Scan Documents Directly To Your Mac Using Your iPhone

If you want to keep a paperless office, you need to be able to scan documents. Previously, you needed a scanner to do this. But today you can use your iPhone to scan documents quickly and easily. With Continuity Camera you can scan directly into your Mac using your iPhone. You need to make sure you have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled with both devices and that they are using the same Apple ID and latest macOS and iOS.

Video Transcript
Year's ago I switched to a paperless office. I did so by buying a rather expensive scanner that I was able to feed papers into so anything that I received in the mail I was able to scan in and save it digitally. I didn't have to keep paper copies of anything. You can do the same thing now but you don't need to get another scanner. As a matter of fact you can just use your iPhone. It's easier than ever thanks to something called the Continuity Camera.

To use the Continuity Camera you have to be using the most recent versions of everything. So you have to have Mojave on your Mac. You have to have iOS 12 on your iPhone. You want to have Bluetooth enabled on both. You want to have WiFi enabled on both and of course they both need to be using the same Apple ID. Once you do that you can do some really cool things because you can use your iPhone as a camera and a scanner from your Mac.

So for instance, here I am in the Finder and I have a folder that's going to contain all of my scans. Now the way that I'm going to do that is I'm going to use my iPhone to take the scans. Here I am on the Finder on my Mac. I can click the Action button here and there is an Import From iPhone or iPad. You can see both my iPhone and my iPad are shown there and I can choose Scan Documents. My iPhone doesn't need to be doing anything at this moment. I just has the screen on. As a matter of fact it can even be locked.

As soon as I hit Scan Document the phone is actually going to jump to a mode where it's using the camera and as soon as the document is aligned underneath the camera it takes the picture automatically. Now that I've gotten that one scan and it's just for that one page I'm going to hit Save. When I do that the document is then going to appear here in the folder I was on, on my Mac. So it goes directly from the iPhone to the Mac. It doesn't actually get stored on the iPhone at all. I can name it because it's already selected. So I like to hit Return now and name it. Just give it a name. Then it's named and I'm done.

If I want to view it, of course, I can hit the spacebar here. Look at QuickLook and I can see the scan there. It's saved as a PDF. It's fairly compact. It's just a little over 1M for an entire 8 by 11 scan of a sheet of paper. So it's similar to what I would get with using a regular scanner. But what about a multipage document. Well, you can do that as well.

So I can do the same thing here. I can import and scan documents. You know you can also Control click on a blank part of the Finder window and choose to import there as well. So I'll Scan Documents. My phone switches over and I can capture the first page. Then turn the page over and it gets the second. I don't even have to hit any buttons on my phone or my Mac. Just go from one page to the next. Now that I'm done I hit Save. You can see it says Save For there. Now I've got the scanned document here and you can see it has four pages in it.

So it's easy to scan multiple page documents as well. It's a little bit slower than doing it on my old scanner but actually not too bad considering it didn't cost me anything extra and I'm carrying this with me wherever I go. So if I have a MacBook and my iPhone I can actually do these scans just as easily as if I'm sitting at my desk in my office.

Now you can fine tune things a lot as well. You do that on the interface on the phone. So let's import and this time I'm going to let it capture but when it's done capturing it says ready for the next scan. Instead I'm going to tap on the image on the bottom left. Now I can look at it and view it. I can even zoom in on it to see what I've captured. I can make adjustments. I can hit the three circles there at the bottom and actually adjust things. Adjust how it looks. I can go in and change the cropping. So I can drag the corners to adjust. So if it didn't grab the corners of the page to create the perspective correctly I can adjust that. I can rotate. I can hit a Retake button at the top right or Trash. Then when I'm done I go right back to the screen here where I can capture the next image. There's also the ability to turn the flash on or off or leave it as automatic. I can adjust to greyscale for the initial take as well just by pressing the circle button there at the top or even just pure black and white. Then I can go and change the shutter from auto to manual as well. So there's a lot that you can do here if you want to fine tune the process.

Having trouble with Continuity Camera? Check out this page: Use Continuity Camera on your Mac.

Comments: 31 Responses to “Scan Documents Directly To Your Mac Using Your iPhone”

    William Brandenburg
    12/20/18 @ 7:32 am

    Gary, I’m not clear on one thing. Can this be done remotely or do the iPhone and Mac need to be in the same vicinity?

    12/20/18 @ 7:35 am

    William: All “continuity” features rely on the devices being in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range of each other. If you want to scan something remotely with just your iPhone, you can use the Notes app or one of many third-party apps that do it on just the iPhone and transfer to your Mac via iCloud or some other method later.

    12/20/18 @ 9:47 am

    You didn’t mention or I missed it
    How do you click scan ?
    What button
    once the camera sees it does it click automatically?? You didn’t mention?

    12/20/18 @ 9:50 am

    Joe: It does it automatically. 1:36. You also have the camera shutter button (big circle, just like in the Camera app) if you are impatient.

    Eric Jackson
    12/20/18 @ 9:56 am

    Thanks Gary, that was excellent!

    12/20/18 @ 10:13 am

    Hi Gary!
    everything is on…Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and I am updated on both my iMac and iPhone X, but it doesn’t want to work. I also tried rebooting the iPhone.
    Can u help me?
    Bob 

    12/20/18 @ 10:13 am

    Excellent video but cannot get it to work. MBP running Mojave, iPhone XR iOS 12.1.1. Both devices on the same network, both showing Bluetooth as connected and both signed into the same iCloud account. When I select the action and then Scan nothing happens and eventually I get a timed out message. What am I doing wrong?

    12/20/18 @ 10:14 am

    hey Gary, do you think we might see third party OCR apps that could take advantage of this feature? That would be great for extracting data from receipts !!

    12/20/18 @ 10:15 am

    Bob, Terry: Are you signed into the same Apple ID and using two-factor?

    12/20/18 @ 10:16 am

    nick: Not sure. There may be some security issues with allowing third-party apps to use continuity like that. But perhaps try contacting your favorite OCR app developer and ask them if they plan to support this.

    Reid Engstrom
    12/20/18 @ 10:17 am

    My phone does not go into the camera app and so the scan message on the Mac times out. I have both WIFI and bluetooth enabled on both devices and latest MacOS and iOS updates.

    Bob 
    12/20/18 @ 10:19 am

    Yes Gary, signed into the same Apple ID and using two-factor.

    12/20/18 @ 10:22 am

    Reid, Bob: Maybe test other continuity features too. Are you using fairly recent models of hardware? Maybe restarts will help. Maybe signing out and in to iCloud. It is hard for me to say why it isn’t working for some people. It will probably require firsthand troubleshooting.

    12/20/18 @ 10:30 am

    Thanks, Gary….. at first the phone and MacBook didn’t connect…. but give it a few minutes and the phone will show up on the scan pulldown from the action button. Works fine! WOW…. I was using another app… saving the document … then emailing it to my MacBook to save to the desktop and then to the file location i wanted Now virtually seamless!

    Reid Engstrom
    12/20/18 @ 10:39 am

    Signing out of and back into iCloud on my MBP fixed the issue.

    12/20/18 @ 2:24 pm

    Yes Gary same as Bob using the same Apple ID and two factor. Will see what happens in the morning on start up.

    Stanley Greenberg
    12/20/18 @ 6:12 pm

    I used the Continuity Camera and the scanned document was 3.5 MB PDF. I scanned the same document with my Scansnap scanner and it was 785kb. Why the large discrepancy?

    12/20/18 @ 6:12 pm

    Stanley: Just image compression, I’d imagine.

    12/20/18 @ 6:17 pm

    Bluetooth/wifi are both on. iCloud has two factor on. My Mac is up to date with Mojave. I am in a mail document in the body and I see Insert from my iPhone (8 with 12.1.2) but my iphone is greyed out. I can pick take photo or scan but it says it times out and the camera app never pops up to take the photo. I have tried the Mac on wired and wireless (I see they are both connected in bt). On the above advice I signed out of both my iPhone and Mac and signed back in. And it still doesn’t work?

    12/20/18 @ 6:20 pm

    Candace: Maybe try restarting both devices? Note: You shouldn’t “connect” the Mac and iPhone via Bluetooth. That doesn’t do anything.

    12/21/18 @ 7:46 am

    Gary; no luck with a reboot or signing out/in of the iCloud account. This issue seems to be just with the iPhone XR as the iPad and iPod work as they should. All settings on all devices appear to be the same. The MBP shows all 3 devices in bluetooth but none of the devices ‘see’ each other. All three are shown in the Finder action drop down.

    12/22/18 @ 4:43 pm

    I’m using an older iPhone SE. Worked first pop. – Thanks Gary.

    Jasper Robinson
    12/25/18 @ 10:09 pm

    I use this feature with whiteboards after meetings too. I like to add Comments to the PDF in Get Info/Inspector (e.g., Emma Meeting/Project xyz) so that I can get Spotlight to find it later.

    12/27/18 @ 10:44 am

    This works on my iMac for all pertinent apps except for finder. in finder, it is grayed out. What do you think is the problem?

    12/27/18 @ 10:48 am

    rocky: Do you mean when you click the Tasks button in the toolbar, or when you right+click? Maybe try a different folder?

    Patrick Doering
    12/28/18 @ 11:53 am

    Gary, I checked to make sure all requirements were met. When I select to take a photo from iPhone, I end up getting a “could not import from Pat’s iPhone – device timed out” message. What am I doing wrong?

    12/28/18 @ 11:58 am

    Patrick: Try some of the suggestions in the other comments: switch bluetooth off and on again. Restart the devices. Etc.

    12/29/18 @ 7:57 pm

    This is an Awesome example for this feature. I’m wowed. I will share with friends as well. Great job for showing off this feature.

    Judy Eastwood
    1/10/19 @ 7:04 am

    My phone scans as you described, but I can’t seem to set up a folder to receive the scan. I don’t know where the scans are ending up. Your screen shows a “shared folder.” What am I missing?

    1/10/19 @ 7:37 am

    Judy: If you are following what I am doing in the tutorial, then it should appear in the current folder, the one you are looking at in the Finder when you initiate the scan.

    1/10/19 @ 11:09 am

    Got it. What I missed was the “Save” part of your instructions. 🤪

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