I hate paper. Unless it's green, 2½ inches by 6 inches, and has a picture of Benjamin Franklin on it, I want nothing to do with it. Many auditors carry portable scanners for fieldwork, but not all CPAs travel that well-prepared. We do, however, all have smartphones. And, fortunately, those phones, paired with a few special apps, can often serve as scanners. These handy apps have saved me from paper on many occasions.
DIGITIZE DOCUMENTS WITH SCANBOT
Scanbot captures digital copies of paper documents. It's fairly simple to use, produces accurate scans, supports background uploading to cloud services, has great optical character recognition (OCR), and even includes basic editing functions.
Upon opening, the app defaults to showing the camera in the first screen, but you can change whether the app starts with the camera or the documents list. The scanning process guides you with automatic edge detection and prompts such as "Too dark," "Too close," or "Move closer." The suggested actions aren't required, so you can just tap the capture button when ready. I chose to use the app in "Automatic," where it senses when you're in the correct position, tells you, "Don't move," and after a moment, takes the picture itself. No fuss, no muss. The app also allows you to toggle into "Multi-Page" in which it will continuously snap pictures of new pages as soon as they are detected. It's a great way to capture multiple-page documents into a single PDF file. Once the image is captured, you can reorder, crop, and rotate it before saving. I found it easier to do those things later on my desktop.
Once you tap save, the scan is handed off for OCR processing or background uploading. Note that these functions are available only in the paid versions—$5.99 for OCR and $7.99 for both OCR and auto-upload. There is also a $9.99 VIP option, which includes a second copy (for giving to a colleague) of the Pro version. Because I prefer OCR on my stored PDFs so the text becomes searchable, I chose the $7.99 version.
The OCR process takes a minute or so for a text-heavy document. That's because Scanbot performs the OCR on your device, not in the cloud. Translation: It's safe! No third-party servers are involved. That's very important when dealing with the sensitive information that CPAs often handle.
The editing feature allows you to write, highlight, or add notes and even add your signature. There's an "eraser" for removing your annotations.
- Website: scanbot.io
- Pricing: Free for limited use; $5.99, $7.99, $9.99 for premium versions
- Operating systems: iOS, Android
QUICKLY CAPTURE IMAGES WITH PHOTOMYNE
Photomyne makes it possible to scan multiple images in a single pass. Assume your challenge is to scan sales invoices that are stored four on a page in a three-ring binder. Photomyne would allow you to capture them all, each as an individual image, without having to take them from the binder pages or remove the protective plastic. The resulting file is in JPG rather than PDF format, but the speed and efficiency of the capture process might well justify whatever inconvenience that might cause.
Photomyne is designed specifically for photos, not documents. I discovered the app when my wife asked for help in scanning old family photo albums. I found it effective for that use. During the scanning process, the app auto-detects, crops, and color-enhances the scanned photos. And when you're finished scanning, the app groups and saves them into a separate album.
- Website: photomyne.com
- Pricing: Free Photomyne Scanner Lite version with limited functionality; $4.99 for the full version
- Operating systems: iOS, Android
Greg LaFollette (email@example.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.