Dueling Scanners: 2 Free iOS Scanner Apps You Should Have

One category of iOS apps that I've found to be increasingly useful is document scanners.

Scanning a document is more than taking a snapshot and turning it into a black and white photo. The better apps use sophisticated algorithms to enhance the text so that you have maximum readability, even when the document scanned is in a lest than optimum environment.

Free on iTunes: Scanner apps!

Think about it. A dedicated scanner optimizes the scan by flattening the document, flooding it with light and recording the document bit by bit. An app on your iOS has no such luxury. We're asking it to make sense of a document in poor lighting, often crumpled and in various shapes and sizes. And we want the results readable, shareable, and even modifiable.

What makes pocket doc scanners so useful? All you need to do is open your wallet, purse, or briefcase. Receipts you must keep, business cards, signed documents, lunch menus from that new place you went to yesterday, a phone number scribbled on a napkin, all of this and more can be so easily lost. Just the other day the receipt for my newly purchase headsets flew out my car window. Had I scanned it I'd have a record of the purchase in case I need to take them back. At least I know what happened to it. I don't have a clue where I put other receipts, or they could be so much confetti in the bottom of my shredder. Pocket doc scanners can help with that.

I'm always finding new ways to use these apps, too. Whiteboard/blackboard scanning is a biggie. Handwritten notes I want to send to others, copies of recipes, labels from beer or wine that I tried and liked (or truly hated), and more are all fair game for such apps.

Lucky for us this is one category that is not underserved in iOS-land. I'm going to take a look at two scanner apps, both capable and both are free. Both apps work basically the same; you use the iOS device camera to take a photo of the document to be scanned, but that's where the similarities end. My job here is to point out the differences and any advantage or disadvantage they may imply. So, lets get to it.

JotNot Scanner [21.2 MB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: MobiTech 3000 LLC]

JotNotJust snap a scan in JotNot...

I've talked about JotNot Scanner here before. It's simple to use, which makes it really handy to have around. Point the device camera at the doc to be scanned, center the doc on the screen, hold it steady for a second and snap the scan. JotNot Scanner then shows you what you've scanned, but with an adjustable grid around it that closely approximates the document's border. Here you can adjust the grid to get it even closer alignment with the document's edges. This matters because the software uses that shape to "flatten" the document and reduce text distortion.

JotNot...it allows you to refine the framing before the scan is processed

The result is a high contrast PDF that is very readable. You can scan multiple docs in a single "session" and they'll be saved that way, though you can still get to the individual docs if you want.

JotnotGood results

JotNot Scanner can use many of the cloud storage services available, including Dropbox and Evernote, for the price of the upgrade. Sadly no iCloud access. If you don't want to upgrade, the free app allows WiFi sharing, which is a little cumbersome, but works. You can use iTunes file sharing as well, which is also cumbersome, but works.

You'll likely use a scanner occasionally, if so then JotNot Scanner might fit the bill.

Scanner Mini [48 MB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 7.0 or later, Maker: Igor Zhadanov]

Scanner miniScanner Mini frames the doc for you. Should good enough.

As with JotNot Scanner, Scanner Mini is simple to use. Point, center, and click. The difference, however, is that Scanner Mini formats the document for you. No adjustment is allowed. In fact you can see Scanner Mini attempt to find the document borders as you are about the take the scan, an outline appears where the app thinks the border is. Often it's right, but I've found it can be a bit off in low light or low contrast situations, which doesn't happen often enough to worry about.

scanner miniand it is.

The result is a document that is readable and in PDF format. The app organizes your scans too, so finding stuff is easy.

Scanner Mini offers iCloud as a default storage service, which is great because you know your scans are backed up. You can also use WiFi sharing if you can figure out how.

Actually WiFi sharing is not hard, just, well, cumbersome: First, the devices have to be on the same network. Next, open Safari on the device you want to import the files to and enter the IP address of the device where the files are stored. You should see a list of files available for downloading. Finally, tap the one you want. When it's done downloading you can open it in iBooks or other apps that read PDF files.

scanner miniboth apps have great file handling, but sharing is cumbersome

This hits on the real problem with both JotNot Scanner and Scanner Mini. While you can scan to your heart's content, viewing what you've scanned in anything other than the app will be a challenge, unless you pay to upgrade.

Either JotNot Scanner and Scanner Mini can come in handy when you need a scanner, and you'd be surprised how often you'll use one.

That's a wrap for this week. Also, take a look at Cinamatic, a short movie making app, and Busy Earnin' by Jungle, this week's Free Single of the Week.