We’ve been “scanning” documents ever since they put cameras on smartphones. Taking a quick photo of a bill, receipt, contract, or any other paperwork has always been an option, but then real scanner apps starting appearing on iPhone and Android — apps that attempt to replicate what physical scanners can do.
The resulting documents appear in black and white, making it easier to handle them later. Scanning apps can produce better results than photographing the document. You won’t have to deal with a photo that might need retouching. Not to mention photos of documents usually require some resizing.
The iPhone has a documents scanner built into the Notes app, which you can use directly from the Mac if you have both devices. Android phones have a scanner hidden in Google Drive as well if you know your way around the app. But Google just released a document scanner app for Android that might be more useful and intuitive than the defaults.
Called Stack, the new app is available free of charge, but only on Android and only in the United States for the time being. Stack doesn’t come directly from Google, but rather from the giant’s Area 120 incubator. That’s where Google engineers pursue their own projects that might later become actual Google products.
Stack works just like any other document scanner app on iPhone or Android. It uses the camera to create a digital version of your documents. But once the scan is produced, Stack employs a few additional tricks that might make it a better scanning tool than what’s already available in the Google Play store.
Stack can read some of the key data on the document and then organize the scanned documents automatically. The folders, or stacks (hence the name of the app), will be labeled automatically, depending on what you’re scanning. Marking a document as starred will let you put it into a different Stack.
The fact that Stack can read the document has another beneficial side effect. You can search the full text to find a document that you can’t retrieve otherwise. Finally, Stack can also work with Google Drive to back up all of your scanned documents, so you can access them on other devices. The scans are saved as PDF files, just like in other document scanner apps.
There’s no telling what kind of future Stack has as a Google app, or whether Google will ever choose to include it on Android or in its productivity suite by default, but Stack is definitely the kind of free app Android users will want to try out, especially those who tend to scan a bunch of documents with their phones.