With Microsoft currently hard at work on Windows 10 for phones, Windows Phone 8.1 needs all the apps and services it can get to lure users away from rivals like the iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system. That’s where Office Lens comes in, a recent update has finally given it everything it needs to kill off a cumbersome staple of the home office: the scanner.
Microsoft revealed a big update to its Office Lens app for smartphones running its Windows Phone operating system just yesterday in a blog post. One of the new feature additions is the ability to turn pictures of documents directly into a PDF.
Really, it’s that simple. With Office Lens Windows Phone users simply take a snap of their document with decent lighting. Office Lens already scans the text of documents and makes it searchable so that they’re easy to track down later. Now when users select the PDF option in the save menu they’ll get a copy stored direct on OneDrive, Microsoft cloud storage service. From there, the document can be searched from any OneDrive app or Windows devices with a OneDrive client running.
Office Lens for Windows Phone also includes PDF conversion. This allows Windows Phone users to turn PDFs into different types of documents all integrated with other parts of Microsoft Office. Microsoft’s examples include copying text from a PDF to create a Word document.
No, hardly anyone is going to purchase a Windows Phone solely because it makes it easier to ditch paperwork and go digital, but Office Lens is part of a larger effort by Microsoft to change its fortunes by rethinking how people get work done. Scanning documents becomes a hassle – specifically during tax season when there’s a lot of information that needs to be sent to an account or third-party who isn’t necessarily close. Today, most people would think the way to solve that problem is to by an expensive all-in-one printer or hope that their library offers a scanner.
Microsoft executives – particularly, CEO Satya Nadella – likes to talk about digital life scenarios. Staying productive with any device you have is one of the scenarios the company focuses on the most. That’s because allowing people to get work done is something the company has a lot of experience in. Microsoft Office continues dominate in productivity software and rose to prominence on Android and iPhone thanks to free apps released by the company last year. By putting its best software experiences in more places Microsoft gets its name in front of another generation of users who maybe won’t buy a PC, but still need Microsoft’s software and services.
Microsoft has plans to upgrade Office for Windows Phone when it unleashes Windows 10 for phones sometime later this year, but today it lags behind the iPhone, iPad and Android versions. Office Lens is one of the last remaining advantages of having a Windows Phone and definitely something to add to any list of pros for the operating system. To be clear, Microsoft has plans to update many devices running Windows Phone to Windows 10 for free, but rumors indicate that all of them won’t make the cut.
To make all of this document scanning technology work, Office Lens for forced users to manually change to different profiles. Unfortunately, most of the time users forget to do so, probably resulting in some sub par scans. This new Office Lens update includes an auto-classifier that handles identification itself. This means that Office Lens knows when it’s looking at a whiteboard or a sheet of paper. It’s a small change, but it should definitely impact document scans in a positive way.
The latest Office Lens update is already available in the Windows Phone Store for users to download. Again, for now Microsoft appears to be keeping the app exclusive to its own mobile platform.