Google makes scanning old documents easy with new app

If your office still requires you to submit receipts with your expense forms; has files of outdated documents stored, but not scanned, away; or, God forbid, still actually uses paper somehow, Google has a nifty new app for you.

Dubbed PhotoScan, the app turns your Android or iOS-based smartphone into a scanning device by having users shoot five separate photos of an object, which it then stitches together into a single image file, to reduce glare.

Naturally the device’s intended use is to scan the numerous old prints many of us have sitting in our attics or the back of a closet, and we imagine it serves that purpose reasonably well, but this is a business-facing website, and our primary interest was using it to scan documents.

Also, none of our coworkers were willing to let us use one of the photos at their desks as an example.

So here's one of the sample images Google provided.
So here’s one of the sample images Google provided.

Thankfully, PhotoScan is as easy to use as its introductory blog post makes it sound: After downloading and opening the app, users are invited to shoot an object exactly as if they were using their cellphone’s camera. Four blue circles then appear around the captured document or photo, with arrows encouraging the user to move (but not tilt, as we discovered the hard way) their smartphone in the appropriate direction.

The less-than-shiny result largely speaks for itself.

And now you know what the sign ITWC puts up during one of its webinars looks like.
And now you know what the sign ITWC puts up during one of its webinars looks like.

In addition to automatically stitching together five separate photos and reducing glare, PhotoScan detects edges, straightens the image, and rotates it to the correct orientation, according to Google, though we must admit it wasn’t as easy to crop the scans as we would have liked.

Instead of an automatic right-angled shape, the app instructs users to identify a picture’s four corners, which could easily result in a misshapen-looking image (these examples were cropped using Microsoft Paint instead).

Oh someecards writer, you had no idea how prescient you were.
Oh someecards writer, you had no idea how prescient you were.

For users wishing to take advantage of PhotoScan’s print scanning capabilities, Google has also added a new and improved auto enhance feature, several preset looks, and advanced editing tools to its Google Photos app.

Courtesy Google

Both PhotoScan and the updated, editor-enhanced Google Photos app are available today on Android and iOS. To see the former in action without downloading it yourself, check out the video below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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