How to Scan Documents With Your Phone or Tablet

Scan, create, and send PDF documents with your iOS or Android 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 13 and higher and Android 11 and higher.

A Quick Note About Optical Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR), sometimes called Text Recognition, is a process that makes text within a PDF recognizable, searchable, and readable by other types of programs or apps. Many scanner apps, such as Adobe Scan, apply it to PDFs automatically, or you can select 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's time-consuming when you need to send something quickly. If you need OCR features, though, you can 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 create a new note.

  2. Tap the Camera icon and select Scan Documents.

    A new note in the iOS Notes app with the Scan Documents option highlighted.
  3. Position the phone camera over the document. Notes automatically focuses and captures an image, or you can do it manually by tapping the shutter button.

    A scan of a recipe in the iOS Notes app.
  4. After you scan a page, drag the handles to crop the scan. Tap Keep Scan to continue.

    A scanned recipe in the iOS Notes app with the Keep Scan option highlighted.

    You can also select Retake to scan the document again.

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

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 check mark to keep the scan or tap the back arrow icon to retake it.

    You can scan a document using Google Drive.
  5. Tap the + symbol to scan more images or tap Save to finish and upload your document to Google Drive. There are also options to crop the scan, rotate it, or change the color.

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

    You can add more documents after scanning one in Google Drive.

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 iOS and Android.

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. It's easy to navigate and use without much of a learning curve. If you haven't registered for an Adobe ID (it's free), you 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 or the shutter button 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 tap Continue.

  4. The app automatically takes more scans if necessary. If you don't want to do that, tap the scan's thumbnail to display the editing and saving options. Here, you can rotate it, crop it, change 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 on Android

    After you select Save to PDF, tapping the More icon displays options for the new file. You can choose to save it to Google Drive, copy it to your device, print it, delete it, and more.