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Remember the days when scanning documents in digital form required bulky hardware tethered to a personal computer? With a decent smartphone and the right app, you can now perform this task in a few taps, creating shareable, cloud-friendly files with surprisingly good results.
Better yet, many apps have the ability to actually improve documents in meaningful ways—like automatic orientation correction, flatten curled pages, crop unwanted content, and use optical character recognition to make text in scanned pages searchable.
Point and autoshoot
Prizmo 5 does this and much more, making it easy to convert real-world books, documents, and other paperwork into shareable PDFs, images, or even Microsoft Word files using only your iPhone or iPad. Single pages can be captured and processed in as few as three taps, with minimal effort required for multi-page documents beyond manually flipping pieces of paper.
In the background, captured documents are processed using optical character recognition, adding searchable text to PDF files before automatically uploading to your preferred cloud service—iCloud Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or WebDAV server (only one can be configured at a time). Scanned documents can be optionally synced via iCloud, making them available on all your devices. Search is available, but files are sorted by most recent only, and there’s no way to organize documents into folders.
A favorite feature is autoshoot, which is toggled on or off when the camera is in use to quickly detect page edges, then immediately capture without having to touch the screen. While pointing your device, a blue overlay indicates edges have been detected, followed by an audible tone and on-screen Don’t Move warning as the capture takes place, using image stabilization for sharpest results.
Now you can snap additional pages or tap Done to save, since new pages can be added anytime. Remove or rearrange individual pages as needed, then tap to share the document in a variety of formats. The whole process is streamlined, super-fast, and very high quality—when using recent iOS devices, scans are of comparable quality (over 300 dpi) to those from dedicated hardware.
Capturing documents is only half the battle, but Prizmo 5 makes short work of enhancing scans after they’re taken. The app magically crops, flattens, cleans up, and repairs page edges; with the right lighting this process is pretty automatic, but you have the option of tweaking individual settings later. There’s even a Batch Editor, so improvements can be performed on multiple pages at once.
I was impressed how Prizmo improved document scans, especially those captured under low light condition. Enhancements like flattening were occasionally less than perfect, but generally always better than competing apps without this functionality. Changes are non-destructive, so you can always revert back to the original scan.
Although Prizmo 5 is a free download, some features require a one-time Premium Pack in-app purchase ($14), which removes the “Made with Prizmo” watermark splashed across the lower right corner of exported image and PDF files. That’s an egregious limitation for an app whose sole purpose is capturing documents, so we consider this “optional” upgrade a mandatory purchase. The upgrade unlocks features otherwise limited in the free version, like processing business cards, on-device OCR, and Text Reader, which displays recognized text in readable form, even reading it aloud to you.
Lastly, a separate subscription-based Cloud OCR feature starting at $1 per month offers improved accuracy in 26 languages, but we didn’t find it significantly more reliable than the on-device method, especially now that version 5.1 adds support for Apple’s quite good built-in OCR. Cloud OCR subscribers also have access to handwriting recognition, which was hit or miss in our tests, and only works in English.
When it comes to mobile scanner apps, Prizmo 5 is unmatched for its fast, streamlined workflow and high-quality scans, but be prepared to pay up if you want unlimited on-device OCR or to share documents without a watermark.
Prizmo 5 is a comprehensive mobile scanner app for iPhone and iPad that makes it easy to effortlessly capture and automatically enhance single or multi-page documents quickly for exporting to the cloud or sharing with others.
- Fast, high-quality document scans
- Autoshoot allows capturing documents without user interaction
- Batch Editor performs enhancements on multiple pages at once
- Watermarks on exported image, PDF documents in free version
- Limited on-device OCR, text-to-speech (free version only)
- Cloud OCR subscription isn’t always an improvement over on-device method