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Office-Lens-2-v2-1024x587We may be living in the 21st century, but we haven’t been able to shake the clutches of paper and whiteboards just yet. Try as we might, it’s nearly impossible to cast off the chains of receipts, outlines, physical flyers and more, which can prove troublesome if you leave an important document in the wrong place.

geekwireapp2Enter Office Lens, an app for the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. It turns a smartphone into a scanner that connects to Microsoft’s Office suite of productivity tools. The app leverages the phone’s camera, and offers three modes: Photo, Document and Whiteboard. The Photo mode just takes an image, but the app’s real magic is inside the other two options.

The Document camera automatically detects the edges of a sheet of paper and scans in only that area, before running optical character recognition (OCR) against the text to make it searchable. The Whiteboard camera is designed to capture text written on a whiteboard by detecting the edges of the board and reducing the glare on its surface. Once that’s done, users can then pass the resulting file off to other apps.

Here’s a video that shows how it works:

As its name implies, Office Lens is absolutely killer at integrating with Microsoft Office. The app is easily set up to integrate with OneNote, Word, OneDrive and PowerPoint so you can snap a photo of whatever you want to talk about and then easily pass it off to one of those apps for later use. People who aren’t interested in those options can also email the file to themselves, save it to their photo library, or create a PDF and save that to another service.

OfficeLensLogoPeople who aren’t as tightly integrated into Microsoft’s ecosystem may be better served by another app. Scanbot, another scanner app I use, has one key feature that I wish Office Lens had: the ability to automatically scan when a document is positioned correctly inside the phone’s frame. There’s a big difference between just having to hold your phone over a document and having to do that plus work a shutter button, and I really missed it when I was using Office Lens.

That said, Office Lens is certain to become the go-to app for people who need to use Office all day. Lens offers a well-designed, easy way to get information from the physical world into the digital realm where we do all our work on a regular basis.

Office Lens is available for free from the iOS App Store, Windows Phone Store and Microsoft’s preview community for the app on Android.

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