How to use Apple’s terrific document scanner in iOS 11

You don’t need a separate app anymore
One of the most useful tricks in Apple’s iOS 11 update is found inside the Notes app: it’s a document scanner. If there’s a business card, receipt, or any other document you want to save or mark up, this tool makes getting it on your iPhone or iPad dead simple. If you’ve been using a third-party app for this purpose until now — and there are several great ones — you can probably uninstall it in favor of Apple’s own solution. That’s what I did, anyway.

To try out Apple’s built-in scanner for yourself, open Notes. Inside of any note, hit the + symbol above the keyboard. The menu that comes up will offer a few options — this is also the tool you’d use to add a photo or sketch to your note — but the “Scan Document” option is the one you want.

Once you tap that, the camera opens and asks you to point it at whatever document you’re trying to digitize. But pay attention to that top row of icons. The default settings will capture documents in color. But if you’d prefer grayscale or black and white (which really cranks up the contrast), just tap the icon of three circles up there and change it. You can also adjust this after the fact, so it’s fine to stick with the defaults. There’s also a “photo” choice that basically just snaps an ordinary picture without optimizing it as a document scan.

You can tap the shutter button yourself to capture the document immediately or simply hold your iPhone or iPad focused on the document for a few seconds and it’ll automatically go off at a moment when your hands are steady. If you fire the shutter yourself, Notes will let you move around four corner points to line them up with the document’s edges; the app does a good job figuring this stuff out without much help, in my experience.

Don’t worry if you end up snapping the picture of your document from an angle, as Notes will automatically correct for this and straighten everything out. That’s one of the most impressive aspects of Apple’s tool. So if you’re in a situation where you don’t have time to square things up, it’ll still work great. The old business card I used here was pretty worn and terrible looking, which explains all those splotches of gray. Receipts and other documents have looked super sharp in my tests, which led to me ditching other scanning apps altogether.

Once you’ve finished one scan, Notes will put you right back in the camera view since the assumption is that you might have a multi-page document or contract to capture. At any point, you can just hit “Save” in the bottom right corner to drop your scan into the original note you started.

But if you’re like me, you probably don’t want to keep scans inside your notes. To save or share them elsewhere, just tap and hold on the document and pick from the various third-party apps on your iPhone or iPad. If you need to add annotations or a signature to something, choose Apple’s “Markup” from that share menu, where you’re free to draw all over the document. Obviously the Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro is your best option for handwriting, but using your fingers on an iPhone can still get the job done fine.

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