How to Scan Documents to Your Phone or Tablet

Scan, make, and send PDF documents straight from your Android or iPhone

Woman scanning man's notebook with smartphone

Updated features in iOS 11 and Google Drive allow you to scan documents for free with your phone or tablet easier than ever. If you prefer an app, Adobe Scan is a free scanner app that works for both iPhone and Android.

Scan Documents Using Your Smartphone

When you need to scan a document, you can skip the search for a friend or business with a scanner because you can scan documents for free using your smartphone or tablet. How does it work? A program or app on your phone performs the scan using your camera and, in many cases, converts it to a PDF automatically for you. You can also use your tablet to scan documents; however, when you’re on the go, a phone scan is often the fastest and most handy option.

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 does not apply OCR to scanned documents. The scanning option in Google Drive using Android devices also does not automatically apply OCR to scanned PDFs. There are programs that can apply OCR to previously scanned documents but it can be time-consuming when you just need to quickly scan a document and get it sent out. If you know you will need OCR features, you can skip down to the Adobe Scan section of this article.

How to Scan and Send Documents With iPhone

Scanning document with iPhone Notes tutorial

The release of iOS 11 added a new scanning feature to Notes, so to use this option, first make sure your iPhone has been updated to iOS 11. No room for an update? Free up space to make room for this update or see the Adobe Scan option later in this article.

Here are the steps to scan a document to iPhone using the scan feature in Notes:

  1. Open Notes.
  2. Tap the icon of a square with a pencil in it to create a new note.
  3. Tap the circle with the + in it.
  4. A menu appears above your keyboard. In that menu, again tap the circle with the + in it.
  5. Select Scan Documents.
  6. Position your phone’s camera over the document to be scanned. Notes will automatically focus and capture an image of your document or you can control this manually by tapping the shutter button yourself.
  7. After you have scanned a page, Notes will show you a preview and provide the options to either Keep Scan or Retake.
  8. When you have finished scanning all pages, you can review a list of your scanned documents in Notes. If you need to make corrections, such as cropping the image or rotating the image, simply tap the image of the page you want to correct and it will open that page with editing options displayed.
  9. When you are finished with any corrections, tap Done in the upper left corner to automatically save your adjusted scan.
  10. When you’re ready to lock the scan down as a PDF, tap the Upload icon. You can then choose to create a PDF, copy to another program, and so on.
  1. Tap Create PDF. The PDF of your scanned document will open in Notes.
  2. Tap Done.
  3. Notes will bring up the option to Save File To. Select where you would like your PDF file saved to, then Tap Add. Your PDF is now saved in the location you’ve selected and ready for you to attach and send out.

Sending a Scanned Document from iPhone
Once you’ve scanned your document and have it saved in your preferred location, you’re ready to attach it to an email and send it along like any regular attachment.

  1. From your email program, start composing a new email message. From that message, select the option to add an attachment (often a paperclip icon).
  2. Navigate to the location you selected to save your PDF to, such as iCloud, Google Drive, or your device.

If you have difficulty locating your scanned document, check in the Files folder. The Files folder is a feature released in the iOS 11 update. If you have several documents in your Files folder, you can use the Search option to locate your desired file faster by file name. Select the document you want to attach and it’s ready to email.

How to Scan and Send Documents With Android

Scanning with Android tutorial

To scan with Android, you will need Google Drive installed. If you don’t already have Google Drive, it’s a free download in the Google Play Store.

Here are the steps to scan a document to your Android phone using Google Drive:

  1. Open Google Drive.
  2. Tap the circle with the + inside it.
  3. Tap Scan (label is under the camera icon).
  4. Position your phone camera over the document to be scanned and tap the blue shutter button when you are ready to capture the scan.
  5. Drive will automatically open a copy of your scan. You can adjust your scan using the options on the top right of the screen to crop, rotate, rename, and adjust color. When you’ve finished with your adjustments, tap the check mark.
  6. Drive will present a preview of your adjusted document. If it looks good, tap the check mark again and the PDF of your scan will automatically be uploaded to Google Drive for you.

Sending a Scanned Document from Android
Sending a scanned document from Android requires only a couple of quick steps.

  1. From your email program (assuming Gmail), tap Compose to begin a new email message.
  2. Tap the paperclip to add an attachment and choose the option to add an attachment from Google Drive.
  3. Locate your scanned PDF and select it to attach it to your email.
  4. Finish and send your email per usual to send your scanned document.

Alternately, you can download a copy of your scanned document to your device. If you are attaching a document you have downloaded to your device, on most Android devices, downloaded PDFs are usually stored in Downloads.

How to Scan and Send Documents With Adobe Scan

Adobe Scan tutorial

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

This app does offer an in-app subscription purchase to access additional features and options. However, the free version includes all of the features needed to cover the needs of most users.

While there are quite a few scanner apps out there such as Tiny Scanner, Genius Scan, TurboScan, Microsoft Office Lens, and CamScanner to name just a few, Adobe Scan has all of the basics covered in the free version and is easy to navigate and use without much of a learning curve. If you haven’t already 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 (on iPhone for this example, Android differences noted where applicable):

  1. Open Adobe Scan. You may need to log-in with your Adobe ID when you use the app for the first time.
  2. Adobe Scan automatically opens in scanning mode using your phone’s camera. However, if for some reason this doesn’t happen, tap the camera icon in the lower right corner when you are ready to scan a document.
  3. Position camera over the document to be scanned. The scanner will focus and capture the page automatically.
  4. You can scan multiple pages by simply switching out the page, and the program will capture pages automatically until you tap the thumbnail image in the lower right corner.
  5. Your scan will open in a preview screen that allows you to make corrections such as cropping and rotating. Tap Save PDF in the upper right corner and the PDF of your scan will be automatically uploaded to your Adobe Document Cloud.

If you prefer to have your PDFs save to your device instead, you can change your preferences in the app’s settings to save your scans to your device under Photos (iPhone) or Gallery (Android). The app also provides options to share your scanned files to Google Drive, iCloud, or directly to Gmail.

Sending a Scanned Document from Adobe Scan
The simplest way to send a scanned document from Adobe Scan is to share it to your desired email app. Just make sure you have granted Adobe Scan permission to use your email app. We’ll use Gmail as an example in our steps below.

  1. Open Adobe Scan.
  2. Adobe Scan automatically opens in scanning mode. To exit scanning mode, tap the X in the upper left corner.
  3. Find the document you want to send. Under the thumbnail image of the document next to the time and date of the scan, tap the three dots to open options for that document (iPhone) or tap Share (Android).
  4. For iPhone, select Share File > Gmail. A new Gmail message will open with your document attached and ready. Just compose your message, add the email address of the recipient, and send along.
  5. For Android, after you tap Share in the step above, the app will give you options to Email to, Share File, or Share Link. Select Email to > Gmail. A new Gmail message will open with your document attached and ready to be sent.