One of the best new features that arrived in iOS 11 (reviewed here) was the ability to scan a document using your iPhone.

Prior to the launch of iOS 11 you might have used your iPhone camera to photograph important documents that you wanted to keep a copy of. You may also have also used your iPhone to photograph old photos.

Of course, these photographed ‘scans’ wouldn’t be great quality. When you attempted to crop them you’d often find that you had a trapezoid shape, and you’d run the risk of losing some of the edge as you attempted to make it look more professional.

And if you were ‘scanning’ important documents in order to keep them filed on your phone you’d need to remember to file them in an album in your Photos app. Or, if you were really organised, you could add them to a Note and keep them filed away there.

Well since iOS 11 it's been possible to scan your important documents straight into Notes, and you’ll end up with something a lot more professional looking, and much easier to locate when you need to. And when it comes to scanning photos the app will use augmented reality to make a better attempt at cropping the image than you might if you photographed it with the camera directly (more on this below).

And when iOS 12 arrives in autumn 2018 Mac users will be able to select their iPhone or iPad as a source if they want to add a scan to a Keynote or Pages document they are working on. We will also walk through how to use the iPhone Continuity Camera below.

Things you might want to scan with your iPhone

  • Receipts
  • Business Cards
  • Photographs
  • Important documents
  • Applications

What you need to scan with your iPhone

A device running iOS 11 (the iPhone 5 and 5c can’t scan in Notes, but they can’t run iOS 11 either).

If you try and view a scan on an older iPhone you will see a message saying that you need to update to iOS 11 to view the attachment.

How to scan using the iPhone

  1. Open the Notes app.
  2. Create a new Note by tapping the square with a pen icon.
  3. Or, if you are wanting to add a scanned document to an existing Note, open that.
  4. At the bottom of the Note you will see a + icon. Tap that.
  5. The first option is Scan Document, tap on that.
  6. Before you scan, to get the best results you could tap on the icon of three circles next to the flash icon to choose the format of your scan. You can choose from Colour (best for magazines), Greyscale (to turn photos into shades of grey), Black & White (possibly the best option for a black and white print out - although greyscale can look better), and Photo (if you are scanning a photo). You can change these setting later if required.
  7. Hold the iPhone over the document you wish to scan until you see a yellow box form over the top of the text. You can choose to scan in Auto or Manual mode. In Auto mode Notes will take the scan as soon as it registers the page, which can speed things up if you are scanning a lot of pages. In Manual mode it’s up to you to press the white camera button when you are happy with the position of the yellow box.
  8. Manual is the best option if the page you are scanning has boxes, as Notes will tend to focus on the box rather than the whole page (if this happens you can still rescue your scan afterwards, as the camera will capture the whole page anyway, we’ll explain how to do this below).
  9. After the scan is taken you have the option to ‘Drag near corners to adjust’ which essentially means you can drag the corners to adjust the edges of the scan. Even if the page isn’t straight Notes will apply perspective correction and do a pretty good job of un-skewing your scan, but you can help it by editing the box so it follows the lines of the text.
  10. Tap Keep Scan once you are happy you have neatly cropped the image.
  11. If you don’t see the option to drag corners after taking the scan, you can still crop it. Tap on the scan you have just taken (you can see it in the bottom left of your screen) and then tap on the crop icon.
  12. If you have a number of items to scan, just line up the camera again when you see the message Ready for next scan.
  13. Once you have taken all your scans, tap on Save. You will see the number of scans you have taken in brackets.
  14. If you later decide to remove one of the scans, tap on it and delete by tapping on the bin icon.
  15. In your Note you will see the first page you have scanned, along with part of the second page. You can then swipe across to see any other scans you have made in that series
  16. To see a bigger version of each scan just tap on the scan.

How to edit a scan taken on the iPhone

  • To make edits to the scan select the scan, then select one of the options that appear along the bottom of the scan, including Crop, Filters, Rotate and Delete.
  • Crop allows up you change the corners of the image so that you can line it up better or counter any skewing.
  • The Filters icon is the one in the centre that shows three circles. You have four choices: Colour (best for magazines), Greyscale (to turn photos into shades of grey), Black & White (probably the best option for a black and white print out), and Photo (if you are scanning a photo). The photo version will still be a PDF if you choose to share it via the Notes app though
  • Rotate allows you to rotate by 90-degree increments.
  • Delete will delete one page of the scan at a time. Note that if you delete it doesn’t look like the delete scan gets saved anywhere so there is no fail-safe like there is in Photos when a deleted photo isn’t actually deleted for 30 days. So be sure you want to delete!

How to name your Scans

iOS calls them Scanned Documents by default, but luckily you can make it easier to locate your scans by renaming them. You would also be wise to rename your scan before sending it to someone if you want to avoid confusion.

  1. Open a Scan and tap in the row at the top where it says Scanned Document.
  2. You should get the option to Rename the file.

How to share, print, or PDF the scan

  1. To share the scan with someone else first find the Note containing the scan you want to send. The next step depends on whether you want to send all the scans in that Note, or one series of scans.
  2. If you want to send all the scans, open the Note and tap the Share icon in the top right corner.
  3. If you just want to send one scan, or one series of scans, but not all the scans in that Note select the scan you wish to send and then tap the Share icon in the top right corner.
  4. You can choose from Message, Mail, and any other options you have set up for sharing, or AirDrop it to another Apple device (if you see that device in the AirDrop field - read this for more information about using AirDrop).
  5. You can also quickly share a just one page of a scan by pressing and holding on the thumbnail (below the main image) and choosing Share.
  6. You can also Print by tapping Share and then choosing Print.
  7. Alternatively choose Share to Files to add the scan to your iCloud files so you can access it on any device. You will be able to choose where you save it, this could be On My iPhone or iCloud Drive, the latter choice will mean you can access it on any of your Apple devices. Just choose the location and tap on Add.
  8. Another option is to create a PDF, which you can share - although the document you send or save to Files will always be a PDF.
  9. You could also choose to Copy to iBooks for reading as a PDF later.
  10. Of course, you can also open Notes on your Mac or iPad and view the scans there too.

How to add a scanned image to Photos

  1. If you want to save the image to your Photo library you need to press hard on the image until you see Copy Delete Share options.
  2. Then tap on Share and you will see Save Image option (you won’t see this option if you click on Share in the top right of the Notes app.

How to find your scans in Notes

  1. If you want to view all the scans you have made in Notes exit your current Note, so that you are in the library view, then tap on the icon in the bottom left (four small boxes)
  2. Scroll down to Scans and swipe through to see everything you have scanned.
  3. Or Tap on Show All to see all your scans in a Photos library-like view.
  4. Alternatively, you can see all Scans grouped according to the set of scans you made if you scroll down to Documents and tap on See All. You’ll also see other PDFs and documents you had added to Notes here.
  5. If you have a lot of scans in a Note you can change the view to make it a little easier to navigate.
  6. Find the group of scanned documents in that note and tab and hold where it says Scanned Documents.
  7. You should see options to Cut, Copy, Delete, Share or Small Images.
  8. Choose Small Images, this will change the view so that the first page of each scan appears as a thumbnail.

How to add a new scan to a series you have already taken

  1. Open the Note in which those scans are residing (if you can’t locate the Note then swipe though Attachments, find the scan in the series you want to add to and tap on Show in Note.)
  2. Now tap on the set of scans, and tap on the + to add more scans.
  3. Once you have taken the scan, tap on save.
  4. Now you will have more scans added at the end of that series.
  5. When you have scanned your documents you can scroll through thumbnails of them at the bottom of the note.

How to scan something and sign it

  1. Scan your document as per the instructions above.
  2. Tap on the document inside Notes.
  3. Find the page you wish to mark up and tap on the share button in the top right.
  4. Choose Markup from the options in the second row.
  5. Markup the scan, or add your signature and tap in Done.
  6. Now tap on the share icon again and choose Mail.

How to scan photographs using your iPhone

  1. Open Notes and start a new Note.
  2. Press the + icon.
  3. Choose Scan Documents.
  4. Tap on the Filter (three circles) icon and choose Photo.
  5. Change to Manual mode if it’s not automatically putting a yellow box around the photo, but don’t worry if you cant get it to put a yellow box around it as you can crop later.
  6. Tap on Save.
  7. You can edit this image to create some fun effects. To do so, open the Scan and tap on the Filters icon again.
  8. For example, to make the scanned photo look like a line drawing try the Black & White option
  9. Once you are happy with your scan, open it, press and hold until you see Copy Delete Share and choose Share.
  10. Select Save Image from the options and this will add it to your Photos app.
  11. We think that the quality of the image might be better if you photograph using the Camera app, but the Scanning function does a very good job of countering skew if you are scanning an image that isn’t very well lined up.

How to use the iPhone scanner to photograph a computer or TV screen

Sometimes you can’t take a screenshot in the normal way, in which case the scanning function on the iPhone can come in very handy.

For example, if you are trying to get a shot of the Disk Utilities screen on a Mac running recovery mode, or if you want to capture something on the Apple TV interface.

To scan a screen just follow the steps above but hold your iPhone up to the screen when you are scanning.

How to use iPhone Continuity Camera to add a scan

When iOS 12 and Mojave arrive in September 2018 you will be able to choose your iPhone or iPad as a source if you wish to add a scan of a document to Pages or Keynote.

If you want to scan a document to add to the document you are editing on your Mac, just right-click (or control-click) where you want to add the image and choose Insert from your iPhone or iPad > Scan Documents.

If you'd like to know how to scan QR Codes on the iPhone, read this tutorial.