Do Handheld Scanners Really Work?

TextGrabber and CardHolder Apps

ABBYY makes OCR software for PCs and Macs and it’s made some of the useful recognition features from the full software into tools for iOS and Android. Unlike many of the scanning apps you can get, the ABBY tools concentrate of getting the text of your document rather than taking a picture of it. The recognition isn’t perfect, and colored or shiny paper is still a problem, but it's far better than any of the other mobile tools we tried out.

Text Grabber is a $2.99 iPhone app that does exactly what it says; you snap a picture of a paper document with text in and it recognizes the text for you and puts it into a document that you can save or copy. Or you can translate it (using Google Translate), which is handy when you’re travelling. You don’t get an image of the original document to refer back to, which is only a problem for tables and other complex documents – Text Grabber gives you the text but not the layout.

If you want to scan business cards and transfer them into your address book, ABBYY Business Card Reader costs $4.99 for Android or iOS. But if you don’t want to fill up your address book with contacts from business cards that you may only call or email a couple of times for a particular project, CardHolder is a $2.99 iOS app that scans them, grabs the relevant information and lets you phone, text message, email or open the website from the card.

Take a photograph of a business card and email the person; it’s almost faster than typing in the address and certainly less irritating

If there’s an address that gets recognized but if you want to transfer the odd address to your contact book, look the person up on Linked In or see their address on Google Maps (all very handy) you have to upgrade the app, which is a little disappointing.

Again, the recognition is very accurate, even on difficult cards with white text on a black background.

Mary Branscombe is an experienced freelance journalist, editor and author, who has been writing for more than three decades. Her work has appeared in The Financial Times, The Guardian, Tom's Guide, and many more. She has also written several novels — including the Cassidy At Large technomysteries — and two IT guides alongside her writing partner, Simon Bisson.

  • blackmagnum
    They work... but not well.
  • Instead if trying to use weird apps that gives you crappy results you can use document scanning services like Kirtas at or .

  • CTRL + F ... click "Replace".
    Find "EverNote"
    Replace with "Evernote"
    THEN submit article. Even your screenshots show the application - which clearly says "Evernote".
  • The company and product names are "Evernote" not "EverNote"
  • Patrick Benesch
    A new app that creates high quality scans is Scandock