How to Scan Documents to PDF Directly into the Notes App on iOS

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Keeping track and storing physical documents can be a pain. Health records get mixed up with employment contracts, your folder of tax documents contains errant business cards, and those handwritten notes from friends and family always tend to go missing.

You should really digitize a lot of your documents. Digitally saving your recordings saves space in your home, and storing them in a password-protected location (perhaps an authenticator-enabled storage service) is much more secure than this accordion folder that you keep hidden.

Don’t worry though. You don’t need a special scanner to start moving documents to the cloud. If you are an iPhone user, Apple has a secret document scanner hidden in its Notes app.

How to scan documents into the Notes app

The scanning process only takes a second, but there are a few Notes app tips and tricks you need to know before diving in that will make it much smoother. We scan a document using an iPhone 13 Pro, but you can also use an iPad or iPod touch.

To scan a document, create a new note and tap “Scan Documents” in the capture menu.

  • Open the Notes app on your iPhone.
  • Create a new note by tapping the compose icon in the lower right corner of the screen.
  • When you create a new note, the keyboard and a toolbar will appear in the lower half of your screen. In the toolbar, tap the camera icon and select “Scan Documents” from the menu.
  • Your camera will activate and you will be prompted to position the document you wish to scan in front of the camera. Hover your phone over your document. Your camera will search for items to scan, displaying a semi-transparent yellow box over sections of the document. When the camera has a good view of the entire document, it automatically captures and saves a scan of the document. If you have more than one page to scan, you can repeat this step.
  • Once you are done scanning all your pages, you can tap the thumbnail in the lower left corner to preview your scans. You can crop, rotate or add some filters to your image. If you don’t like the look of a scan, you can tap “Resume” in the upper right corner to resume a specific page. You can tap “Done” in the upper left corner to return to the capture screen.
  • If you’re happy with your scans, tap “Save” in the lower right corner of your capture screen. You will be taken back to the composition screen where you can add additional notes to your document if you wish. Tap “Folders” when you’re done to return to the main Notes menu.

Your scanned document will now be listed along with the rest of your saved notes. To access the PDF of your scan and share it elsewhere, you can sync your Notes app with your iCloud storage and find the PDF later on the web or send it directly from the Notes app on your phone.

Once you have scanned a document into the Notes app, you can send it as a PDF.

  • In your Notes app, select the note(s) you just created with the scanned document.
  • Tap directly on the image of the scanned document. This will bring up an edit screen.
  • Tap the share icon in the top right corner of your screen. This will bring up the same sharing options you would see if you were sharing a photo or link. Simply choose a contact you want to send the PDF to and launch it.

A few tips for clear scans

I scanned a handwritten note above and wasn’t too worried about the quality of my scanning of documents. If you’re scanning a larger document, like a work file or personal folder, you need to make sure your new PDF is neat and easy to read. Here are some tips to improve your scans.

  • Good lighting is an absolute must. You can scan a document with a newer iPhone in low light conditions, but it will never look as good as a scan in a brighter environment. Soft, natural light near a window will be best, followed by bright overhead lights. If you strike the right balance, your scan will look like a digital document straight out of a word processor.
  • Auto-scan mode is great, but it can be a bit overwhelming when your phone starts capturing copies of your document before you’re ready. You can turn off auto mode by tapping “Auto” in the top right corner of your screen in capture mode. This will switch you to manual mode where you have a bit more control over when to capture. Simply press the capture button in the center as if you were taking a photo when your scan is lined up.
  • By default, the flash for scanning documents is set to automatic. If the flash washes out your document or doesn’t fire when you think it should, you can toggle the flash on and off by tapping the lightning bolt icon on the capture screen.


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