Monday, April 1, 2013

Mobile Monday – CamScanner

Like many people, I spent yesterday’s Easter Sunday with family.  In my case, this involved a visit to my wife’s parents, complete with Easter lunch, napping on the couch, Easter dinner, and some impromptu genealogy work.

One of the mysteries in my wife’s lines is her great-grandfather, Vincent Leliukas.  He went by several names, and lived in different places, making him somewhat difficult to trace.  In the last few months we’ve been in contact with a long-lost cousin, who was able to provide more information and documentation, but no one had a photo.

After dinner yesterday, my wife and I started looking through photo albums that had been left by her grandmother.  I had a vague memory of seeing a photo of Vincent many years ago while my wife and I were dating, but at the time, no one was really sure if it was him, and I wasn’t actively researching her family.  To my delight, we not only found the photo in question, we found a couple of others, labeled by my wife’s grandmother as being images of her father.

To our surprise, we also found Vincent’s Social Security card, dated 1937, in an old wallet.
Here’s where technology, and today’s software review, jumps in.

Obviously, I wanted to record our findings, while also preserving the items.  I pulled my Android phone from my pocket, and loaded up an application that I had downloaded a couple of months ago.  The software in question was CamScanner, an application that turns your phone into a portable scanner.

I’ve only used the application a couple of times, and I’m using the free version, so I may be missing some features.  My short review, however, is that I like it.

To use CamScanner, you use your phone’s camera to take a snapshot of a document.  The screen has a handy “bubble level” in one corner to help you take the best flat image of the document possible.  You can crop the image, then watch as the software turns the image into a PDF.  Even better, if you take another image, it gets added to the PDF as another page.  Very handy for “scanning” pages of books.
Partial Scan from CamScanner
They biggest downside that I’ve found with CamScanner, so far, is that it doesn’t work very well for creating scans of photos.  The reason for this is that the flash of the camera creates a glare on the surface of the photo.  As of yet, I’ve found no way to turn the flash off while scanning.  However, for scanning documents, like Vincent’s Social Security card that we found yesterday, it works very well.  I was even able to scan a folder full of handwritten notes, bundled into a single PDF file, to send to a fellow researcher.

While I wouldn’t use CamScanner for anything needing a high-resolution image, but it’s great for research trips, especially for trips like I had yesterday, where the research was completely unscheduled and impromptu.  All I had to do was take my phone out of my pocket, and start clicking.  For documents, I use CamScanner to create a PDF.  For photos, I just take a snap-shot with my phone's camera, suppressing the flash to eliminate the glare.  When I get home, everything gets uploaded to my laptop, where I can analyze and document any finds.


  1. I see the free version has a watermark, does this cause problems when you're transcribing or using the image afterwards?

  2. I haven't had any issues with the watermark. I've also sent PDF files created with CamScanner to others, and haven't heard that they've had any problems.