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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

There’s an App for That: Scanning and Organizing Research Materials

May 31st, 2016

Readers who have conducted research at Spencer Research Library know that on-site patrons have the option to use a phone, camera, or tablet – or the overhead scanner in the Reading Room – to scan or digitally photograph collection materials.* Here, Spencer student assistant Katie Lynn shares some information about apps that can take your scanning to the next level.

Screenshot of TurboScan app    Screenshot of FineScanner app    Screenshot of CamScanner app

Screenshots of the scanning apps TurboScan (left), FineScanner (middle), and
CamScanner (right). Click images to enlarge.

There are a number of productivity apps by which you can use your mobile phone or tablet as a scanner to digitize just about anything, including some books, documents, and photographs in the collections of Spencer Research Library.* Most of the apps described briefly below have both free and pro options and are available for mobile devices with iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android operating systems, though there is one for Microsoft devices. Other apps that are less powerful or flexible include Evernote Scannable (iOS only), Google Drive (Android only), and Scanner Pro (iOS only).

All of the following apps offer auto edge detection (auto-cropping a document) and some kind of auto-enhancement for each image. Most allow you to save images in color, black and white, or in the original photo version, and some allow you to further edit the contrast, rotation, brightness, and color of images. They all allow you to create multi-page PDF files or save images in other formats. They all store these scans and allow you to upload them to the usual cloud services, such as DropBox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc. You can also use most of them to print documents.

By far the most powerful of these apps are CamScanner and ABBYY FineScanner. These apps have a variety of paid plan levels above there free versions to add their many features bit by bit. The options that set them apart from other apps are the abilities to annotate, tag, OCR, collaborate with others, and save documents in a variety of formats. ABBYY’s FineScanner boasts their powerful OCR software that works in 193 languages (though it doesn’t translate them), has a BookScan feature that splits book scans into two pages and straightens any curved text lines, and allows you to save files in many more formats, while CamScanner can be used on iOS, Android, and Microsoft devices and provides a few more editing features than FineReader. To gain access to their advanced features, however, can be costly.

To get many of the same basic options, though not OCR, TurboScan (Google Play, iTunes), Tiny Scanner (Google Play, iTunes), and Microsoft Office Lens (Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store) offer free and low-cost pro versions.

Chart comparing scanning apps

A comparison of selected scanning apps.
Click image to enlarge.

*Please check with a Spencer reference librarian before scanning or photographing any collection materials.

Katie Lynn
University Archives Student Assistant