The Best OCR apps to scan documents in an iPhone or Android

shackles, contracts or even old jobs that are “stuck” to paper. But it is already possible, with just a smartphone, to scan all this to create files where we can even search for words.

Many of the documents we receive today have to have a paper copy for legal reasons. For example, gas, electricity or water bills still received by mail must be kept for six months: this is the deadline provided for in Article 10 of the Essential Public Utilities Act (No 23/96, 26 July). After this time you can recycle the paper, but if you want to organize your expenses over the years you can scan these documents and save them on your computer or in an online cloud service.

The smartphone camera as a scanner

For some time now, you do not have to have a dedicated scanner or a multifunction printer at home to scan documents: there are several applications for iOS and Android that can use the camera on your smartphone to “mimic” this feature.
The result may be surprising: applications automatically balance tones and create digital documents that appear to have been made by a professional machine. So it’s time to put together the paperwork to start a simple and easy scanning process, which will even allow you, when finished, to search for words that are in the same documents.

1 – Gather Paperwork

There are two basic types of paper documents: those that are handwritten and those that are written on computers (or, as they say, “on the machine”). Each of them has to take a different approach since one of the objectives is to be able to search for words in one of our future digital documents – and for that, we need to use a technology called optical character recognition (OCR), in free translation). What OCR does is identify the letters in a document to make the words editable and therefore searchable.
However, this technology has a lower success rate in cases of handwritten texts, because the way of writing some letters varies from person to person, not to mention the confusion of some calligraphy, for example, OCR Try to understand what a doctor writes? So the best way to turn these documents into digital versions will be in PDF and photos, with no character recognition capability. So the first thing to do is to separate the roles you have in two groups: the handwritten and the computer writings.

In this guide we will compile the “scanned” documents into ebooks, which will be especially useful for archiving documents by topic: for example, all gas bills received in 2018. In the division you do, separate the paperwork by topic, so this is easier to do.

2 – Download the apps

As promised, we will only use our smartphones to scan the invoices or other documents that we want to save on the computer. For Android, we will use the text fairly application and, for iOS, Prizmo Go. Both are free, but the latter requires the purchase of the export package (essential for copying and pasting the scanned text) for $5.49.

3 – Create a scanned PDF Ebook

The reason we are going to create text searchable files is that we want to make it easy to browse and browse our scans. To help with this task, we’ll use the ePub format that opens directly in Microsoft’s Edge browser (which comes with Windows 10) and provides search and indexing tools by default. However, if you use Chrome or Firefox you will need to use a separate plugin for the browser to read ePub.
There are paid options to create this kind of files, but we’ll use Google Docs, which does this for free.

If you have an Android, Google’s productivity suite should already be installed by default – just look for the blue and white icon that imitates a page. If you have an iPad or an iPhone you can download Docs (free) from the App Store: apple.co/2wy5KIt. in both cases, you need to have a Google account to use the app, so if you do not already have one, create it at accounts.google.com/signup.

Then open the app and tap the ‘+’ symbol and ‘New document’ and paste the text copied from your scans. You can then format the text with the justification tools in the apps, but this is much easier to do on a larger screen like the computer: open Docs in the browser and start editing the document from the moment you left it on mobile devices. Continue to use the apps to scan text and create documents on Google until you complete your first themed paperwork division.

4 – Format and export the ebook

On the PC, go opening the documents and, at the top of each one, write a descriptive title in each one. Now, select the one that you wrote and in the top editing, bar click on the dropdown menu that shows ‘Normal text’ and chooses the ‘Title 1’ option this way the title of your document will be added automatically to the index ebook when it is compiled.
In this menu there are more types of titles, which are used to make subsections in the texts in which they were used. For example, in this guide we wrote in Google Docs, the title used the ‘Title 1’ formatting, then each step used ‘Title 2’ and the Mini Guides on each app were created with ‘Title 3’.
When you open ePub in Edge or another browser with a plugin that makes it compatible with this format and click on the ‘Index’ icon, the hierarchy is well represented, with Title 2 to be subsections of Title 1 and Titles 3 to serve the same, but for Titles 2. Here, if we click each of them in the index, we can “jump” to the place of the text that we want. This principle can also be used in the documents whose text we can digitize. So, if you compile all your contracts with service providers, you can write as Title 1 the name of the company with which you have a contract and then a description like ‘insurance 2018’ as Title 2 so that everything is well organized, as well as any other insurance from the same provider.
Once you have edited the document with the Google Docs hierarchical title types, click ‘File’> ‘Download as’>’ EPUB Publication (.epub).

5 – Open your ebook on iPhone or Android

This step is optional and is especially useful for those who want to access documents created in an ePub format without using the Edge. In iOS, you can open them in the Books app, which comes pre-installed. On Android, if you do not already have an app like this, you can download free Google Play Books.
The easiest way to transfer your newly created ePub to your smartphone or tablet is to email them. From there, on the iPhone or iPad, open the mail, tap the attached file and choose ‘Open in Books’. On Android, do the same thing: here, the attachment opens soon in Play Books. In both apps, you can search for words and navigate through the divisions (ie Index) you created with the various types of ‘Titles’ in Google Docs.

If you need help, have doubts or concerns, do not hesitate to leave a comment in the comment box below and we will try to help you as soon as possible!

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