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Evernote's New Free App Takes the Ugh Out of Scanning

Evernote Scannable can help you manage those stacks of business cards you have stashed in your drawer.

James Temple for Re/code

Ugh. They sit in stacks in my desk drawer. I know they’re there, but I refuse to acknowledge them until I absolutely can’t ignore them anymore, like an ex who shows up at a party.

I’m talking about the piles of expense receipts and snarls of business cards that trail me throughout my professional life — perhaps the last holdout of the analog age. The sad thing is that I know taking the time to organize them would offer great returns. But the task of having to scan documents and manually enter information is so tedious and time-consuming that I’d rather deal with them jamming my drawers and stuffing my wallet than actually doing something about them.

Understanding that this is a pain point for many people, Evernote has launched a new app called Scannable. Using your smartphone’s camera, Scannable captures and digitizes various paper documents, which you can then save to a specified location or share with others.

So what makes Scannable better than the dozens of other document-scanning apps out there, like CamScanner, Doc Scan and Jot Not? Evernote says the difference between Scannable and the competition is its speed and simplicity. (It’s also free.)

In my testing, I found this to be true, and with my iPhone 5, I managed to scan several dozen business cards, a handful of documents and about 20 receipts.

But the app may be a little too limited for some people. First, it’s only available for iOS 8 devices. The company says it wants to work on perfecting the iOS app before moving onto other platforms, like Android.

There are no document collaboration tools, and you can’t add notes to scanned business cards from within the app. So if you need these things, this isn’t the app for you.

Bonnie Cha for Re/code

But if you’re looking for a quick and easy solution to digitize paperwork, I’d recommend Scannable. I should also note that while Scannable can connect with Evernote’s note-taking and archiving app, an account is not required to use it.

Once you install the app, you can start scanning documents immediately. As you begin using the different functions, the app may ask for permission to access your contacts, calendar, Evernote, LinkedIn and other social networking accounts, giving you the opportunity to link them if you want. (You can view Evernote’s privacy policy here for more information on the type of data it collects and why.)

The app scans various types of documents, including letters, receipts, business cards and Post-it notes. Unlike some of its competitors, Scannable doesn’t require that you align the edges of the document with rulers, tap the screen to focus, or press a capture button to start scanning. It does its best to automate that whole process.

I started with documents and receipts. You just point your iPhone or iPad’s camera at the document, and Scannable handles everything from detecting the image and cropping and adjusting brightness to converting it into a high-quality digital copy — all within a few seconds. If the app has a problem recognizing a document, you can switch to manual mode and capture it yourself.

In my experience, Scannable was quick and reliable. I used CamScanner and Doc Scan to scan a few different documents to see how they compared in speed — Scannable was easier and faster.

I was also impressed with the quality of scans. The app does best when you place the document on a contrasting background and with decent lighting. But even when I tried it in dimmer environments or against various backgrounds, Scannable did a good job of producing a readable document. Files can be saved either as JPGs or PDFs.

Bonnie Cha for Re/code

Once you have the scanned document, you can continue scanning, or tap on it for more options, such as renaming or sharing it. There are also shortcuts to export a file to iCloud, Google Drive, Evernote, your camera roll and more.

I thought one of the smartest features of the app was the ability to share scanned documents with meeting attendees. If you’ve given Scannable access to your calendar, it knows when you’re in a meeting and will automatically populate an email with all the attendees’ addresses if you want to share a document with them. But as I mentioned before, there are no built-in collaboration or editing tools, so you can’t mark them up with notes or make changes once you’ve captured an image.

Scannable was a little more powerful when it came to scanning business cards. It can pull details from the card — phone number, address, email, title, even a LinkedIn profile if available — and convert that into a digital contact card that you can add to your address book or export to Evernote.

For me, this is the killer feature of Scannable. I meet with a lot of people in my line of work, and I always mean to add their information to my digital Rolodex after I get their business cards. Instead, the cards end up shoved in notebooks or my desk. Then I curse myself when I can’t find someone’s information. Scannable made quick work of digitizing stacks of collected cards.

But it wasn’t without problems. I ran into multiple issues when scanning nontraditional business cards, like those printed on dark backgrounds, using hard-to-read fonts, or of non-standard size.

For example, Scannable couldn’t pull any information from a couple of cards printed on plastic. Also, a cursive “k” on a business card was translated as an “h” in the app, and the angle brackets on my business card created errors in the name field. You can correct mistakes before saving to another location, but you can’t add new fields.

One other key feature I’d like to see is the ability to assign notes or tags within the Scannable app. I work with a lot of public relations companies that represent numerous clients, so it would be nice if I could add just a brief note to say, “this contact represents company X.”

Evernote said this has been a frequently requested feature, so it may roll it out in a future update. The company is also working on improvements for capturing information from cards of different layouts and sizes.

Evernote Scannable may not be the most feature-rich document scanning app, but it’s simple, fast, and one of the best free solutions for helping you go paperless.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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