There are a LOT of apps out there that convert your iOS device into a “scanner” using the device camera. Admittedly, I haven’t tried all of them…or even most of them…or even some of them, really. That’s because the one that I have used with any regularity is so good, I haven’t felt the need to go elsewhere.
TurboScan for iOS ($1.99 in the App Store) has performed admirably for me as a performing musician. As with most other posts on this blog, I speak from the perspective of an artist / teacher in the Arts, not as a general user. I am currently using this app to get music into forScore, essentially replacing my flatbed scanner.
Here’s how it’s used:
- Snap a picture of the document you want to “scan”
- Adjust the frame of the document – this is a great feature that allows you to eliminate skewed images, which can occur if you don’t take a perfectly straight picture
- Choose the brightness level of the scan (also nice)
- Add more pages (if desired)
- Name the file
- Export to a number of different places in JPG or PDF formats, including e-mail, camera roll, and the Open With… app list (you can guess where I go with this).
The other virtue of this application is its SureScan mode, where you take 3 pictures of the same document, and the app performs its magic to make the best possible image out of the three snaps. You don’t *have* to do this, which is nice if you’re in a hurry because it takes quite a bit longer to do.
The results have been great – but if I have the time, I add a few extra steps:
- After completing my scan, I’ll open in Dropbox.
- I’ll open Acrobat Pro, and perform a Batch Processing action I created that simply runs the Optimize Scanned PDF command on whatever documents I choose.
- I’ll tag the documents using forScore for Mac, as I always do
- I’ll then open the documents in forScore, using forScore’s ability to Import from Dropbox.
These extra steps are entirely optional, but that’s my typical workflow with TurboScan. Ultimately, the best-quality scans I have are still from the flatbed scanner, but TurboScan is more-than-acceptable, especially if I’m on the go.
File size is also managed well. At the “medium” setting, my full-page PDF was 773 KB. At the “small” setting, my full-page PDF was 461 KB. In my opinion, both are readable just fine on the iPad, so you can safely use the “small” setting for your sheet music.
However, neither of these file sizes can hold a candle to Acrobat’s “Optimize” function. While .5 MB isn’t large at all (~2,000 pages per GB), optimizing the PDF with Acrobat shrunk it down to 77 KB, which would give you ~13,000 pages per GB. You can see why I take the extra time to optimize all of my PDFs. Even besides file size, optimizing will straighten, despeckle, and performs background removal on the document, making a squeaky-clean PDF. Worth my extra time and energy, IMO.
The other great thing about this app is that, though it’s not universal, it works very well on the new iPad (yes, I’ve got one now, and it’s amazing), now that it’s got a “real” camera in it. So, if I’m scanning into forScore on the go, I will typically use my iPad and go straight to forScore, bypassing the optimization and tagging it in the forScore app.
The one thing I don’t know of is a way to optimize a PDF on the iPad. I have searched intermittently for something that will do this, similar to how Acrobat does it, and have come up empty. If anyone out there knows of something that’ll accomplish this, please let me know!
My advice – don’t waste your time with other scanning apps out there. Unless you have serious OCR or encryption needs (which you don’t for sheet music), go get it now!