Going Paperless: Mobile Scanning with Evernote Scannable

I keep my eye out for apps that can help save me time and be more productive. So when Evernote recently released their new app, Scannable, I was eager to try it out. Not only was it designed to do one thing really well–namely, scan documents–but it filled a niche that I found I needed more and more in my efforts to go paperless.

For those who aren’t familiar with the app, Scannable uses the camera in your iPhone or iPad1 to scan documents into Evernote (or other apps). It makes it incredibly easy to do this. You simply start the app, hold the device over the document so that the entire document appears, and wait a few seconds while Scannable detects the edges, and snaps a photo. You don’t have to click button. Scannable does it all. It cleans up the image, makes sure the edges are straight, and then gives you the opportunity to send the document to Evernote or other applications.

How it works

First, you start the app. Then you hold your device over the document you want to scan, and wait a second or two. When the document is highlighted in blue, it means Scannable has detected it and automatically grabs the image. Note how the document below is highlighted and detected even on the edge of my table.

Scannable scanning

Once detected, you can continue to scan more documents, or deal with the ones you’ve already scanned.

Scannable action

When I finish my scanning, I send the document or documents to Evernote. Doing this, I am prompted for which notebook I want the documents to be filed in:

Scannable file

A few seconds later, my scanned document is available in Evernote.

How I’ve been using Scannable

Scannable has made it possible for me to:

  1. Cut down on the amount of scanning I do at home.
  2. Capture documents I might not otherwise have been able to capture easily
  3. Have instant, searchable access to documents I scan using Scannable
  4. Easily annotated my scanned documents without having to first go home and scan them.

Cutting down on the amount of scanning I do at home

Since I started using Scannable, I no longer have to bring documents home with me. If I got to a homeowners meeting and they hand out an agenda, or other documents, I use Scannable to quickly capture them, and then give the originals back. I don’t have to bring them home with me. I scan them the moment I get them, and that makes things a little more efficient for me.

Capture documents I might not otherwise have been able to capture easily

When I was at the dentist recently to have some wisdom teeth yanked, I had to sign a ream of papers before going in for the procedure. These papers had to be returned to the reception window, meaning I would not have had a chance to bring them home and scan them. Fortunately, I had Scannable. I scanned all of the pages into a note in Evernote before returning them.

Have instant, searchable access to documents I’ve scanned using Scannable.

A few seconds after scanning a document, it appears in Evernote. And it is fully searchable. To demonstrate, I scanned a troubleshooting guide for my new work laptop using Scannable, and sent the note to Evernote. A few seconds later, I ran a search in Evernote for the term “Dell wired”. The note I’d scanned using Scannable was the first match:

Scannable Search


This has the potential of being a huge time-saver, not just in terms of scanning, but being able to search dense documents seconds after receiving them in order to find specific information.

Easily annotate scanned documents without having to first go home to scan them

Because the document is scanned into Evernote, I have the ability to annotate the document, even on my phone. I can, for instance, easily highlight passages, or make other annotations. I don’t have to wait to go home to scan it first.

Scannable Search

But couldn’t you have done this with your camera, or the previous document scanner in Evernote?

Yes, some of this was possible from within the Evernote app, but I never found the process as fluid and easy as it is using Scannable. Scannable cuts out several steps, makes for smoother transitions between steps, and produces good quality scans, all in one app. Using Scannable for capturing paper when I am away from my home office has been a huge time-saver for me.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Previous post: Distraction-Free Evernote.

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  1. Sorry folks, right now the app is just iOS.


  1. This little app has changed things quite dramatically for me. I pull out my Scansnap S1300i a little less these days.

    I’m particularly impressed with the apps ability to clean up the image. It automatically makes the whites truly white and even flattens out the creases in a folded piece of paper. The speed is fantastic as well.

    I think this app makes a tiny portable scanner like the Doxie Go with no paper tray completely useless.

  2. Yep, like Donnie said it makes a scanner less important. For me this app was actually the starting point as I have been contemplating getting a scanner for months (if not years) but Scannable saves me that money. And time, too, as you pointed out.

  3. Scannable saved my bacon last month, when both my work scanner was down. I am really impressed with the quick workflow and clean-up of documents.

    You don’t mention the “recent” tab that you can access when you get to the final sharing page. Recent remembers the last Evernote notebooks that you scanned to (and other sharing methods).

    I use Evernote for my task list, something akin to “The Secret Weapon” method, which focuses on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. Any sticky note or piece of paper that crosses my in box and needs my action should be added to my Evernote “todo” notebook for processing. Scannable makes short work of taking a quick photo of any sticky note or document, tapping where it says “scannable document” to name the note/task, and then popping it into my todo notebook, which is on the Scannable recent list.

    Of course, if it is just reference material, then it can go into my inbox notebook, which is also on the recent list.

    I didn’t expect to be blown away by a scanner app, but I was!

  4. Jammie, Great post, but please remember to identify when the app is OS restricted. We’re not all tied to iPhone/iPad, Mac, etc. 😉
    But great review anyway.

  5. I echo many of the comments made prior. Scannable has all but made my Doxie Go obsolete. Scannable is especially helpful for those odd shaped, or slightly tattered (i.e. corner staple just removed) receipts which occasionally got snared during the Doxie Go’s process of physically passing the document over its lens. I also find I can get through a day’s worth of mail in Scannable faster than with Doxie Go and I skip the Doxie Go interface entirely.

    But probably the most beneficial aspect of Scannable is that I can load it up on my wife’s iPhone and she can easily participate in the process of getting our life’s paperwork into Evernote herself, without any knowledge of Doxie or even Evernote for that matter. I’ve been searching for a way to engage her in the “Paper – Less” process for over a year now, and I always felt I needed to teach her scanning procedures or Evernote concepts first. Now she can just point and shoot with Scannable, and the hard work is done.

    With many of Evernote’s recent headlines containing announcements regarding courier bags, pencil cups, water bottles and wallets, I was somewhat worried that the firm had lost its way. But with Scannable, I am firmly back into the Evernote Fan Boy camp.

  6. I used Scannable to convert a single page Word document into a jpg picture.
    I was then able to tweet the ‘document’, without having to host the Word document and Tweet a link.
    The picture was perfectly clear and readable.
    I run a Twitter based weekly 2 hour chat with 15,000 followers, so this is a simple way to Tweet documents. Next test will be an Excel spreadsheet.
    The ability to choose between jpg or pdf in the recent Scannable update was a good addition.

  7. I agree totally with the comments above. It is probably the greatest app other than Evernote itself I have ever added to my iPhone …..

  8. Gotta love Evernote. I really dig how Evernote is embracing the multiple-app platform. Scannable addresses and issue I’ve had with quickly and easily capturing documents.

    It also works great for snapping photos of whiteboards after a meeting or brainstorming session.

    Great write up.

  9. It seems that this would be good for research as well. As I’m reading I’m always taking notes that may be of use in a future talk or paper. When reading on a Kindle I can highlight a passage then grab it into Evernote from Amazon’s MyKindle page.
    The difficulty has been what to do when reading on good old paper – this would let me grab my phone, snap a scan of the page, annotate it to specify Author, Title, Page, etc. and toss it into Evernote. Perfect!

  10. Dear Jamie,

    Thanks for an interesting review of Scannable – it indeed sounds very convenient.

    At the same time, I’m curious to hear if you didn’t use a mobile/iOS document scanner before Scannable came out? With your dedicated “Paperless philosophy”, I would have guessed you already did so, since as you point out it takes the hazzle out of bringing papers and documents to the location where ones has a stationary scanner. For that purpose, I have for a long period happily been using the free iOS app Genius Scanner (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/genius-scan-pdf-scanner/id377672876?mt=8) – that in essence works like Scannable (document border recognition, export to other apps including Evernote etc.).

    Best regards,

  11. This app seems like a workaround to iOS’ lack of widgets.

    Android Users: Just install the Evernote Widget and launch a Camera Note, scroll your camera until “Document” mode is active, and take the photo. Same thing as Evernote Scannable.

  12. Hi Jamie:
    While you have brought up some good points in favor of the app, it should be noted that it works best with EverNote installed. For example, I was unable to scan multi-page documents in Scannable or search from within the app.

    In my opinion, they were better off adding a new document type in their flagship app than releasing a whole new app. CamScanner and similar apps have been doing this kind of thing for ages.


  13. Question – is there and app or a way to prevent your scanned docs of photos in event NOT to appear in your photo stream or in your photo library. I want to start doing this in earnest – but what I don’t want is 25,000 more photos to have to rifle through when Im looking for things with my kids?

  14. I love Evernote and I would like to say that Scannable is as good. Scannable is great on the one side, but on the other side it has a tricky user interface and that was – at least at the beginning – quite complicated for me.
    But — I use it now everyday.

  15. Is it possible to append a certain note? I use Evernote during meetings and scan papers as they are passed around the table into my current meetings note using Evernote document camera. Then I have the documents appearing in real time one after the other. Would enjoy using Scannable if this was possible.

    Thank you,


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