Jonathan Sears,


Partner, Sears Chartered Accountants

11 years experience as a licenced Chartered Accountant.

Other articles by this author

Scanning is no longer confined to the desktop.

There are times in any business when you’re out of the office and away from your scanner but you still need to make a digital copy of a paper document or business card. When you’re at the office, chances are you have either a standard desktop scanner or multifunction printer (which typically includes a scanner and copier function) to handle such tasks. However, when you’re away from your desk at a meeting or a tradeshow, you probably don’t have your desktop scanner or a bulky photocopier available. In a pinch, a camera might do, but that’s probably not your most elegant option.

There’s an App for That

For occasional mobile scanning needs, having the right applications available on your smartphone or tablet device is essential. A small investment in apps suitable to your business and work habits will help to make the large investment you have already made in mobile devices pay off. You may need a few different types of apps to handle each situation. Since there are multiple mobile platforms, each with its own unique selection of apps, the following list includes the types of applications you may find useful along with the typical price range. Many apps are available for free or a nominal cost.

There are many different apps available to handle most situations.

A Simple Photo Editor: ($0 -$5) After you’ve taken a picture of something with the camera on your device, having an application that will let you crop, make minor changes and save as a new file is extremely useful.

Text Recognition: ($0 – $5) Equally as useful as a photo editor is an app that can do Optical Character Recognition (OCR), that is, convert an image into text. Such an app will allow you to start editing your document right on the spot without having to wait until you get back to the office.

QR Code Scanner: ($0+) This app allows you to capture those square digital “barcodes” that you’ve prob- ably noticed popping up everywhere. QR codes can contain many kinds of data, but are commonly used to store and convey contact information and website addresses. Businesses are starting to print QR codes on business cards. A single snap of a QR code is enough for you to capture someone’s entire contact information and automatically add it to your smartphone’s contact book.

Productivity Suite: ($0 – $30) Although productivity apps are not directly used for “mobile scanning,” having a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation editor on your mobile device will allow you to immediately use the information you’ve scanned or images you’ve captured and start making changes on the spot.

Portable Document Scanner

If you find yourself scanning many documents while you’re out of the office, you have another option in addition to your trusty smartphone. There are now products on the market that will scan most documents on the spot without the necessity of connecting to a computer. These devices are so portable that the user can hold it in one hand and literally feed the document into the scanner with the other. Although not all products have the same features, they are all designed to convert paper-based documents into a digital format.

For about $200 you can purchase a discreet portable document scanner that can scan documents, photos and business cards on the spot, without the need for a computer attached. Most portable scanners allow you to connect to a Mac or Windows computer to down- load previously scanned documents, either via a USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth. The battery is usu- ally sufficient to scan about 100 documents per charge. While lightweight and portable, these scanners have the disadvantage of being a separate device that must be carried around in addition to your laptop and brief- case, and still require a computer to make use of what has been scanned.

Save Time, Save Money

Any business that wishes to work more efficiently, reduce or eliminate inaccuracies and move toward a paperless environment should consider portable scanning options, either through smartphone apps or a portable scanner to meet its mobile office needs.


BUSINESS MATTERS deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein.

Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this letter, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use.

BUSINESS MATTERS is prepared bimonthly by The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for the clients of its members.

Richard Fulcher, CA – Author; Patricia Adamson, M.A., M.I.St. – CICA Editor.