A Scanner In Your Pocket

Old RecordsWhen doing research at your favorite record repository, how do you get the information home? In the past, I mostly either took notes or transcribed what I found if it was a short piece, or relied on staff at the facility to make copies if it was too much to transcribe.  Some facilities (such as Delaware Public Archives) have film readers that allow you to save an image to a flash drive, and that’s always a nice option, but there’s an awful lot of material that’s only available as a physical document.

For the past two years, I’ve relied on my iPhone in situations like this. I don’t mean just snapping a photograph of the document – I’m talking about using an app designed just for the purpose of taking quality images of documents and allowing you to store and organize the results for easy retrieval and storage on your main computer at a later date.

The free app I use is called Genius Scan.  You can upgrade to a more full-featured version that currently sells for $6.99, but it goes on sale from time to time. I chose the upgrade in order to get access to the advanced sharing features. If you search the App Store or Google Play for ‘scanner app’, you’ll find plenty of other options for Android devices, the iPhone and the iPad.

More than a camera

Genius Scan uses the camera in your phone, but goes a couple of steps further:

  • To ensure that the image isn’t distorted, Genius Scan includes edge detection and perspective correction.
  • To make text easier to see, Genius Scan offers an option to convert the image to grayscale. It also effectively brightens the image to make it easy to read.
  • To help you find your images later, Genius Scan allows you to save them to folders, send them to Dropbox, send them via email, or even export the images to iBooks.
  • To deal with multi-page documents, Genius Scan gives you the option of saving your images as a multi-page pdf document.

What does it look like?

If you can take a picture with your phone, you can use Genius Scan.  Simply start the app, select the camera and take the picture.  Then Genius Scan takes over.

I used Genius Scan to capture a passenger list from a ship that arrived in New Castle in July 1832.  The image on the left, below, shows the image as it is captured by the app.  Notice that Genius Scan finds the approximate edges of the image.  You can touch and move the edges to refine this ‘bounding’ box as much as you like.

Edge detection and perspective correction in Genius Scan

Edge detection and perspective correction in Genius Scan

The image on the right, above, shows the corrected image, which I can now save to my Dropbox, send as an email, or save as an image that can be retrieved on my Mac in the Photos App. Below is a close-up of the document that shows the level of detail in the captured image.

screenshot detail

You can find out more by visiting the Genius Scan website or by watching the training video below.  The video doesn’t deal specifically with the type of documents used in genealogy, but it does give you a good idea of what you can do with this neat little app.

If you enjoyed this technology article and would like more of the same, please let us know in the comments, and feel free to suggest topics of interest.

This entry was posted in Passenger Lists, Repositories, Technology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Scanner In Your Pocket

  1. Never heard of this app previously and definitely will check it out. Thank you for this information, and would surely appreciate any more tips on useful technology. LBC

  2. Joan R. Adams says:

    Thanks Reese. I have been reluctant to purchace a fancy phone, but this presents a good reason to consider. Some people were using their tablets but some repositories forbid?

    • Reese says:

      Joan, you make a very good point about the use of cameras and tablets in some organizations. We’re working on a follow-up article that outlines the policies around photography and scanning at the major Delaware repositories. Look for that in the next week or so – we have someone out doing fieldwork on this today!

  3. Susan says:

    I have Scanner Pro 6 by Readdle on my iPad. The app cost $2.99 when I purchased it, and it’s been a lifesaver for scanning documents on the road. I used it in England at a library, with consent of the archivist, and for church records at a parish in Ireland, also with permission. The copies are clear and can be edited/cropped. It’s also available for iPhone.

    • Mary Lou says:

      I also have the Scanner Pro 6 app on my mini iPad (Apple) and it’s easy to use. I “googled” reviews for scanning apps for iPads to help me decide what to get.
      Great how-to article Reese…thanks.

  4. Pingback: Can I Snap a Picture? - Delaware FamiliesDelaware Families

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