Mark Bridge writes:
Every so often, I see a new product that I’d like to review. I’ll usually send a note to the relevant company, borrow a review copy and send it back when I’ve finished.
And every so often I’ll be approached by a company that wants me to review a product. Sometimes I’ll say yes, sometimes I’ll say no. It all depends whether or not I think I’m the right person for the job.
When IntSig offered me a copy of a mobile application called CamScanner, I wasn’t too sure. It seemed very clever... but I wasn’t convinced I’d have much use for it. Eventually curiosity overtook my caution, I accepted the offer and installed the app.
CamScanner, which is available for iPhone and Android devices, does pretty much what the name suggests. It turns the phone’s camera into a scanner, enabling users to photograph documents and then save or email the resulting file.
At this point you’re probably saying “but I can already send photos without needing an app”. You’re absolutely right. That’s what I thought, too.
However, there are two aspects of CamScanner that set it apart from a mere camera.
One is the choice of file types. As well as sending photos as JPEG files, it’s possible to turn your scanned documents into a pdf document. Eight pages of text can become an 8-page pdf document, not eight separate photos. And, of course, it’s not just restricted to scanning A4 pages. Anything from business cards to whiteboards can be photographed.
The next trick - and this is what justifies the product’s name - is the photo processing. A conventional photo of a document is unlikely to show pure black printing on a bright white background, even if that’s how it started. What happens if you’re taking your picture through glass... or at an angle... or accidentally include something else as well?
CamScanner handles all of those issues very well. Cropping, skewing and enhancing images takes place automatically on a preview screen but all aspects - including contrast, brightness and detail - can be overridden manually. Documents can be scanned by starting the app and tapping the camera button or by loading a previously-taken photo from the gallery. It’s also possible to ‘batch process’ a number of images together.
All that’s missing from the Android version is OCR (optical character recognition) to search text within images, although uploading my pdf to Google Drive or the premium version of Evernote enables me to do this. The CamScanner iPhone app already has a ‘search text within image’ option.
If I regularly compiled reports about site visits or ended up with piles of receipts to claim, I’d definitely want this. I can see students using the app for note-taking, particularly as the pdf files can be tagged with keywords.
And even though I’m not the perfect target for CamScanner, I’ve still put the app to plenty of use. Proof of posting, copies of menus, magazine articles, newspaper stories... all copied and filed. In fact, filing is something else that CamScanner makes easy. Sharing options within the application include online storage, cloud printing and even fax (at an extra cost) along with email and Bluetooth.
CamScanner is available in free (ad-funded) and paid-for (ad-free) versions. UK pricing is currently £2.99 for the iOS version and £3.99 for Android.