App of the Week: Use Your iPhone Camera to Scan Documents with TurboScan

App: TurboScan Platform: iPhone Website: Pixoft Support Cost: $1.99

I think I've said in this column 100 times that something every app should focus on when it came to features is simplicity. It's one thing to have software filled with options and complications when it's on a computer sitting on a desk. But, when I'm fumbling around with my phone trying to push a sensitive touch screen with my giant thumbs, I don't want my apps filled with features that are impossible to reach. Beyond that, I want apps to do whatever they are supposed to do extremely well. It's ideal if its purpose is simple, but even if it has to provide support for a bunch of different tasks, it should handle them with ease, which is why when I find an app like TurboScan, I'm happy to pay for it.

The Good TurboScan has one simple purpose. It allows users to snap a photo of a document and it converts that document into a PDF (or JPG, if you prefer). That's it. That may not sound like a big deal, but when you consider that so many businesses are going paperless and maintaining documents can be unwieldy, it's definitely a big deal.

What makes TurboScan so strong is how easy it is to use. Just hit the camera (or album if you already took the shot) button, snap a photo, choose the format -- black and white document, black and white photo, full color, etc. -- straighten it as necessary and send it, either to TurboScan's storage folder or e-mail, or share it with iTunes.

There is additionally a "sure scan" option that lets users take multiple shots of the same document to get an optimal image.

I recently decided to start snapping shots of my receipts and storing them on my hard drive instead of trying to keep a bunch of tiny pieces of paper for tax purposes. Being able to sign a document, quickly take a snapshot and forward it via e-mail to a client is a godsend. Business cards can be stored easily without having to carry them around and dump them in the trash.

This is one of those apps those of us who love technology dreamed about having one day, and now we do.

The Bad If I had any criticism with TurboScan, it's that I would like to see the Perfect OCR software offered by the same company integrated into one app. While I'm not sure how often I would use the software to extract text, it doesn't make much sense to me to keep them separate. Perfect OCR is a more expensive app and maybe that's why they sell each one instead of integrating them -- more people probably have uses for a scanner than a portable OCR -- but putting them together would certainly be convenient.

Also, it would be nice to see integration with document storage services like DropBox or SugarSync or even with FTP software. While e-mail is fine and even iTunes sharing could ultimately work with iCloud, having some options would be nice.

The Verdict Still, this is a handy, simple and powerful app and I recommend it without hesitation. If you deal with documents with any regularity or would like to go paperless (or even just a little more green), this is a great app to have on your iPhone.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke