Tuesday, November 20, 2012

iPhone/iPad Scanner Apps

Recently I've noticed that several companies have put out iPhone/iPad apps for easy receipt scanning.  Although I absolutely LOVE my high-speed Fujitsu scanner, I have thought at times that it would be nice to be able to use my phone's camera to scan business receipts, especially when I'm on the go.  So I decided to download a sampling of the apps (well, three, anyway), try them out and report back here to all of you on my findings.

One of my requirements for each of the apps was that they sync to DropBox.  All three of these apps do that.  They also sync to other cloud services but DropBox is my favorite and is the one I use with all my clients.

Now... should I start with the app I've decided I like best and will be using on a regular basis or should I leave that one to the last and make all of you suffer through the first two?

So, yes, being the evil one that I am, I will start with my least favorite of the three:

Scanner Pro by Readdle
$6.99 (interestingly, this is the most expensive of the three apps that I tried)

Disclaimer:  This app is also programmed for the iPad (no second purchase required) but I did not try it on my iPad yet.  It is possible that my main complaint about the app (image quality with longer receipts) could be improved via the iPad app.  Even though I have an iPad, I was really looking for a scanner app for my iPhone since I always have my iPhone with me and do not always have my iPad with me.

App Setup:  very easy and self-explanatory.
DropBox:  very easy to connect the app to my DropBox account

Scanning:  Receipt scanning is as easy as taking a picture.  You can then edit the exact borders of the receipt via the app and save it.  It was easy to rename it (I have a certain way I like to name my scanned docs) prior to uploading it to DropBox.

The first scan I did was a short restaurant receipt and the quality was fine.  But the second receipt was a much longer postage receipt and I did not like the image quality as the receipt looked squished and distorted.  Up until this point, I was loving this app.  So many of the receipts we get these days are extra long due to the advertising and survey stuff that businesses just seem to *love* including whenever they can (seriously people, I'm trying to reduce the amount of paper in my life, not take mindless surveys that I have no time for!).

With the long receipt and the poor image quality, this app went to the bottom of the list.

Receipts by Tidal Pool Software
Free or $4.99 for the Pro version; $9.99 for the HD Pro iPad version

The only difference between the free and paid versions is that under the free version, you are limited to 10 receipts so it's basically a trial version.  Since I did not intend to test more than 2 or 3 receipts with the app, I went with the free version for the purposes of testing.

This app does have a separate HD app for the iPad and it is an additional purchase.  So to get the Pro version for both your iPhone and iPad, you would be looking at $14.98 ($4.99 + $9.99).

OK - this app is waaayyyy more than just a receipt scanner.  It is a full expense report and receipt program.  For someone who needs to submit expense reports, this app would be the total bomb and they would love it.  I have a few clients with outside sales people for whom I plan to recommend this app to.  I'm also going to show this to some of the staff at my church since most of them have iPhones and expense reports and receipt copies are a constant challenge for us.  But for me, my business and my needs, it is way overkill. 

Although this app is very detailed and has a ton of functionality with a lot of optional settings, I found the set up, connection to DropBox and personalization of the settings quite easy.  It took me a little bit of time to explore all the menus and go through all the settings but once everything is set, I would imagine that I would rarely, if ever, need to change them.

Unlike the app above, this app keeps the pictures of your receipts as jpg files.  I prefer the pdf format for my digital files but jpg is not a deal-breaker.

You can set up multiple accounts in the app (customers, jobs, months, etc... however you want to define it) and then it comes with the basic categories set up (dining, travel, supplies, etc).  But it is very easy to add your own categories or edit the ones that were included.  This will work great for a company such as my church where we have a custom set of expense account numbers that employees are to code to.

After you have "scanned" (ie taken a picture of) all of the receipts in your expense report and saved them to the appropriate categories, the app will create an expense report for you, either in Excel, PDF or CSV.  You can then email the whole thing to someone or upload it to a designated folder on DropBox directly from the app.  Other cloud services are supported but I only tested it with DropBox.  If you prefer, the app will zip up the expense report and all the receipt "scans" (ie pics) in to one file.  This is an optional setting and one that I preferred for simplicity.

Overall, GREAT app.  But it was quite overkill for what I needed.

And now for my favorite app of the three.... drumroll please.....

LazerScanner by Tektrify Inc.
Free or $3.99 (on sale for $1.99 at the time of writing this)

The title is linked to the paid version of the app.  I honestly cannot find what the difference is between the free app and the paid app.  But whenever I find an app that I like that does not contain advertising, I will go ahead and purchase the paid version if there is one so as to help reward the app developer for the time and effort they put in to creating and maintaining the app.  It's just the right thing to do.

 So far I LOVE this app!

Set up and connecting to DropBox was super easy.  This app will also connect to other cloud services but I only tested it with DropBox.

This app is just a scanner.  You can scan a receipt, a pic or a whole document.  You can edit the scan to improve the image quality if necessary and save it with a name of your choosing.  Uploading to DropBox is super fast.

So, this one is the winner.  Overall, it's just a better, more simple app and accomplishes exactly what I wanted in a receipt scanning app.

One final note in regards to scanning receipts regardless of whatever method you choose... Make any needed notes on the receipts with a pen prior to scanning.  If it is a deductible meal receipt, notate who you met with and the purpose of the meeting.  If it is a Costco (or similar receipt), notate anything that isn't obvious (ie equipment, unusual supplies etc) on the receipt as well as notate any personal items on the receipt that need to be excluded for tax purposes.

I hope this entry has helped you if you were considering a receipt scanner app for your iPhone.  The less paper you get out of your life and the more organization you have, the better! Your accountant or bookkeeper will love you for it!  (clients of mine... are you listening?)