How to scan documents with OCR on iOS

One of the updates brought by iOS 11 to Apple devices is a new feature in the Notes app which allows you to scan photos and physical documents so you can save them up just like your notes. This was a nice addition as it eliminates the need to install third-party applications just to perform that function, but it’s still insufficient for those that want to go a step further and scan their documents with OCR as neither iOS or the Notes app support it natively. In this post, I’ll show you how to scan documents with OCR in iOS.

Scan documents with OCR on iOS

Speaking in the context of smartphones, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology used to recognize text characters present on media files like documents and photos. The media files are first scanned and converted to a digital form suitable for character recognition, before the final process of OCR is carried out.

Special systems are designed to scan and recognize text on these files, but since many smartphones these days (definitely iOS devices) have cameras that are capable of taking clear and large pictures, applications can make use of both the cameras and software libraries available to carry out the process. In this guide, we’ll be using Scanbot which is one of the best scanning applications available on the App Store.


  • A device running on iOS.
  • Scanbot Pro. Even though Scanbot can be downloaded for free on the App Store, you have to upgrade to the pro version to get advanced tools like OCR. It’s available via in-app purchases for $6.99.

Scanning documents with OCR on iOS – The Process

Launch the Scanbot app.

If it’s your first time, you’ll be taken straight to a camera interface where you’ll be able to start scanning documents. To get there on subsequent launches, tap the + button on the main screen.
Scanbot Capture Screen

Scanning Multiple Documents

If you have more than one page of document you wish to scan, you can do it without having to keep exiting and returning to the capture screen. To do this, tap the Multi-Page option at the top left of the capture screen.

Scanning in dark environments

If you’re in low-lit conditions, or you just want more clarity on the documents you’re scanning, tap the Flash option at the top centre of the capture screen.

Automatic and Manual Scanning

The app’s capture screen is just like your phone’s camera application; you can tap the shutter button to scan a document. If you want this to happen automatically, however, tap the Automatic option at the top right of the capture screen.
You’ll then have to position your device so that the page you wish to scan is completely in the camera’s field of view and let the app do its thing.
When you’re done with all the document pages you have, you can review your collection of images to see if you want to add more, delete some, or edit existing ones. When you’ve decided, tap the Save button to collate all the images into a PDF. 
As long as you’ve upgraded to Scanbot Pro, OCR will be performed automatically on the document after it has been collated into PDF format.
Scan existing document with OCR
The steps above are for scanning a new document with OCR. If you want to scan an existing document with OCR on your iOS device, simply import the document into Scanbot through the Share Sheets action, switch to the Text tab at the top of the screen and tap Run OCR.
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