Scanbot for iPhone: The only scanner you'll need

Scanbot icon

Yesterday on TUAW TV Live, Doc Rock and I did our favorite app and hardware picks of the week, and mine was a surprising app that has changed the way that I look at scanning. As I mentioned on the show, I have despised physical scanners since my first run-ins with them back in the SCSI days. They're always fairly slow, sheet feeders have a tendency to jam, and the included software is usually buggy. I've tried other scanning apps, but found that they were usually more of a hassle to use than the scanners ... until I tried Scanbot. The US$0.99 iPhone app only does two things -- scan and create PDFs of documents -- but it does those two things very well.

To scan, you simply point the camera-like scanning display at the document you wish to scan. If you're too far away, it will ask you to move closer; if you're scanning the document at an angle, it will say "perspective" to remind you to move your iPhone above the document. Scanbot then does edge detection to highlight the document you're scanning, tells you "don't move", and takes a picture -- all without touching the iPhone's screen. If you want to give the document a name, a name entry field just a tap away; otherwise, you can use the time and date stamp that is applied by default. That document is then turned into a very clean and square PDF that you can send to a cloud service or store locally.

Those cloud services include Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, OneDrive,, and Yandex Disk. Scanbot can be set up to automatically upload your scans to any one of those services, and it does it in background while you're scanning other documents. Want to save the document as a JPG on your camera roll? That's possible, too.

If you have a multi-page document you're scanning, all you need to do is tap the Add Page link in Scanbot and move on to the next page. I scanned a five-page letter-sized document in about 45 seconds; it took me well over three minutes to do the same thing on my Mac with an Epson WF-3540 All-In-One and the PDF Scanner App after waiting for the scanner to allegedly warm up.

You can even grab photos with your regular iPhone camera and then process them in Scanbot to turn them into nicely rectangular PDF documents. There's also a color button to toggle between color and grayscale prior to saving your PDFs.

It's a piece of cake to annotate your Scanbot scans. A tap on an edit button brings up the document along with a yellow highlighter, an eraser for deleting annotations, a comment box (which didn't work for me), and a tool for adding signatures.

Scanbot is bright and colorful, fast, and produces better results that I expected. For US$0.99, it could very well be the only scanner you'll ever need. Anybody want to buy my Epson?