Scan in paper based documents using Adobe Scan and save them to cloud storage as PDF files. OCR makes text in the PDFs editable.

There are many apps for your phone that enable you to scan paper based documents, but Adobe Scan has built in character recognition and cloud storage for your files. It's on Android and iOS.

Scanning apps for your phone are available from Google, Microsoft and more than a dozen other companies, and you are spoilt for choice. They all work in a similar way and they take a photo of the paper-based document using the phone’s camera and save it as a PDF document.

Some scanning apps have character recognition as an optional extra that you must pay for, but Adobe Scan provides it for free. That makes it worth considering if you are on a budget.

Point and scan

The app is very easy to use and there are manual and automatic modes. In manual mode you point the camera at the document and press the button to capture the scan. In Automatic mode the app automatically detects when the camera is pointing at a document and it captures it automatically.

The background is automatically cropped from the document and if it isn’t quite straight, it is straightened. Pages can be rotated afterwards if they are the wrong orientation.

 Scanning a document using Adobe Scan on an Android phone A scanned document in the Adobe Scan Android app

The app automatically saves multiple scans as a single document, so you can quickly place sheets of paper on a table on by one, for example, and scan them all into a single PDF document. If you get the pages in the wrong order, afterwards you can view thumbnails of the pages and tap and drag them into the right order.

A few simple editing features are available, such as changing the scan to grayscale, original photo or whiteboard, pages can be cropped, and the filename changed from the default based on the date and time.

Related: Use an Android widget to scan and save documents to Google Drive
Related: How to scan and store documents with the OneDrive iPhone app

Save to the cloud

The PDF is uploaded to Adobe Document Cloud when it is saved. If you have an Adobe ID (go and create one at the website cloud.acrobat.com), it can be used to sign into the app and then the PDFs are saved to your Adobe cloud storage. Free accounts are available and you get 2GB of space for your files.

Your scanned PDF files can be viewed from within the app or you can log in to Adobe Document Cloud on any computer with a web browser. This enables you to manage your saved scans.

 Edit a scanned document in Adobe Scan on Android Email or share a document scanned with Adobe Scan on Android

If you want to save a PDF elsewhere, there is a Share option in the app and this shows the usual Android sharing options, so you can save it to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox or to other apps and services you have on your phone.

Edit scans saved to PDFs

I saved a scan to Google Drive using the Share function, which synced with my computer a few seconds later. I was then able to open the PDF in Microsoft Word for editing. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it was an awkward document and a page of plain text would probably be close to the original. It depends on what you are scanning and it can do a pretty good job of turning printed documents into ones you can edit in Word or some other PDF editor.

This is a useful scanning app if you don’t have one that can OCR the text and produce editable documents. If your online storage is full, an extra couple of gigabytes to store your scans from Adobe is welcome too. New in this latest version is the option to log in with Facebook or Google accounts.

App: Adobe Scan
Price: Free
By: Adobe
Size: 51MB installed
Android: 5.0 and up
Verdict: A useful app for scanning documents to PDFs with your phone