Most recommended ios scanner app?

Is there one ios scanner app people find works better in some respect with DevonThink Pro Office than the others? I’ve already got Scanner Pro and Genius Scan, but with Evernote primarily used Scannable. Now that I’m directing scans into DTPO (via DTTG), is there one app people find to be superior to others? Abby Finescan gets great reviews but is pricey, $10/year.

Interested in what people are using and enjoying, thanks.

I find Scanner Pro to do a great job. It does OCR as well, which I’ve found to be quite accurate and doesn’t inflate the file size the same way that DEVONthink Pro Office does, which is nice for smaller scans (receipts, invoices, etc).

Scanbot also seems to be popular and full-featured, but I’ve never found a compelling reason to switch from Scanner Pro to Scanbot.

Scanner Pro user here as well, and I also have used ScanBot and like it about equally well. Scanner Pro gets the nod because of its integration with the other Readdle apps.

thanks Greg.

Has anyone found any scanning solution that lets OCR process handwritten text? This was one feature I found in Evernote that was really helpful. When I’m at a meeting or conference I like to take notes by hand, for a number of reasons. Then I’d scan those notes into Evernote and except for when my handwriting really deteriorated, it was pretty good at seeing what I’d written and making it searchable.

I did a test using my Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner and DevonThink Pro Office, took a blank sheet of paper and wrote 3-4 words on it, printed, as legibly and cleanly as I could make them. Scanned it into DTPO, no recognition.

It was also handy if the item was an image with text on it, like a sign of some kind. Evernote would consistently see the text on the sign and make it searchable.

I’m guessing this is something DTPO simply cannot do, a feature unique to Evernote, but figured I’d ask before giving up on it.

I am not aware of anything that will make scans of hand-written notes searchable other than Evernote.

Apple Notes and Nebo for iPad will recognize hand-written notes you write within the app.

The issue is that unlike recognizing characters in an image of typed text, handwritten letters can be (far more) ambiguous (than images of typed characters). The way systems like Evernote (and Apple and Nebo) work is different than the way a typical OCR works. Unlike OCR where each image of a character corresponds to a single character of recognized text, handwriting recognizers will create a probabilistic list of potential matches for each image of character or word. So in Evernote, there is not a 1:1 correspondence between an image of a character and the recognized text, there’s a 1:MUCH GREATER THAN 1 correspondence. Each image of a character has a lot of possible textual matches.

This is why your OCR’d handwriting can’t be exported from Evernote. How would that be represented in a portable way that could be interpreted by other programs (I’m sure a standard could be developed of course). Evernote relies on its own processing and algorithm to make sense of all of this invisible data.
This is also why the text isn’t selectable or manipulable in Evernote. Which text character would actually be selected when you select a handwritten marking of a character? This kind of probabilistic recognition is fine for search, but it really doesn’t help if you want to do anything with that text other than read the image of it. An exception is Nebo which does convert your in-app hand writing into text characters which can be manipulated and exported. It won’t do this (as far as I know) with images of handwritten text.

I too lament the absence of a solution other than Evernote to make handwritten notes searchable, but its a big job to do, and making this kind of thing portable or cross-compatible would be a massive undertaking.

Scott, that makes perfect sense, thanks for laying it out.

And I want to be clear, in asking the question I’m NOT criticizing DTPO. I wasn’t expecting such handwritten recognition and figured there were probably some significant technical/paradigm differences that made it impossible. But had to ask before I gave up on trying to find an alternative.

I’ll probably keep using Evernote for some things, like this. Just too strong of a use case given my workflows, and there’s just no alternative at this point.

Oh I totally get it. I would lOve to have this feature.

But indeed, Apple Notes, Nebo, and Evernote I think are the only games in town as far as I know, and Evernote’s the only one who will do scanned handwritten. It’s a scene that’s just itching for someone to come in take advantage of. Whoever can develop a framework devs can just plop into their applications will make a killing on licensing it, I suspect.

Scott…and what ios app do you use to scan notes into DT? I’ve already got a paid license for Scanner Pro, will probably just use that unless someone thinks there’s a compelling reason to pay for Abbyy instead.

I don’t take handwritten notes anymore so… none? But if I did have notes to scan, I’d use Scanner Pro, which is what I do all of my scanning in regardless of the thing being scanned. I would just deal with it not being searchable because unless you use Evernote that’s unfortunately not an option!

When I do have to take handwritten notes, I’m increasingly trying to use Apple Notes on my iPad with my Apple Pencil so they are at least searchable (though Apple Notes does a pretty bad job of interpreting your handwriting compared to Nebo or Evernote). Despite being bad, I do a lot of other quick jottings and note-taking in Notes so I’d rather have where I often work anyway than in a silo (e.g., Nebo or GoodNotes) that I rarely access even if they recognize writing better.

to be clear, I use an ios scanning app for more than handwritten notes. One typical use case is I get handed a receipt I want to save for whatever reason. Maybe a vet bill with medical notes, or an auto service bill. I just scan it right there at their counter and then hand them back the piece of paper.

If I’m at home and have multiple full pages to scan then I use the Fujitsu. But if it’s just a single piece of paper or misc things like business cards or small receipts, flyers, whatever, it’s handy to have an IOS app to capture it.

I wish I had a full-sized duplex scanner for bigger jobs, alas, it’s Scanner Pro for me regardless. My scanning needs seem to be similar to yours, and never found Scanner Pro to let me down (aside from the inherent limitations of scanning with a smartphone, which isn’t Scanner Pro’s problem!)

One thing I think I’m confused about is OCR functionality. This is purely a product of my own ignorance so sorry for what I’m sure is a dumb question.

Does OCR happen within DTTG or DTPO when importing a new document like a PDF or .doc file, or does it need to happen outside of those apps and be in place at the time of importing?

Scanner Pro supposedly has OCR functionality, but Abbyy FineScanner purportedly has much more robust OCR functionality. With Scanner Pro, I scan a doc and send it to DTTG and it’s there, I don’t see any OCR processing taking place so I’m assuming it’s happening ‘behind the scenes’. With a free version of Abbyy FineScanner, you get a few free scans before you have to buy it. It uploads somewhere, I’m assuming their servers, where it goes through OCR processing and is then completed and available on the device, at which point I’d send it to DTTG.

Is there some advantage to using Abbyy’s assumedly more robust OCR functionality compared to Scanner Pro or ScanBot Pro, or does it really not make any difference? Given how little I think I understand about this functionality to begin with I’m not sure how I’d even comparatively test them.

Ok, I think I got my answer. The processing the app does IS important.

I took a document I got from our building management regarding the sale of the building to a new owner. It listed the names of several key team members. I scanned the single page in Scanner Pro, then I scanned it in Abbyy FineScan and let the latter app do its thing to turn it into a searchable PDF. Then I imported both documents into DTPO.

Then, I searched on one of the names in the document, a unique word that I knew I didn’t have anywhere else in my library. DTPO “saw” it in the FineScan PDF and did NOT see it from the ScannerPro PDF.

So…crap. Now I gotta pay Abbyy for this, but I think it’s worth it. I need such documents have their contents be searchable by DTPO and it doesn’t appear that Scanner Pro is making that happen. Will try ScanBot Pro and see if the results are any different.

Edit: So looked at preferences and realized that OCR for Scanner Pro wasn’t enabled. So I turned that on and re-tested. Only way to test Scanbot was to purchase their premium version for $6, so did that figuring if it doesn’t work well I may be able to get a refund. Rescanned the same page from both apps, uploaded into DTPO and tested on individual words and then phrases within quotes. The OCR verdict:

  • Scanner Pro failed miserably. I saw it run through it’s OCR process and it took literally about a second to do it. That alone made me think it’s OCR capabilities are shallow. DTPO doesn’t recognize a single word in that PDF.

  • ScanBot Premium failed less miserably. Their OCR process took about 20 seconds so it seemed like something more substantive was happening there. In DTPO it would see some words but not others. Then I found in Scanbot I could look at the results of the OCR process. Most of the page is gibberish, just terrible.

  • Abbyy FineScan takes about 3-5 minutes to run OCR on it and the result appears flawless, passed every search test I threw at it.

So my conclusion is if you don’t need to do any search of content within what you scan, then the first two apps are sufficient. If you need the contents to be searchable, they’re terrible. Bums me out because I like Scanner Pro and have used it for awhile and I’m not a fan of paying every year for the same software. But I don’t have a choice, Abbyy FineScan is the winner here.

DEVONthink Pro Office does have the ability to OCR using built in ABBYY OCR software. This can only be done on the Mac.

DEVONthink To Go cannot perform OCR.

As you’ve discovered there are other options, such as that built into Scanner Pro/Scanbot, or dedicated OCR software like that offered by ABBYY on macOS and iOS. My experience differs considerably from yours so I figured I’d outline it here just in case it offers some insight. Certainly it is in no way an attempt to debate or deny your experience!

Personally, I’ve had largely positive experiences with OCR in Scanner Pro. In general the accuracy is more than sufficient. I just checked a few invoices I scanned and OCRd with Scanner Pro and the entirety of the text is selectable, and checking about 15-20 words indicates each one is correctly identified. In my testing I selected mostly the types of words I would want for searching: Dates, business names, etc, and those were all correct.

MANY of my scans are 1-3 pages, and I find that OCR only takes 10-30 seconds depending on the amount of text on the page, normally this task is completed during the time it takes me to rename the file in Scanner Pro.

The PDFs generated by Scanner Pro, including OCR, is of nice, crisp visual quality and high resolution, and the file size is modest. This is in contrast to the experience I have had with DTPO’s built in ABBYY OCR which tends to significantly inflate file size unless you significantly degrade the quality.

But, of course, this is just an anecdote. I can’t account for why your experience is so different from mine, but of course the accuracy of OCR is highly contingent on the quality and clarity of the scan. My scans with an iPhone 8+ and previously an iPhone 6 generally produced images of sufficient quality for OCR to be adequately performed yielding the results I outlined above.

Scanbot may handle OCR in a different way that produces better results than Scanner Pro under the conditions you are scanning, which may account for why it worked marginally better for you.

There are so many variables that could contribute to your experience, thankfully there are a lot of tools! I hope you are able to find a tool that works sufficiently well for you!

Thanks for your post, and after reading it I went back and scanned a couple more test documents with Scanner Pro. This time it took a bit more time to process the OCR, like 20 seconds for a page, and when I then search on words or key phrases in that doc after importing into DTPO, it’s seeing all of them. I’ll keep testing, but I’d enjoy being able to keep using Scanner Pro as my tool of choice, even after buying a year of Abbyy Fine Scan. I’ll have to test but I’ll bet it does create smaller files and it is rendering searchable PDFs much more quickly than Fine Scan does.

Thanks for highlighting your experience with its OCR capabilities, glad I took another look.

Glad you’re inching towards a setup that works for your needs! These things are always a process, I find I’m never completely “set” in my ways becuase my needs are always changing and the tools are always evolving!

GoodNotes 4 will recognize your handwriting and convert it to text. If your writing is legible, it works very well. The resulting text can be easily exported to DTTG.