Adobe's new app really wants to kill your scanner

Of all the computer peripherals that most of us would like to die a painful death whenever we have to use them, the scanner probably sits neat the top of the list. Now, Adobe wants you to junk it completely, with its new Adobe Scan app for iOS and Android. Built on the idea that people are already using their phone cameras as makeshift scanner replacements, Adobe Scan promises to give the whole process a little more polish.

Taking a photo with your phone or tablet and then emailing it is a handy workaround, but Adobe Scan throws in some text-identification smarts. When you use it to take a picture – whether of a document, a textbook, or what's on a whiteboard – it automatically converts printed text into digital text. That can be extracted and used elsewhere.

It's based on Adobe's Sensei artificial intelligence and machine-kerning framework. That's already been used for the company's image processing apps, and now its talents are being set to work on more mundane pictures. It allows Adobe Scan to identify the boundaries and automatically crop "scanned" images, do perspective correction for off-angle shots, and remove any shadows.

There's also manual support for tweaking and editing. That includes cropping, rotating, and color-adjustments.

The results can be saved as a PDF for easy sharing. However, unlike when you export a regular scan as a PDF, they're not just images in a fancy – and often oversized – enclosure format. Instead, Adobe preserves the fruits of its text recognition, so that you can search for keywords later on.

Adobe has integrated the app with its own Document Cloud, a basic account for which is free. If you stump up for a subscription, meanwhile, you get more powerful organizational and editing tools, in addition to being able to manage signatures and more. You'll also be able to export PDF format files to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Certainly, if you're only ever doing a couple of scans periodically, this might all be overkill compared to the regular camera app and a steady hand. If you're hooked into an existing PDF workflow, though, it might be worth considering, not least because it beats digging out the scanner every time, plugging it in, and dealing with the inevitable calibration glitches and firmware updates. Adobe Scan is available for iOS and Android from today, as a free download from the App Store and Google Play.

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