Once upon a time, you had to sink money into a standalone scanner if you wanted to turn physical documents into digital ones. But today, lightweight apps can do all of the heavy lifting for you, provided you can hold your hand still enough to snap a decent photo of the document in question. One of the latest, and most effective, examples of this for Android users is called SimplyScan: PDF Camera Scanner.
True to its name, SimplyScan performs a trick that even some standalone scanners aren’t capable of: turning your document into a PDF without having to go through some third-party conversion program. You can also import existing photos of documents you’ve already taken and convert them to PDF.
What we like most about SimplyScan is just how easy it is to operate. Instructions are virtually unnecessary because of the app’s simple and straightforward UI. Upon launching SimplyScan, you’re given a single icon, represented by a plus icon. You can then capture a snapshot of a document with your smartphone’s camera, or choose a photo from your gallery.
If you choose the former, and have more than one camera app installed on your smartphone, the app next asks you which one you want to use to perform the scan. Once the snapshot’s been taken, you’re given a preview image that you can discard for a do-over or save. A “Perspective Crop” then lays a grid over your snapshot and lets you define the edges of your final scan. Its tap and drag operation is a bit unwieldy, but with a little practice you can align edges with relative ease.
A function called Scannify lets you adjust image effects, which are limited to brightness and contrast. Color images are converted to black and white by default, but this can be undone with a single tap if you want a full color scan. Brightness and contrast effect are added with a slider control. If you add a bit too much of either, you can choose to reset to the app’s default effects or to no effects at all.
Once you’re fully satisfied, all that’s left to do is to name and save your scan. When finished, you have the option of saving it as a photo or a PDF document. PDF settings can adjust your scan to conform to a variety of sizes including letter orientation, A4 for international printers, legal size, and a few others. Orientation can be set to portrait or landscape, and there’s also a “Margins” option which automatically aligns your scan.
SimplyScan is preconfigured to save to Google Drive, but you can also easily send docs via any number of installed services including Dropbox, OneDrive, various email clients, and more.
When you download and use the freebie version of SimplyScan, all of your final documents are rendered with a watermark that can only be removed by upgrading to the Pro version. If you’re not into spending the 99 cents needed to upgrade, though, rest assured the watermark isn’t obnoxiously obtrusive. It simply appears at the bottom of your document with the words “Scanned by SimplyScan for Android.”
Using the freebie version of SimplyScan limits you to scanning one image at a time, but upgrading to Pro allows you to scan multiple images to be contained in a single PDF file. It can also organize all of your scans into separate folders for better organization. If you find yourself scanning frequently, it’s probably worth shelling out the extra dollar.
SimplyScan is far from a revolutionary app, but it’s certainly among the upper echelon of scanner apps that won’t hog up your handset’s storage space. It frees you from the need to have a “real” scanner and brings you one step closer to having a truly mobile office. The crop function is a little awkward, but on the whole the app works as well as can be expected for a scanner that’s small enough to fit into your pants pocket. Created by Appuccino, SimplyScan: PDF Camera Scanner requires Android 4.1 and up and is available as a free download now in the Google Play market.