The world is full of rituals.
Exchanging business cards is one of the more time honored one. But we often forget one thing – the humble card is not about the paper it is printed on. It is about the person behind it. It is about the door to opportunity that could open up.
Unfortunately, the same paper enters the blackhole of a ragged card holder or the hidden recesses of a drawer never to be seen again. Though hanks to the movement towards a paperless culture, we can now have the best of both worlds. The etiquette of exchanging business cards can be complemented with modern business card management apps that help us take the printer’s ink and convert it into bytes.
Yes, it’s time to rethink the humble business cards, while keeping the old customs alive.
There are many scanner apps on the market, but the best business card scanner tools offer one more specialized ingredient. They OCR to extract the printed information and convert it into bytes, but they also help you form relationships. It could come from simple LinkedIn integration or an instant way to connect to them via Skype or WhatsApp. Or it can be some advanced CRM pyrotechnics to help manage a legion of contacts.
We look at what the best business card scanner apps bring to the table.
1. Microsoft’s Office Lens
Every worthy note-taking app has found a way to introduce it. Including Microsoft OneNote.
Last year, Microsoft gave us the Office Lens application to read business cards and convert them into digital contacts. Thanks to the camera, you can snap pictures of whiteboards, or printed documents and convert them into digital documents. For our particular need, use the Office Lens Business Card Mode feature to save a scanned business cards to a OneNote notebook.
Office Lens uses OCR to format the card information in OneNote, so you can access contact information from the card. For example: You can email a client or click-to-call with Skype.
That’s another notch you can add to OneNote’s productivity benefits – using it as a Rolodex.
- Cropping, straightening, and enhancing photos
- The OCR feature formats the card and makes it searchable.
- Use OneNote to export the business card as a VCF file and import it into Outlook or your phone’s contact list.
- The scanner mode works with English, German, and Spanish business cards, with more languages coming soon.
- Scan business cards in Simplified Chinese and extract contact information.
Business card scanning on Evernote is a Premium feature.
Use the Evernote camera on your smartphone to frame the card and take a quick snap. The camera automatically finds the edges and you don’t have to manually make any adjustments in most cases. Evernote digitizes it.
The benefit comes after that – Evernote offers business users an integration with their LinkedIn accounts. Evernote sources LinkedIn and creates a searchable note with relevant information about your new contact. The scanning, optical recognition, and LinkedIn searching happens automatically.
This Evernote support page goes into the details. Evernote offers a trial with 5 business cards.
- Each scanned business card becomes a contact note in Evernote.
- Evernote taps any LinkedIn profiles and imports additional contact information from that profile.
- All information is editable and you can add additional notes, call, text (SMS), or email the person.
- Automatically set up Evernote to save the information to your phone’s contacts (Tap your account name and select General > Camera > Business Cards and toggle Save to Contacts.)
3. Scannable — For Evernote Free Users
The best Evernote workaround for users who are on the free plan.
Scannable is a free app available for iPhone users looking for the paperless workflow. Scannable recognizes business cards, receipts, whiteboards, and any other paper you point the camera at. Scans are automatically cropped and enhanced and converted into clear digital documents.
Scannnable works almost identical to the business card scanning mode of Evernote Premium. You can connect it to your LinkedIn account and add in details from your contact’s LinkedIn profile, including a photo. You can automatically add these to your iPhone contacts.
- Automatically recognizes and scans when pointed at a business card.
- Pull information from business cards and LinkedIn (including profile photos), and save it all to your contacts list.
- Information can also be saved to any pre-defined Evernote notebook.
- Send your own info to your business contacts.
Download: Scannable for iOS (Free)
Use human powered transcription to convert your business cards into contacts integrated with more than 250 apps like Salesforce, Mailchimp, and more.
The FullContact Card Reader is a full-fledged business card scanner, suitable for maintaining large databases of leads. It uses human transcription services to ensure accuracy of the conversions. Expectedly, the basic app is free, but the backend service is not. The card reader comes with 10 cards free. After that, you can purchase card packs for as low as $9.99 USD or pay $99 USD per year for 1000 cards (via an in-app subscription).
This can be the ideal app for managing contacts sourced from large networking events like sales conferences or trade shows. You can maintain the FullContact Address Book across all your devices. Small businesses can take advantage of its simpler integration features with tools like Excel, Evernote, OneNote, Microsoft Exchange, and Office 365, or the humble but true Google Contacts.
You can also add FullContact to your Gmail inbox and add, edit, or pull in extra information (like email signatures) to enrich your contact database.
- Real people transcribe the card before it is added to the CRM app of your choice.
- The app natively supports Salesforce, but also offers integration with more than 250+ apps.
- You can also automate your FullContact tasks with other Zapier integrations across more than 500 apps.
- Scan one-sided and two-sided business cards.
Download: Full Contact Card Reader [No Longer Available]
A professional card reader app for consumers and enterprise users.
CamCard is a popular business card reader app that is available across devices, supporting Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and the web app. It was among the top paid apps on iOS in 2014. The app is designed for quick entry of card information and also exchanging electronic cards securely. CamCard also notifies your contacts when you change your personal info mentioned in your electronic card. For example, when you join a new company. Likewise, you are informed when your contacts change their information.
CamCard can optically recognize card information and makes it easy to look-up the information when you want to call, email, or browse LinkedIn from the app. The card reader supports 17 languages including traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. As a Chinese startup, the company recognizes the everyday culture of exchanging physical cards and the clutter problems that come with it.
The basic app is free and allows you 200 card scans in the trial. The paid app without restrictions costs $0.99 [No Longer Available]. CamCard apps for enterprise users are also available at different price points.
- Add images, notes, and reminders to contacts.
- All card information is synced to the cloud account.
- Use the Outlook plug-in to import contacts into the mail client.
- Manage all your business cards with quick search and tags.
- Batch scan of business cards is available.
Download: CamCard for Android (Free)
Completely free! Unlimited scans, full featured, and no ads.
That’s what the plug says on the download page. Haystack is a business card scanner app, but it’s also a digital card creator. When you open the app for the first time, create your own personalized card. This digital card can be exchanged with any new contact, whether they use Haystack or not. If they do not have the Haystack app, they see the mobile version of the digital card, which they can then save directly to their device.
Like all scanner apps, the app quickly scans and pulls in the details from a physical card into your phone. But the most useful feature? Haystack cards keep all data up-to-date. The details on your contacts gets updated with every promotion, job changes, or address moves.
- Backup an unlimited number of contacts to the cloud.
- Share your Haystack card with absolutely anyone, anywhere.
- The app also supports NFC technology for card exchange with other Haystack users.
- Cards can be shared to any platform — Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, web, and vCard.
Choose between scanning your own cards with OCR or submitting it to the company for manual transcription.
ScanBizCards is a heavy lifter with its support for multiple CRM platforms like Salesforce and SugarCRM. The app comes in three flavors – Lite, Premium, and Enterprise. The free version offers unlimited card scanning, but limits a few of the card management features. All contacts are backed-up to the cloud and can be synced across devices. In the Lite version, you are limited to 5 cloud syncs per week.
Manual card transcription costs $0.18 per card in the Lite version. You can just as easily export it to a CSV file too. CRM and CSV export are not available in the free version of the app.
- ScanBizCards supports unlimited scanning of business cards.
- Access all your contacts via your cloud account.
- Sync across devices and with your address book.
- Search your cards and organize your cards with custom folder names (limited to 1 folder in the Lite version).
- Supports double-sided business cards.
Other Business Card Scanners You Can Try Out
One day, smartphones will integrate business card scanning as a default part of contact management. Some in the Samsung S series have it. Till then, you have your handy camera app and a river of scanners to choose from. Here are a few more you can snap with:
- CardToContact (Android [No Longer Available])
- WordCard Mobile Lite (iOS | Android)
- ABBYY Business Card Reader (Windows | iOS)
- Presto BizCard
- SamCard (iOS)
Pick the Business Card Scanner That’s Right for You
Picking the right business card scanner is going to be a very subjective exercise. Pick something simple, like Scannable or Office Lens, if you are someone who comes across the rectangular scrap of embossed paper once in a while. These apps are more than enough to handle small networking events also.
But if you are a business magnate or someone who wants to turn a lead into gold, then bring out a big gun. The FullContact Card Reader or the versatile CamCard could be favorites. Because for someone with legions of people to follow, scanning is just the tip of the spear. What matters more is how the scanner OCR brings in and organizes the information for followups.
Remember this golden rule: Our memory sucks.
Trust a good contact management system instead. Today’s contact could be tomorrow’s friend. That’s why it is important to turn scanning business cards into a routine.
What’s yours? Do you scan business cards? Which is your favorite app or workflow? Tell us everything in the comments.