With one free and easy-to-use app, you can turn your phone into the pocket sized scanner you never knew you needed. The app, called Office Lens, is just one extension of Microsoft’s multifaceted software empire, offering seamless Microsoft Office integration.

image of roughly drawn graph as a documentThe app enables users to capture photos of real-world objects, such as whiteboards, papers, and displayed PowerPoint slides, and converts them into digital files which can then be edited, saved, and shared. Unlike other apps that offer scanning capabilities, Office Lens uses optional character recognition, which converts the image into text. This means you can take a picture of a document using Office Lens and then edit the text content from Microsoft Word right on your Android, Mac, or iOS device. That goes for other media, like photos and handwritten text, as well.

The possibilities and opportunities to use this software are endless for students and professionals. For everything from cataloguing business cards to ensuring you never forget your grocery list at home, Office Lens is your solution. In fact, the app even has the capability to grab the contact information from the business card you are scanning and allows you to add it to your contacts.

When taking pictures of receipts, whiteboards, PowerPoint slides, or hand drawn brainstorming maps, Office Lens also automatically crops, enhances, and cleans up the image before exporting it to a myriad of options, including email and OneNote (Microsoft’s robust note-taking program). The angle you take the photo at does not matter either – the app uses complex scaling algorithms to straighten the content of whatever you are taking and removes odd angles in the alignment.

The fact that you can go back and edit a document file once you have scanned a paper copy is a particularly attractive feature to students as well. Picture this: you notice a typo in the final draft of your essay on the day it is due and you do not have a computer on you to launch Microsoft Word and make necessary changes. With the free Office 365 subscription Carleton students receive, you can go back to your scanned document and make the corrections right from your phone with the Microsoft Word app. Seamless integration really is a beautiful thing.

While this streamlined app with optional character recognition capabilities should cost you, it doesn’t – the app is free to download for both Android and Apple users. What are you waiting for? Scan away!

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