How to scan receipts via my iPhone into my DTPO database

I run a small business and frequently have small paper receipts to deal with. For example, I get a bottle of water at the airport on a business trip, a meal, etc… I don’t want to deal with the little pieces of paper, I’d instead like to scan it with my iPhone, push a button, have it uploaded to my DevonThink Pro Office database and be done with it.

Is that possible? I’m guessing no.

I can currently do this using Evernote, which is what I’m using now, but I’d prefer to have the stuff in DTPO, if possible. Right now, I use an app called Genius Scan +. Works great. I save the image as a jpg, select upload to Evernote, select which notebook I want (in this case, “Business Expenses - 2012”), and I’m done. And now I’ve got a searchable document in my Evernote database.

Would love to be able to do this instead in DTPO. Any suggestions?

One note: I looked at Devonthink To Go, but the user reviews at the app store are just brutal. That app looks nowhere close to ready for prime time. Was really hoping, especially given the high price tag, that it was going to be the answer, but there are a bunch of reviews for the current version indicating that the same problems that existed 6 months ago still exist today. Buggy, crashes, doesn’t sync properly, etc…

Then I looked at the forum for that app and found a thread started 3 weeks ago from someone asking for help with crashes after upgrading to ios6, and there are no responses from the developers. Disappointing. Does not seem to be a well designed, executed or supported program.

And given the architecture of the DevonThink database, I’m guessing it’s not feasible to import directly from another 3rd party app, the way one can into Evernote.

With the increased integration between our mobile and ‘computing’ devices, an information repository like Devonthink Pro Office needs to be able to gracefully and elegantly bridge those platforms. This is a strength of Evernote, but I’ve always preferred the DevonThink Pro Office platform on my laptop. Given the difficulty to migrate stuff into that database remotely, and my increasing need to do that, I’m rethinking whether staying with DTPO makes sense.

Ok, good suggestion, thank you.

So I was able to set that up to work, but the resulting import isn’t searchable. For example, I have a receipt with the name of the restaurant, the date, the amount, etc… I can’t find it in DTPO by searching on any of these values. Is there a way to have OCR run on the PDF when it’s imported into the database? Like when I import via my ScanSnap?

If I can’t search on that stuff, I’ll probably have to stick with Evernote, where I can import it as a jpg and search on anything on the receipt.


Can be scripted. Maybe post a request in the Scripting section?

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Thanks, but not interested in kludged solutions. Either it works natively to the app or I’m not interested.

Hmm. Using the richly robust extensions to DEVONthink available through scripting is a “kludge”? How quaint.

Scripting to automate actions in DEVONthink isn’t a kludge.

If I understood what you wish to do, it’s to convert images of receipts that you have taken with an iPhone into searchable PDFs that can be stored in a Receipts folder in a database.

I frequently take digital pictures of book pages or journal pages, using an iPhone 4S or one of my other digital cameras. When using the iPhone, there are several apps that are designed to allow use of the iPhone camera as a “scanner”. I use one that allows quick manipulation of the image such as cropping the area of interest, etc. The result is a JPEG image that can be OCRed by DEVONthink Pro Office. But even normal photos taken with the Camera app can be usable for conversion by OCR to searchable PDFs.

For unbound copy, I use a ScanSnap scanner. For bound copy, I use a digital camera instead of a scanner. I designed a portable copy stand for the iPhone that’s modified from an old Minox B copy stand, and allows one to place the copy stand over the book or journal, take a picture, then turn the page, etc. This is much faster than scanning with a flatbed scanner, and can provide comparable or better accuracy of text recognition with OCR.

Even handheld shots of copy containing text can provide satisfactory results with OCR, with a bit of care and good lighting. I usually post-process such images using GraphicConverter to improve white balance and upscale to 300 dpi.

Single-page images (such as one of your receipts) can be captured by DEVONthink Pro Office using File > Import > Images (with OCR). Multipage documents can be assembled for OCR using the Image Capture routine. In either case, one ends up with searchable PDFs. I’ve been pleased by the accuracy of text recognition. Most of my images are of reference materials that will be used in research, so I probably need better text recognition accuracy than your needs for collecting receipts. My results go far beyond Evernote’s capabilities.

korm…scoff if you wish. When I first started using DTPO, I used a number of scripts. THen either the app changed or the scripts changed and the functionality broke. I quickly got tired of maintaining that mess.

If the answer to my process requirement is “hey, I’ll build a script”, I’m just not interested.

Now what Bill just posted, that’s a possibility. But at this point, that’s still a LOT more effort than it will take for me to get this stuff into Evernote, fully scanable.

Now for my information library, I use DTPO, end of discussion. I’ve got a ScanSnap and I scan stuff with OCR into DTPO all the time, I have a rather large database I use for everything from recordkeeping for my business to professional research.

But for this? I can take the shot with Genius +, push two buttons and it’s uploaded into Evernote where I can easily search for and find it based on just about any info on the receipt. Easy, simple and effective.

Will play with the File/Import method, but even that is just an extra step, and I do this enough that I’m not looking for extra steps. The appeal to me of the method with Evernote is that once I’m done with the iPHone part of the process, it’s done. THere’s no “now don’t forget to finish the process up by going to your computer and importing those image files” stuff. And if any of you are small business owners, I’m sure you can appreciate getting something done elegantly and quickly and just being DONE with it.

Run a script? ROTFLMAO. Yeah. I ain’t running scripts every time I want to import a receipt. From an efficiency perspective that’s a joke.

If I’m understanding this correctly, the “scanning” app on the iPhone has a button that sends the scan to Evernote. It’s hardly DPTO’s fault that the app has not included code to support DTPO. Also, DTPO is not a cloud service like Evernote. How can you expect data from the iPhone to magically transmit directly to DTPO on someone’s Mac at home?

No, the scanning app doesn’t have any code to assist evernote. It just makes either a PDF or a JPG and sends it somewhere (dropbox, evernote, and a few other options). Evernote is then able to take the jpg and make it scanable.

I didn’t think this was possible, hence my question if there was some way to do it.

And I think this is a limitation to DTPO they need to address. I’m hoping that the existence of the iPhone ‘to go’ app, as severely flawed as it seems to be, is an admission that this is a problem they need to remedy. Given how tech is evolving, the concept of a proprietary database locked on a computer inaccessible from input from a mobile device is antiquated and problematic. And hopefully it’s soon remedied.

@pvonk has it right, the scanning app does have code to assist Evernote by virtue of the option to send to Evernote. If Genius Scan added the option to also send to DEVONthink To Go, you would be all set. I use JotNot Pro and it does have the option to open the scan in DEVONthink To Go. Sync to DEVONthink Pro Office on the Mac and I’m all set.

In any event, you probably already have all the tools to do what you want. Personally, I don’t use the workflow described above. I have set up JotNot Pro to save to a folder named Scans on Dropbox. I’ve attached the folder action to import, OCR, and delete the scans added to this folder and everything is automated and done-no fuss and no kludge. If Genius Scan can save to Dropbox, you have what you need.

Greg, thanks.

Sorry for a dumb question, but how does one access the folder actions? And what triggers that to ‘work’? The mere appearance of a file in that folder, or does it have to be invoked manually?

See DEVONthink Help and search for “Folder Actions” for information on using Folder Actions. Install them via DEVONthink > Install Add-Ons…. Once installed, attach a folder action to any folder using the Folder Actions Setup app on your Mac.

Read more about them in the DEVONthink Manual.

(Folder Actions are, of course, scripts, so probably qualify as kludges – sorry, I couldn’t control myself 8) )

Are those folder actions/scripts maintained by DevonTech and updated appropriately when the app itself is updated?

If so, no problem.

The scripts I had issues with were third party scripts maintained by someone outside of the developer, so when the app changed, often the scripts were broken and you were now dependent on ‘some guy’ to update the script. That’s what I’m talking about when I say ‘kludgy’. And I’m done with those kinds of solutions. But if it’s an intrinsic part of the app, developed and maintained by the developer, no problem.

Anything in the DEVONthink > Install Add-Ons… menu is developed, maintained, and published by DEVONtech.

They are maintained by DEVON, and the user is prompted to install the updates when launching a new update to the DEVONthink application.

This pretty much describes Evernote. Try and get data out of it sometime. This company is moving more and more to isolate your data in a proprietary way (and also forcing Users to sign up with them). Sad really.