Transform Any Document into a Searchable PDF with Adobe’s new FREE Scan App

Want a searchable digital copy of the document you just photocopied at the archives? If so, Adobe’s new app, aptly named Adobe Scan, is one you’re definitely going to want to try.

There are many scanning apps available these days. On typeset copies, most of the apps simply create a PDF “picture” of the file. Most of these PDF files are not searchable. That is, you cannot use your computer to search for specific words or phrases in the text of the scanned document. Now Adobe Scan changes all that. The FREE Adobe Scan app turns your device into a powerful portable scanner that recognizes text automatically (OCR). Turn anything — receipts, notes, documents, pictures, business cards, whiteboards — into an Adobe PDF with content you can reuse.

I downloaded the new app this morning and have used it to digitize several pages from books and also a couple of bills received in this morning’s mail. The conversion to searchable text worked well.

The image obviously is taken by the cell phone or tablet’s camera but the OCR conversion is performed by powerful computers in Adobe’s cloud, not by the low-powered tablet or cell phone.

The new app can:

  • CAPTURE. Scan anything with precision. Advanced image technology automatically detects borders and sharpens scanned content.
  • ENHANCE. Touch up scans or photos from your camera roll. Easily preview, reorder, crop, rotate, and adjust color.
  • REUSE. Turn your scan into a high-quality Adobe PDF that unlocks content through automated text recognition.
  • SCAN ANYTHING, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. Capture forms, receipts, notes, and business cards. You can even scan multi-page documents and save as PDF with a single tap.
  • RECYCLE CONTENT. Free, built-in optical character recognition (OCR) lets you reuse scanned content by creating a high-quality PDF that you can work with in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • GET MORE DONE ON THE GO. Save your scans to Adobe Document Cloud for instant access and sharing. Even lengthy legal documents become manageable, as you search text, highlight key sections, and add notes.
  • GET CONNECTED. Adobe Scan connects you to the world’s best document services that let you do even more with your PDFs. Edit, convert to Microsoft Office, fill and sign, and send for tracked signatures.

Not bad for a free app!

Adobe Scan is available for Android and Apple iOS devices in the respective app stores. You can learn more in the Adobe web site at: You also might want to watch the video demo of Adobe Scan at

NOTE: Like all other consumer OCR scanning products, Adobe Scan app does not convert handwritten text into readable and searchable text. It is designed for use with printed documents. For a definition of OCR, see the TechTarget web site at:


This is such a useful blog and I have just downloaded it to iBooks. When I opened it in iBooks the links to other websites ‘worked’ but in many cases when I put a PDF into iBooks and click on the links they will not open. I went to the local Apple Shop to ask for advice and although he scratched his head he could not come up with an answer. Is there an easy answer to this?
Kind regards
Barbara Elsmore


Evernote Premium makes handwritten notes (and also words in photographs) word-searchable.


Thanks for pointing this out Dick. I just downloaded it, and it is already helping me with some work!


App seems to suggest the saved docs go to Adobe cloud. Can they be saved elsewhere, like on a hard drive or on iCloud?
Claire Bettag


    I am not aware of any options to save the files elsewhere. When I used it when preparing for this article, I took the default settings and saved everything to Adobe Cloud. It worked well.


It’s clear that the app is free, but I don’t find information about the charges for using it, especially using the Adobe Cloud. I assume using it isn’t free, especially because the agreement talks about a user’s credit card,


Doesn’t work for me. All the Adobe Scan app did was create a PDF from whatever image it captured. The app stated it was doing OCR, but the resulting PDFs were images only. I even went outdoors & photographed the STOP sign at the corner. App did not recognize the image of the sign as a document, and OCR couldn’t ID the 4 letters after I cropped out the non text parts of the image. I have a Moto G 4, up to date Android version. Adobe has a video showing the app in use, and it appears that text images were OCR’d correctly in that video, but that didn’t happen to me.


    When I used the app, it created just one file: a searchable PDF. After scanning a page of text, all I saw was the one file. However, pressing control-F on a Windows or Linux PC or Command-F on a Macintosh resulted in me being able to search for any words or phrases within that PDF. That is the definition of a searchable PDF file. It isn’t supposed to create any text files. No searchable PDF files do that.


I photographed my call sign pasted in 3″ high black & white letters on my back bumper. Used Control-F to search for the letters & numbers – not a single character was found, nor was the call sign as a whole, Adobe said “no matches were found”. Got same lack of results from the corner STOP sign.


David T. Johnston June 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm

The cloud use fee is $9.00 per month. This isn’t free.


Nice scan, but I can’t do anything with it on my phone without paying for an Adobe Online Subscription – not in my budget! CamScanner also scans to .pdf and is free.


Dick, is it aDobe or aBobe.


Is this program compatible with a regular computer?


    This program is available in two versions: (1.) Android devices and (2.) Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. However, there are many other scanning and OCR programs available for Macintosh and Windows.


Quick free solution. Save PDFs on free 15GB of Google Drive and opening with Google Docs creates searchable files.


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