How to Scan Documents as PDFs or Images on Android and iPhone

Document scanning is one of those things we all deal with at one point or another in our professional and personal lives. Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on a big, clunky machine to digitize our documents. All you really need is a phone with a camera. There are many ways to scan documents with your smartphone. The process is a bit different on Android phones than iPhones, but there’s not much to do. In this article, we will explain how to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS.

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There are many ways to scan a specific document and digitize it in your preferred format using a smartphone. Both the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store are probably filled with hundreds of apps that can do this for you in no time. In this article, we’re going to focus on one particular app that we think is extremely reliable and will help you create a digital version of your documents in no time – Microsoft Lens.

Microsoft Lens is a standalone app that you can download from both the Google Play Store and the App Store. You don’t have to use Microsoft’s Office suite or any other service to use this particular app. You can download Microsoft Lens for free on your phone and it gives you everything you need to digitize your physical documents. The steps to scan a document with Microsoft Lens are practically the same on Android and iOS, so we only show you the screenshots taken on an iPhone to help you understand with limited screenshots.

How to scan documents on Android and iOS

  • The first thing you need to do is download Microsoft Lens on your smartphone. Android users can download it from Google Play Store while iPhone users can download it from App Store.


  • After downloading the app, open it and grant all necessary permissions to get started. Microsoft Lens will ask permission to access your phone’s camera to scan the documents. It will also ask your permission to access the photo gallery on any platform as it can also scan the documents that are already saved as images on your phone.
  • Now that you are ready to scan the documents, swipe down to switch between different modes. You want to use the Document scanner for this task.
  • After choosing the right mode, align your document in the viewfinder and wait for the app to recognize it. It’s almost instantaneous on both Android and iOS.
  • Once properly aligned, simply tap the trigger to capture the document.
  • After capturing the document, you can either enhance the image before saving it as a digitized version, or scan additional pages to add to the same document. Tap the Add to icon to add more pages, or just click the icon Finished after making the necessary adjustments to save the digitized version.


Scan documents in Android

  • On the next page you will first see an option to rename the document along with a range of export options. You can either save the digitized version of the document to Gallery (Photos app on iOS) or export it as a PDF. Choose your preferred option and you’re good to go.

Well, it’s that easy to scan documents as PDFs or images on Android and iOS. Microsoft Office Lens, as mentioned earlier, is one of the many apps that you can use to do the same. You’re free to explore other options as well, but we think the Office Lens app is the easiest to use on the list.


Alternative ways to scan documents on Android and iOS

If you don’t want to use Microsoft’s Office Lens app to scan the documents, here are some alternative ways you can scan documents on Android and iOS:

Use Google Drive on Android

Alternatively, you can also use the Google Drive app on Android to scan and save documents as PDFs. The reason we recommend Google Drive as an alternative for Android is that most phones come with it by default, so you probably don’t need to download and install anything new. Here’s how you can scan a document with Google Drive in a few simple steps:

  • Open the Google Drive app and tap the floating “+” action button on the main screen.
  • Now tap on the scan Option to create PDFs.

Scan documents to Google Drive

  • Then simply line up your document in the viewfinder and press the shutter button to capture it. The app can automatically correct perspectives so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Once done, you can easily optimize the scanned document and save it as a PDF. In addition, you can also re-record the existing document or even add more pages.


Scan and save documents to Google Drive

Google Drive, in case you don’t know, doesn’t let you save scans as images. The PDFs are exported directly to your Google Drive linked to your account. From here, you can either download another app to convert your scanned PDF to a JPEG, or simply take a screenshot of the scanned document to save as an image on your phone.

Note: Capturing a screenshot of the PDF file to save as a JPEG is just a shortcut method. While the quality of the screenshot itself may be good, it’s not a true substitute for an actual image file exported using a dedicated app.

Use Apple’s Notes app on iOS

On iOS, you can use Apple’s Notes app, which comes preinstalled on all iPhones. This simple note-taking app has an option that allows you to scan documents and save them as PDFs on your phone. That’s how it’s done:

  • Open the Notes app and create a new note. Now tap on the camera icon and then select the scan documents possibility from within.

Scan documents with the Notes app on iOS

  • When you bring the document into the camera’s field of view, the app will automatically scan the document and take you to the next page. Auto mode is on by default, but you can turn it off to take a scan manually with the shutter button.
  • You can then crop the scanned document to select the part you want to scan.


Scan and crop documents in Notes app on iOS

  • If you are not happy with the scan, just tap repetition option to try again, or press the Finished button to save the scan. Alternatively, you can also apply filters and change the look of your scanned document on this page.
  • When you view the document after clicking Done on the next page, you will see a share button that allows you to save the document as a file on your iPhone or share it with your friends or other saved contacts through different apps.

Save and share documents on iOS

Like Google Drive on Android phones, the document scanned with Notes on iOS cannot be saved as an image. You can either take a screenshot of the scanned document or download a third-party app to export the PDF to JPG. Many apps, including PDF Export Lite and PDFelement, allow you to do this in a few simple steps.


Final Thoughts

Well, that brings us to the end of this particular tutorial. Using Microsoft Lens is perhaps one of the best ways to scan a document and save it as a PDF or image on Android or iOS. You can also use the other methods mentioned in the article if you just want to export your scanned document to PDF. Which method do you think is the best to scan a document and save it as a PDF or image on Android and iOS? Let us know by dropping a line in the comments below.


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