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Paper receipts are easily lost and hard to find when you need them most. Thankfully, going digital solves both of these problems. Armed with a smartphone, cloud storage and your own organisational prowess you too can solve the problem of misplaced receipts.

Whether you’re filing your taxes or calling in a warranty, receipts are vital. Some companies provide optional email receipts, most do not. While you should always keep that scrap of till roll as safe as possible, a digital backup can be a life-saver – even if you’re just doing your taxes.

Smartphone Scanners

Pretty much everyone has a smartphone these days, and every smartphone has a camera. There are some excellent apps out there for scanning paper to file, regardless of which operating system you use. In fact, app stores are absolutely jam packed with scanning apps and fierce competition is always good for consumers.

The following apps are built first and foremost with scanning in mind, and documents are saved to your smartphone’s memory. They’re likely to offer the best quality considering their sole purpose, and some even offer useful export, sharing and collaboration features.

iOS, iPhone & iPad

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for TurboScan ($1.99), a budget scanner app that delivers excellent results TurboScan - Or Why Your Next Scanner Will Cost $1.99 [iPhone] TurboScan - Or Why Your Next Scanner Will Cost $1.99 [iPhone] I had a scanner once. It took up an enormous amount of my childhood desk space circa 1998, connected via parallel port and the quality-to-speed ratio was poor to say the least. It was the... Read More . It allows you to create multiple-page PDFs, as well as JPEGs. While the interface isn’t much to write home about, edge detection and overall scan quality (with adjustable contrast settings) are both excellent, and there’s a “SureScan 3x” feature which merges three exposures, especially handy in low-light.

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I also managed to grab CamScanner+ ($4.99) while it was on sale, and having used it a number of times have been pleased with the results. The app allows you to fax your scans directly (for a fee), tag entries, collaborate, identify text and even set a passcode to secure your private documents. There’s a free version available that uses adverts and watermarks your scans, among other limitations.

One of the most feature-packed apps comes in the form of Scanner Pro ($6.99) with a suitably premium price tag to match. The app has features like real-time border detection for better framing, iCloud sync for keeping your scans backed up and in sync with your devices and direct upload to Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote. If you need an app that does everything, Scanner Pro is probably it.

Android

Google users can also make use of CamScanner+ ($4.99) or the more popular free version, which features a similar robust feature set. As is to be expected, the free trial watermarks your incoming scans and limits some of the apps more useful features, but the quality provided by CamScanner it is excellent Scan Documents On Your Phone With CamScanner [Android & iPhone] Scan Documents On Your Phone With CamScanner [Android & iPhone] When it comes to smartphones, many of us want to be able to use them to do all manner of useful home office tasks just to make our lives easier. So it's a phone, a... Read More .

Another good alternative to CamScanner+ is Mobile Document Scanner ($4.99) also known as MDScanner. With multi-page support, edge detection and a range of processing options for making text, pictures or whiteboard drawings stand out, the app is a highly capable addition to your mobile office. As ever, you can check out the free version which relies on advertising, watermarking and a limited batch scanning.

Windows Phone

In their haste to dominate the mobile scanning app landscape, CamScanner’s developers have hit the Windows Phone store with the free CamScanner for Windows Phone. From what I can tell, the app doesn’t have any limitations and nor does it cost a penny – the price you pay is in features, as not everything available in the iOS and Android versions is quite working here yet. Still, it’s free and it outputs a tasty-looking PDF.

Due to the platform’s (lack of) popularity, Windows Phone users don’t have much choice when it comes to other apps. There’s the free Handyscan, but it doesn’t look any better than CamScanner so you’re better off with the former.

Cloud Storage

One of the benefits of scanning your receipts to PDF or image format is being able to store them in the cloud, ready to be accessed whenever you need them. Thankfully, there exist a few apps that marry both storage, organisation and even document capture – and they’re all free to boot.

Google Drive (Free; iOS & Android)

Google’s own cloud storage platform makes for a great place to keep your receipts, provided you’re not too bothered about putting your purchase history in Google’s hands. Both the iOS and Android apps feature a document scanning feature that allows you to quickly capture, upload and organise your receipts and other documents. The best part of this is that you can use multiple devices running different operating systems to capture everything, and store (or access) it all in the same place.

Sorry Windows Phone users, Google hasn’t bothered making an app for your platform yet – and it doesn’t look like they will anytime soon.

Evernote (Free; iOS, Android, Windows Phone & Blackberry)

Evernote is a great alternative to Google Drive if you already use the note-taking service. In addition to being free for a basic account (10MB maximum note size, 60MB per month upload limit) the iOS and Android versions contain an excellent document scanner, ideal for saving text-friendly snaps of receipts. You can append these to a note or notebook of your choice, tag them and even open them in Skitch for annotation.

Unfortunately the Windows Phone and Blackberry versions don’t include document scanning, but they do allow you to take a snap and upload it from your device – so there’s that.

Office Lens for OneNote (Free; WindowsPhone)

When it comes to scanning, Windows Phone users have one rather handy trick up their sleeve – a dedicated app called Office Lens scans receipts, documents and whiteboards directly to OneNote. The app requires you log in with a Microsoft Account, and allows you to save images in both “document mode” and “whiteboard mode” straight to the cloud. You can then access them via WindowsPhone’s in-built OneNote app, or similar desktop edition.

Scan Smarter Using A Document Scanner

If you’re consistently disappointed by the results of handheld scanning, you might want to consider a document scanner. We’ve shown you how to make one in the past How To Build Your Own Smartphone Document Scanner How To Build Your Own Smartphone Document Scanner Have you ever tried to take a photo of a document with your smartphone camera, hoping to convert it using OCR software into a PDF or Word document later on? Perhaps you’ve attempted to take... Read More , and if you scan a lot of receipts it might be worth taking the time to make your own.

By holding your device still and letting plenty of light in, a scanbox can vastly improve the quality of your scans and reduce warping caused by edge-correction.

Use IFTTT For Smarter Organisation

IFTTT is an infinitely useful automation tool that uses a combination of triggers and actions. IFTTT can help you organise receipts in a number of ways, but the main benefit I can see is to use it to organise your digital receipts so that they appear alongside your scanned ones.

If you’re a Gmail user, you can set up various triggers, such as adding a certain label to a message, subject lines or mail from designated senders. If you have already set up your filters so that shopping emails are automatically labelled as they arrive in your inbox, the whole process can be stunningly straightforward.

It’s then a simple case of choosing your action – to store in a designated Google Drive folder, to save to Dropbox, to save a new note in your Evernote “Receipts” notebook, to add a new note to your OneNote account – the choice is yours, and fairly limitless at that.

Serious About Scanning?

Finally, if you’re really serious about scanning you may want to consider a mobile scanner from the likes of Doxie or Flip-Pal. Unlike the chunky flatbed models of yore, these models (particularly those from Doxie) are designed to be lightweight and mobile. Each company’s base model starts at $149, though if you do a lot of scanning the entry fee shouldn’t be an issue.

What are your tips for staying on top of your stack of paper receipts? Add your own coping mechanisms in the comments, below.

Image Credits: Supermarket receipts Via Shutterstock

  1. knightlyscribe
    June 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Will stores usually accept scanned receipts? Will the government? Seems pointless to me to scan receipts if I still have to hold on to the originals. someone, please enlighten me.

    • Tim B
      June 19, 2014 at 11:48 pm

      I suppose your exactly circumstances depend on where you live, but under most decent consumer law (take the UK or Australia as examples) you only have to prove that a purchase was made. So, if you lose the receipt but have a credit card statement for the item, with an amount that is consistent with the item, the store must check their own records and essentially "prove you wrong" before denying your right to replacement/repair/refund.

      I'm pretty sure a scanned receipt would be even better, as you'd have the date, store name, amount, person who served you, transaction number and a bunch of other information that would make that whole process much easier if the store really depended on it.

      So yes, there's a good reason to scan receipts, provided you live somewhere with consumer-friendly retail laws.

    • KnightlyScribe
      June 20, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks, Tim. I"ll have to look into this here in the Good 'Ole U.S. of A. I appreciate your time to reply.

  2. Db
    June 14, 2014 at 5:49 am

    CamScanner+ Android user for a long time now, love it. We also made a scan box for all our personal scanning needs and have the Doxie Go + WiFi for our business. Anytime we come back to the office after meeting with clients our documents are automatically uploaded. Love the Doxie Go as much as CamScanner+. Highly recommend both from a personal POV & and business owner POV.

  3. CGA1
    June 13, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Windows phone also has Office Lens.

  4. Jason
    June 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    If you are already using Evernote, then you can scan business cards, when you create a note (or choose camera from the app) you can take a regular photo or an option for Document (a basic scanner for documents) but also has business card support and iOS even ties into Linked IN (if you like.

  5. Badi R
    June 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I have scanner pro and yes it is very good.

    Can you review business card scan apps? I've been looking for one that's really good specially for iOS. Thanks.

    • Tim B
      June 14, 2014 at 1:46 am

      Hi – just to let you know, Evernote does this with their app Hello.

      You can download it here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/evernote-hello/id484359282?mt=8

      I will have a look into rounding-up other such similar apps at some point in the future :)

    • Badi R
      June 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks Tim for the suggestion.

      Tried the evernote hello but doesn't really like it.

      Looking forward for your review on business card scanner apps.

  6. Guy M
    June 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    CamScanner is currently on sale for $0.99 as of June 13, 2014.

  7. Guy M
    June 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I've always wanted to do this, but until now the technology hasn't been very accessible for the individual.
    Companies have been doing this sort of document management for years and it saves thousands, if not millions.

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