How to Scan Documents With Your Phone or Tablet

Scan, create, and send PDF documents with your Android or iOS device

Updated features in iOS and Google Drive allow you to scan documents for free with your phone or tablet. A program or app performs the scan using your camera and, in many cases, converts it into a PDF automatically. This guide shows you how to do it, whether you own an Apple or Android device.

This guide applies to iOS 11 and higher.

A Quick Note About Optical Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a process that makes text within a PDF recognizable and readable by other types of programs or apps. OCR (also sometimes referred to as Text Recognition) makes text within a PDF searchable. Many scanner apps, such as Adobe Scan, apply OCR to scanned document PDFs automatically or by selecting this option in preferences.

As of the iOS 11 release, the scanning feature in Notes for iPhone doesn't apply OCR to scanned documents. The scanning option in Google Drive also doesn't automatically apply OCR to scanned PDFs. Some programs can do it, but it can be time-consuming when you need to scan something and get it sent out quickly. If you need OCR features, however, download a third-party app like Adobe Scan.

How to Scan Documents With iOS

The release of iOS 11 added a new scanning feature to Notes. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open the Notes app and tap the icon to create a new note.

  2. Tap the Camera icon above the keyboard and select Scan Document.

    Scan Documents in Notes for iPhone
  3. Position the phone camera over the document. Notes automatically focuses and captures an image, or you do it manually by tapping the shutter button.

  4. After you scan a page, drag the handles to crop the scan. Tap Keep Scan to continue.

    You can also type Retake to scan the document again.

  5. Repeat this process for all the pages you want to scan. When you're finished, press Save.

    Scanning a document in Notes for iPhone

How to Scan Documents With Android

You need Google Drive installed to scan documents with Android. The app generally comes pre-installed on Android devices. If you don't have it, download it for free from the Google Play Store.

  1. Open Google Drive and tap the + symbol.

  2. Under the Create New tab, select Scan.

  3. Position the phone camera over the document and tap the Shutter button when you're ready to capture the image.

  4. Tap the checkmark to keep the scan or tap the trash icon to delete it.

    Scanning a document with Google Drive
  5. Tap the + symbol to scan more images or tap the checkmark to finish and upload your document to Google Drive.

  6. When you finish scanning, enter a file name for your new PDF and choose which folder to save it in.

    Screenshots depicting how to scan a document using Android

How to Scan Documents With Adobe Scan

If you prefer to use a third-party app to scan and create PDFs of documents, Adobe Scan is available for free for both Android and iOS.

Adobe Scan offers an in-app subscription purchase to access additional features and options. However, the free version includes enough features to cover the needs of most users.

While there are several scanner apps, such as Tiny Scanner, Genius Scan, TurboScan, Microsoft Office Lens, and CamScanner, Adobe Scan has all the basics covered in its free version. Adobe scan is easy to navigate and use without much of a learning curve. If you haven’t registered for an Adobe ID (it’s free), you’ll need to set one up to use this app.

Here’s how to scan documents with Adobe Scan:

  1. Open the app and log in with either a Google, Facebook, or Adobe ID.

  2. Tap the screen when you're ready to scan the document. The app finds the borders and takes a picture for you.

  3. Drag the handles to adjust the borders if necessary, then press Continue.

  4. Tap the photo to open up the editing and saving options. Here, you can rotate it, crop it, tweak the color, and more. When you're ready, tap Save PDF in the upper-right corner of the screen to save it.

    Scanning a document in Adobe Scan