How to Scan Documents with Files App on iPhone & iPad

Oct 17, 2019 - 18 Comments

Scanning Documents with iPhone or iPad Files app showing scanning viewfinder

Have you ever wished you could scan a document with your iPhone or iPad? You can easily do that right from the Files app and with your devices camera!

With the arrival of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 Apple has made the Files app much more useful. Not only can it now be used to access external storage devices and SMB shared locations, but it can also be used to directly scan documents to a folder as well.

By adding that workflow Apple has removed the need to use third-party scanning apps while also giving users the ability to place scans directly into iCloud and local folders. No more hunting for scans inside app folders or resorting to third-party solutions like Dropbox or Google Drive.

If you’re a big document scanner this could turn out to be your most used addition to the latest iOS and iPadOS software updates.

How to Scan Documents in the Files App

You’ll need to have the Files app open on your iPhone or iPad before we get started.

  1. Tap the “…” button to the top-right of the “Browse” section, and then tap the “Scan Documents” button from the menu. *
  2. Tap the ellipsis. Tap Scan Document

  3. Place your document on a flat surface and position it in the iPhone or iPad’s viewfinder. When the document is perfectly placed the scan will automatically happen. If not, tap the circular capture button to take the shot.
  4. Drag the corners of the image to reduce or increase the scan area. Tap “Keep Scan” to move on.
  5. Drag the corners to the edges of the document

  6. Now you can scan any additional pages by repeating the process. If you’re done, tap “Save” to progress.
  7. Select a location to save the scans and then tap “Save” again. You can create new folders by tapping the “New Folder” button and you can rename the file by tapping the filename at the top of the screen, too.
  8. Select a location and tap Save

If you’d prefer to scan documents directly into a location within Files app, that’s also possible. Open the location in the Files app and tap the same “…” button and proceed as normal. You might need to pull down on the screen slightly to reveal the button, though.

The Files app is growing increasingly powerful and capable as a file manager on iPhone and iPad, and this is just one of many available tips for Files app for iOS and ipadOS.

There are of course plenty more tricks and features to enjoy in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, too. If you’ve just recently updated, or bought a new iPhone or iPad, now would be a great time to follow along iOS 13 coverage to learn about everything the new software has to offer.

* The Browse section of Files app is visible by default Files app for iPhone, and it’s the left sidebar on the Files app for iPad when in Horizontal mode. From the Browse tab or section, just tap the (…) button to access the menu options with Scan Documents.

Are you a big document scanner and if so, will you be using this new Files app approach instead of your previous method? Do you have a preferred method or better way to scan documents on an iPhone or iPad? Let us know how you manage your scans and documents on iPhone or iPad in the comments below.


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Posted by: Oliver Haslam in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Macali says:

    My scans are all saved in landscape orientation. How can I save them as portrait?

    • wigglesworth says:

      Take the scan in portrait orientation when using the iPhone camera to scan the document, or rotate the scan so they are in portrait orientation rather than landscape afterwards.

  2. Ben Stern says:

    I tried it and got a 5MB PDF doc. WOW. My home scanner makes 25KB PDFs. No way I will use this service. (What size docs did other people get?)

  3. SFR says:

    If you choose to save to the On My Phone location, how do you find it again? Often when I need to scan w/my phone, it’s so I can send a copy of a document to someone via text or email. How do I access the scanned document so that I can send it to someone>

    Thank you!

    • Pab says:

      If you scan a document from the Files app, the scanned file will be in the Files app to the folder where it was scanned from or saved to

  4. Andreas says:

    Scanning using Notes is quicker
    Scan option can be initiated with long press on Notes icon.
    Also, saving to Files is simple too.

  5. Ron Miller says:

    There is no “…” button in the upper right corner of a Files screen. Rather, it’s at the top of the sidebar.

  6. david watts says:

    Now I can be like one of those cold war spies from the 1960’s movies with their tiny Minox cameras.

  7. Cindi says:

    Ive been using Scannable. A great app. It automatically sizes the doc for you and will also capture business cards as a contact along with the picture. Hope the Apple app does this as well.

  8. Jack Grand says:

    You are describing the scan feature on an iPhone, not an iPad, it is slightly different. There is no, … button in the upper right corner on an iPad. Press browse a slid over appears and at the top right, you will find the, … button. Fortunately, Igeeks knows what it is doing, maybe you should get your how-to advice from them.

    • Paul says:

      The “…” button on iPad is directly above and to the right of the enormous “Browse” text, choose “Scan Documents” from that. The iPhone version of this is essentially just the left sidebar of the iPad Files app.

  9. Bill S says:

    Is this the same “document scanner” that is available as part of the ‘Notes’ app in iOS 11?

    • Paul says:

      Yes it is similar, except this is accessed through the Files app and creates a file rather than the Notes app which stores the scanned document in a note.

  10. I need sleep says:

    What is the difference between a photo and a scan ? Does the Scan do OCR.

    • Paul says:

      Scan uses digital processing to mimic a document scanner, removing shadows and other data from the scanned image to attempt to reproduce only the text or content being captured. How a traditional paper scanner does that is usually with a very bright light, whereas this technique uses software instead.

      Snapping a photo does exactly that, it just takes a picture with the iPhone or iPad camera.

      Try out the feature to see how it works, experiment with both, but if you’re trying to capture a text document – like a receipt, bill, printed document, music notation, magazine article, etc – then “scan” is a great way to do that.

      As far as I have seen so far, scan does not use OCR but that would be a great feature so let’s hope they add it.

      Hope that helps!

      • Louie says:

        I have used it and it’s wonderful. Note, however, that the ability to scan documents with an iPhone or iPad is not entirely new to iOS/iPadOS 13. The document scanner feature was first added to the Notes app in iOS 12 last year, and now in iOS/iPadOS 13 its availability has been extended to other parts of the system such as the files app.

        • Paul says:

          This is correct, the Notes app introduced the Scan capability before and it still exists there too. Doesn’t look like we’ve covered that before, but it works basically the same except the scanned documents are stored in notes rather than as a file.

          • Louie says:

            Right, but once the scanned document was stored in a note it could indeed be shared from there as a pdf in previous iOS versions.

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