards, brochures, handwritten notes, etc. This is not an app specific post. Instead, the basics of how to scan are discussed. Also, different options to consider when choosing a scanning app are briefly mention.

There are many apps that help you with the task of capturing images to use later. These apps include: Evernote, Adobe Acrobat, Scanner Pro (a personal favorite for capturing multipage documents), ScanSnap, and OneNote, which can also capture whiteboards you may have created or seen in class.

Here are the basic steps of capturing documents using apps on your iOS device:

  1. Open app and give it access to your iOS camera
  2. Take a picture of the document (take another if more than one page)
  3. Edit it for clarity and perform optional steps like OCR, image correction, rotation, etc.
  4. Name it
  5. Store it on the device, in the cloud, or in another app or share it.

You need to select an app that will be capturing the document. As to which app to select, think to yourself, how do you want to access that document later on? Will you want to access if from the cloud, from your device, from a different app on a different device or computer, etc. There are many different apps and opinions on which apps do those tasks the best, you should find one that you feel works for your workflow.

Theoretically, you can just use your Camera app, take a picture and then share the image using various methods like email or send it to a cloud service or another app.

Below is an image of a receipt captured using just the Camera of my iPhone.


You will notice several things. First, it is always better to have the document you are attempting to capture against a contrasting background or surface. That makes it easier for apps like Scanner Pro, Evernote, etc. to attempt to automatically distinguish the document from the background and capture only document as is seen below. There are apps that actively try to distinguish and find the document or receipt and capture only the document instead of everything in the camera’s eye.  Basically, it attempts to find the borders by comparing the document to the background it is against.

Also, the app may use the flash from your iPhone or other methods to try to eliminate shadows or crumple marks from the document or receipt. To get the best results, it is always best to try to use wrinkle free documents and good lighting when capturing the document.

When that is not possible, different apps use various methods to try to boost the image quality and readibility. Be careful using the flash, because it cam throw too much light and cause the text of the document to become unreadable. Experiment and try to find the right combination of natural light and try to avoid creating shadows when you hold your camera over the document.

Below, Scanner Pro shows you the edge border it has detected and allows you to wait to take the picture or adjust the camera angle until the border is properly detected.


Once the app has captured the image, you may be presented with what the app believes is a good version of the capture. If you like it, you can keep it. If not, you can edit it by moving the little dots to a different place to have the app capture all of the document’s details and edges that you may want. This is shown below.

Find Borders

After you have adjusted the image or modified the color to make it look its sharpest and cleanest, the next step is to save the document. Once the document is saved, you can then store it in the cloud with services like Dropbox, iCloud, Box, etc.

Some apps have additional features that are very handy like OCR (optical character recognition). The app will perform OCR from the information in the document or receipt itself to make searching and retrieval easier later.

The purpose of this post was to walk you through the basics of capturing documents using your iOS device. Hopefully, this information can help you better understand the process so you can make a good decision as to which app works best for you.



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