CamScanner is a college student must-have

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There are very few apps that I use regularly, and CamScanner is one of them. As the name suggests, CamScanner uses my phone’s built-in camera like a scanner. You photograph a document, then it squares up the edges so the end result doesn’t have the perspective warping problem that a regular photo would have.

I have spent way too much time in the past trying to hover my camera directly above a drawing and aim perpendicularly to get a usable, squarish photo. Now, CamScanner does the work for me.

I’m majoring in architecture, so the use of CamScanner is obvious to me. It helps me quickly save drawings and sketches without the usual perspective problem of a camera. I don’t have to take every single drawing to the library if I want a digital copy. In fact, the night I discovered CamScanner was the night before a studio deadline; I desperately needed to scan a line drawing and put it into Photoshop. But the library was closed for the night, so CamScanner came to my rescue.

Even if your academic field doesn’t require you to draw, CamScanner is great for keeping quick records. If you’ve ever taken a photo of a syllabus, a flyer or a list of phone numbers and email addresses, you can do better than the plain camera.

“I’m really impressed with the interface,” Nick Nelson, graduate student in architecture, said. “It’s obvious that someone put time into making this usable. The app makes a guess for itself, and it usually does a good job, but the corners are wonderfully easy to adjust if it’s a little off.”

I passed my phone around studio for my classmates to try, and no one had any difficulty getting a good scan of our latest project statement or a page from a sketchbook.

“I’m totally going to start digitizing my sketchbook,” Kevin Perks, graduate student in architecture, said. “My scanner is the slowest thing ever, and it’s too much hassle to go to the library every time I draw something, but this is actually easy. How have I never heard of this app?”

CamScanner can’t work magic with a lousy camera. That said, smartphone cameras are getting better all the time. The camera on my old Motorola Droid 4 was good enough to get a clear, readable scan of any 8.5-by-12-inch sheet of paper, and my new Droid Maxx’s camera has already proven itself on ink drawings 18 inches across.

After the initial scan, you also have a few color-enhancing options. “Lighten” and “black and white” work well for line drawings or text, and “magic color” is a generally good, quick enhancer for color drawings if you’re not planning to touch it up in Photoshop. The app also has brightness and contrast sliders, but I would have preferred a few sliders like Photoshop’s levels adjustment tool. Still, the color enhancements get the job done.

Creating multi-page documents is possible, but the way to do it isn’t perfectly intuitive. I sometimes mess it up or accidentally combine multiple scans that I didn’t want to. But once I have a document created, the “share” command makes it easy and convenient to access through email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Cubby, etc.

On the whole, CamScanner is a solid, usable app that I will happily keep around. It’s not a miracle worker, but it’s easy. Anyone who ever needs to save a drawing or graphic will find the app quick and convenient, and any student who scans an assignment for reference will be glad they did.

Brian Hampel is a graduate student in architecture.

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