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Office Lens: Paperless App of the Week

officelens01-1024x577There are a number of tools that are absolutely indispensable to me in my quest to go paperless. Certainly OneNote is critical. Office 365 is key to being paperless in the cloud. However, there is one app that has taken me by surprise: Office Lens.

Office Lens is a Microsoft mobile app that turns paper into paperless. It is like a magic wand that turns all of that unwanted but important paper into digital goodness. Sort of like a scanner, but better.

Office Lens Magic

Office Lens is simple.

Take a photo of something that you want turned into a digital file, and presto, now you magically have your paper or whiteboard on your device as an electronic file. There are lots of scanner apps available for your smartphone, but all of them pale in comparison to Office Lens. The difference is the three elements of Office Lens magic.

Magic 1: Framing the Document

Office Lens automatically finds the edges of your document and frames it up for you. It works on a paper document or a whiteboard. So you can take photos of documents and whiteboards at odd angles, and Office Lens will figure it out for you.

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As you move the camera you will find the application sorting through the image, looking for the edges of a document or whiteboard. It makes it very quick and easy to capture the image, without having to mess around with image editing afterward to remove unwanted elements in the photo. Total magic.

Magic 2: Adjusting the Image

Once Office Lens has found the document within the image, it then processes the image, turning it into a high-contrast version of the paper document. It removes almost all of the image artifacts that don’t relate to the information on the document. For example: shadows and reflections are instantly gone, just as it would be in a paper scan.

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OfficeLens06Magic 3: Export it Everywhere

Once you have a high-definition and high-contrast version of your paper document or whiteboard, you can export the image to almost anything: Word, Outlook, PDF, DropBox, PowerPoint, OneNote, etc.

During the export, exciting things may happen to the file, depending on where you send the image.

If you saved it as a Word document, the image will have searchable text and will arrive as an actual Word document. All of the text, formatting and layout will be preserved.

If you saved it as a PowerPoint presentation, then all of the handwritten lines and strokes are converted into editable drawing objects that can be repositioned, recoloured and edited.

Whiteboards can be exported to PowerPoint or OneNote and will become visually exciting digital versions of your original whiteboard.

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Bonus Magic: Business Cards

When you scan a business card into OneNote using Office Lens, there is more magic to be had. This is called Business Card Mode. Office Lens automatically recognizes the content on the business cards and formats it nicely into your OneNote notebook. The content can be searched and clicked to access email or location information.

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Helping my Paperless Journey

My desire to become paperless is made difficult by one fact: people give me a lot of paper. I get paper documents from others all the time, even if I ask for a digital copy (which turns out to be extra work for them). Legal documents show up on paper. Receipts are still usually paper. Forms and notices from my kids’ school – paper.

I want to convert all of that paper to digital form – so I can store it, search it and retrieve it effortlessly. Office Lens allows me to make that conversion quickly and efficiently. Then send it to my electronic filing system in a single click.

I now use Office Lens at least once or twice per day. It is now the primary method I use to turn all of that paper I receive into searchable, digital files.

Without Office Lens, I would have to wait till I was back in the office able to scan. The paper would end up somewhere (like my car or in my pocket), piling up and limiting this paperless journey. It also limits the effectiveness of harnessing the information on that paper. If it sits in my car or in my pocket I don’t have it easily accessible and filed where it is supposed to live. Magic apps like Office Lens make this journey so much easier, and I look forward to my next magic app find.

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