Friday, September 2, 2011

The iPhone: a Scanner in Your Pocket

Another great article courtesy of my friend and fellow ham radio operator Dick Eastman.

The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at This article was originally posted on Dick's blog and newsletter at

The next time you read a document that contains information about your ancestors, wouldn't it be nice to immediately scan an image of it and email the image to yourself? Even better, how about uploading the image immediately to Dropbox or to MobileMe iDisk? If you own an iPhone, you can do that right now by installing a bit of low-cost software.

Scanner Pro converts your iPhone into a scanner. How well does it perform? Click on the thumbnail-sized image to the right to see a larger picture of a page I scanned today with Scanner Pro on an iPhone 4. The page is from The Book of Dow written by Robert Piercy Dow and published in 1929. I think it is a great image for a cell phone camera! Best of all, I always have the iPhone with me so that means I also carry a scanner with me everywhere I go.

Scanner Pro handles any type of documents ranging from simple one page letters to multipage legal documents. It can add, move, delete pages and even combine pages in landscape and portrait orientations. The program first scans whatever you wish and then displays the image on the iPhone's screen. It even features automatic edge detection and advanced image processing. However, if the automatic edge detection doesn't match your needs, tap anywhere on the screen and manually adjust the crop area. I did that with the book shown above as I wanted only a section of the page, not the entire page.

The program stores all images as industry-standard PDF files. Once stored in your iPhone, the image(s) may be exported to Evernote, to Google Docs, to a photo library (such as MobileMe iDisk, Box.Net, Humyo and any other WebDAV enabled online storage system), or sent to any email address. The image is standard PDF and can be used by any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer as well as by many handheld "smartphones."

Multi-page documents can be scanned and processed together as a single batch. For instance, perhaps you wish to scan ten pages from a book. Once scanned, you can export all the pages at once to Evernote, to Google Docs, to a photo library, or to email.

I have only used Scanner Pro for a short time but have fallen in love with it. I will be taking it to every library I visit from now on. In fact, I always take my cell phone with me everywhere. In the past, I would enter a library and then go looking for a photocopy machine. I was always delighted whenever I found such a machine that created digital images. Not all libraries have digital imaging available. Thanks to the new Scanner Pro software, I now have digital imaging capability with me at all times. Not only can I use the iPhone in libraries, but also when visiting a relative.

Of course, Scanner Pro can be used for thousands of non-genealogy purposes as well. This morning, I had to send an email message to my insurance company about the new license plates on the motorhome. I snapped a picture of the license plate using Scanner Pro and sent it as an email message to the insurance agent.

Ever see a "for sale" sign of interest on the bulletin board at the local supermarket? Snap a picture and send it to yourself or perhaps to a friend who may be interested in the item.

I often write articles about new products and I use them for a day or two. Not this time. This one's a keeper! I plan on using Scanner Pro often for a long, long time.

Scanner Pro costs $6.99 and is available in the iPhone App Store or you can learn more about it at

NOTE: Any iPhone can snap a picture of a book or most anything else and send it by email. You don't need Scanner Pro for that. However, Scanner Pro adds convenience, the ability to create PDF files, multi-page documents, automatic page edge detection, and image processing. It also adds the capability to add, move, delete pages and even combine pages in landscape and portrait orientations. You cannot perform those functions with the software included with the iPhone. I'd suggest the program is worth a lot more than $6.99.

My thanks to newsletter reader Claudia Breland for telling me about Scanner Pro.