In today’s world, most of us have access to a camera, like our mobile phones for example. More often than ever, we will snap a picture of a paper, a printed photo, or a flyer for an event that we want to share with others, preserving the items in a digital format. But when we're asked for more sensitive documents like bank statements or receipts that we need to share or upload, taking a slightly out of focus picture with a phone camera doesn't cut it. It's then that we tend to search for a scanner. What if we could use our phone cameras as a scanner? And what if this scanner was also a smart scanner that lets you copy text from paper documents? With Office Lens, you can!

What is Office Lens?

Office Lens is a free app that serves as a fantastic pocket tool that can be used across all your devices. From scanning receipts, handouts, and printed documents to taking pictures of whiteboards or book pages, Office Lens allows you to convert any content into your favorite digital formats such as PDF, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, or OneDrive. Office Lens is best used on devices with a camera, such as your Android or iOS mobile device. However, if you wish to use it in your laptop or PC, you can do so, as long as that device has a camera.

How to get Office Lens

Office Lens is available in all App Stores on your preferred platforms. Just search for “Office Lens.” To better use Office Lens, we recommended that you also download the free OneDrive and OneNote apps, as they greatly extend the functionality of Office Lens.

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How to use Office Lens

Whether you're a student struggling to focus on a lecture while taking notes from a whiteboard, or in a business meeting trying to keep track of all the salient points of the discussion while reading a flip chart, using Office Lens can be a great solution. By using Office Lens, you can save the content from the board and transferring the information to your own, personal notes.

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Carrying too many papers or handouts? With Office Lens, you can scan these papers and avoid losing them by saving them in a digital format. The same applies for business cards or even old printed pictures. Getting started with Office Lens is easy.

Open Office Lens on your device.

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Point at the document, board, or information you want to capture. An orange frame confirms the area you're focusing on, identifying the subject’s shape to ensure a better-quality scan. If the frame does not match the desired ratio, don’t worry — you can adjust it manually after taking the picture.

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After you have captured the image, you can use annotation, filters, or ink features to enhance the captured image or simply make it easy to read.

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How to save and store (save formats, storage location)

Once you have downloaded Office Lens to your device, make sure you link your Microsoft account by going to Settings and logging in with your Microsoft account. This will allow you to have several saving formats and locations to export your images to.

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How to use Office Lens images in OneNote

One of my favorite features to use is saving Office Lens images in OneNote. The steps below show you how.

After you have captured an image following the previous steps, select “OneNote” as your export destination. If you have not yet logged in with your Microsoft account, this step will direct you to do so. You can change the title or keep the default one with the date and time. On the Location tab, choose the notebook and section where you want to save the picture.

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Open the OneNote app on your PC or mobile device and then locate the notebook to which you exported the picture from Office Lens. You can copy text from Office Lens images as well. To do that, right click on the picture and select the option Copy Text from Picture.

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Open a new OneNote page or place the cursor into the document you wish to paste the text.

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Even though the example is showing handwriting from the paper, keep in mind that Office Lens works best with printed fonts. Give it a try!

The benefits are endless

Office Lens is one app that has endless benefits and applications. Whether you're looking to make note taking in the classroom easier or notate your receipt for reimbursement, Office Lens has features that will benefit almost anyone. The ability to have a portable scanner at the click of your phone camera button is a revolution in sharing and saving content digitally. One of the best parts of Office Lens is that it is also free and available for all the existing operating systems. It can provide a much broader variety of ways to capture important information through the lens of your camera and expanding the capabilities of a picture. Share your experience with Office Lens and how you use it!