How to scan documents on your Android phone or tablet

Consider yourself fortunate if one of the most inconvenient aspects of your personal life is scanning PDFs. If figuring out how to scan a document is a minor annoyance for you, you’re not alone. Adobe’s ubiquitous PDF is a reality of dealing in documents in the modern world, whether it’s mortgage documents, a car loan, or other sensitive paperwork you need to preserve and share in a secure digital format. To digitise your paper documents, you don’t need a scanner or a large multifunction printer. All you need is a smartphone and a capable scanner app to replace the annoyance of figuring out how to scan your document with the annoyance of scanning a document on your Android device. In this post, we’ll go over what you need to do to convert your documents to PDF using an Android phone.


There are probably a hundred apps that claim to generate PDFs in a pinch, but we’ll focus on three good ways from three specific and well-known apps to generate PDFs from real-world documents: Google Drive, Adobe Scan, and Microsoft Office Lens.

Because each scanning app has its own set of advantages, you can make your own choice. In general, if you only need to scan a document once or twice, we recommend using the Google Drive app, which is likely already installed on your phone and will save you time. However, Office Lens is our readers’ favourite, and if you frequently scan documents, it’s unquestionably the best option.

How to scan a document on your phone with Microsoft Office Lens

Microsoft Office Lens is probably the best of the four options here. Whether you’re deeply integrated into Microsoft’s Office suite and services or not, it’s fairly quick and easy, with a dead-simple interface and all the tools you’re likely to require.

If you frequently scan documents from your phone, this is the app you should be using. Its benefits include:

  • Integration with Microsoft applications and services such as OneNote, OneDrive, Word, and PowerPoint.
  • If you use Microsoft Office, you can use Word to perform OCR.
  • You probably don’t need my help to use it because it’s so simple and fast (but it’s there if you do).
  • Works with existing images/photos.

Simply download the app, launch it, and grant it the necessary permissions, and you’re ready to go. Aside from an interstitial screen (above left) the first time you launch it, you’ll always be taken straight to the viewfinder (above centre), as with Adobe’s app.

All of the tools you need are immediately accessible with a few taps in the viewfinder. There are various modes along the bottom of the viewfinder, below the shutter, that you can switch between depending on what you’re scanning. You’ll most likely use the default “document” mode, but you can quickly switch to scanning business cards, photos, and whiteboards, each of which triggers its own preset mode. Above the shutter is your camera roll, which provides quick access to images you’ve previously captured with your camera app — simply tap the images you want to add to a document and then tap the orange arrow to the right of the shutter button (above right).If you need to manually navigate to images outside the camera roll, you can also tap the photograph/gallery icon to open a file picker.

When the document is properly aligned in the viewfinder, an orange-red rectangle indicates that it has a firm grip on its perspective and dimensions (which it can automatically crop and correct for). Just keep in mind that if you take photos on a grid-like background, as shown above, the automatic cropping may fail. If that happens, there is a manual crop tool, and only very specific circumstances like that triggered any misbehaviour for me.

When you’ve captured a page for your document, the process for editing it is straightforward. If you need to add another page to your document, tap the “Add New” button, which takes you back to the viewfinder where you can add another image — repeat this process for each page of the document.

When multiple images are loaded, you can scroll left and right to switch between pages. There are filters available if you prefer to convert your documents to black and white, for example, and they are easily accessible with a quick swipe up.

Along the top of the screen, you have most of the other, less frequently used options. You can delete images in the current document, change their crop, rotate images, change their document type (which adjusts pre-set filters), make a text overlay, or draw on the document. With pinch-to-zoom working, you can even add a signature or annotate, if you need to.

When you’re finished, tap “Done,” and you’ll be given options for saving your document. If you save it to your Android phone’s gallery, it will be saved as a JPEG image, but there are options to save it as a PDF file as well. You can also save the image to OneDrive, PowerPoint, or OneNote, and documents can be opened in Microsoft Word for OCR if you want to convert them to text.

After saving the document in a specific format, you’re taken to a list of files you’ve created in the app, where you can share or delete them using the three-dot menu on each.

We’ve listed two additional methods for creating PDFs on your Android device below. The Google Drive app is the most convenient option for users in a hurry, and Adobe Scan is a good tool if you live in the Acrobat ecosystem, but if you scan documents on a regular basis, we believe you owe it to yourself to try Microsoft Office Lens, which is easily the best document scanning solution we’ve used.

How to use Google Drive to scan a doc on your Android phone

The following are some of the benefits of using the Google Drive app for your PDF needs:

  • It’s straightforward and simple to use.
  • You probably don’t need to install anything because most phones include it.
  • It syncs PDFs it generates to Google Drive, which is great for G Suite-based productivity and cloud storage.
  • If you do not require a local PDF, it will only save to Google Drive.

How to scan a document with the Google Drive app the google drive app.

2.Top the floating action button (+) in the corner.

3.Select scan

4.Line up the document in the viewfinder, ensuring that all four corners are visible and your view is mostly flat, and press the shutter button.

5.Before converting the image to a PDF file, Drive will allow you to review it and accept or reject it.

6.After you accept the image, you can add more pages to the current document (+ icon), re-capture any previously added page (the reload/redo icon), change the crop/distortion correction (crop icon in the top right corner), change colour settings (palette icon in the top right corner), and delete, rotate, or rename the scan (all via the overflow menu (three-dot icon) top right). Additional options in the nested settings menu allow you to change the paper size, orientation, and image quality, though the defaults should be sufficient for most users.

7.When you’re satisfied with the results, simply tap the checkmark in the bottom right corner. Drive will prompt you to save it in Google Drive and give it a name. It should be there after you tap “Save” in the bottom right corner. Congratulations, you’ve just created a PDF using your phone’s camera.

How to use Adobe Scan to digitize files with your phone

If you require a different set of features than Google Drive’s app can offer and are willing to forego deeper integration with G Suite’s services, Adobe Scan is a capable alternative to traditional document scanners. Its benefits include:

  • OCR (optical character recognition) is a technology that converts scanned documents into searchable and copyable text.
  • Works with existing images/photos.
  • The use of auto-capture speeds up the photo-taking process.
  • Works with the Adobe Acrobat app to provide built-in signing and form filling.

How to scan a document with Adobe Scan

  • Abode Scan can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
  • Open Adobe Scan and grant the necessary permissions.
  • Place your phone’s camera over the scan area to ensure that the entire document is visible.
  • Once the document is in view, Adobe Scan will automatically capture it.
  • (A) If you’d rather line up and capture your document manually, tap the Aperture icon to the left of Auto-Capture.
  • Once you’ve captured all of the documents you want to include in a particular PDF, tap the gallery icon in the bottom right to review your scans.
  • (A) You can rename the PDF (text/pencil icon top centre) or use the navigation bar at the bottom to add more pages, reorder items, adjust the crop, rotate images, select colour settings, or delete pages from the review screen.
  • When you’re finished scanning, tap Save PDF in the top left corner.

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