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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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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