Scan a document to PDF with PDFpen.

How to Scan a Document to PDF for Editing

Scan a document to PDF and use PDFpen to turn it into a searchable, editable PDF. In this blog post, we’ll show you how!

Converting a paper document to a PDF has many benefits. PDF files don’t take up physical space. They are less vulnerable to fires, moisture and other damage. You can easily edit the content of a document with a PDF editor, if it’s in PDF form. You can find information on it much more quickly (via Command+F) than you would searching manually. You can share a PDF with anyone in the world in seconds – and do so safely, thanks to features such as password protection and redaction. And if you take the necessary measures, you can make the content of your PDF accessible to people with disabilities. 

Best of all? The process is super simple. You can turn any paper document into a PDF – all you need is a scanner and a PDF editor.

Scan a Document to PDF

Scan a document to PDF with PDFpen.
Turn any paper document into a PDF file with PDFpen. Photo by San Kaÿzn on Unsplash.

PDFpen supports any scanner that your Mac’s Image Capture software recognizes.

If you’re on macOS 10.14 / iOS 12 (or higher) and have PDFpenPro v.11, you can also scan with Continuity Camera

Tip: Scanning large documents can be difficult and time-consuming. Work with a few essential pages instead.

How to Scan a Document to PDF Using a Scanner

  1. Choose File > Import from Scanner. A Scan window will appear.

    Don’t see your scanner under Devices? Click here for more info.
Scan a document to PDF with PDFpen.

2. From the Kind drop-down menu, choose Text (if the document is text-only), Black & White (if the document contains text and black and white photos or diagrams), or Color (if the document contains color images).

Note: This choice will have the biggest impact on your file size.

3. Choose a resolution from the Resolution drop-down menu. Higher resolutions result in sharper images, but larger file sizes.

Tip: 150 to 300 dpi is fine if you just want to view the PDF online. For printing, we recommend matching the scan resolution to your printer’s resolution.

4. From the Format drop-down menu, choose TIFF (best for high-quality printing), JPEG (best for creating smaller files), or select PDF.

Note: The format you choose will also affect your file size. To learn more about the different formats and determine which is best for you, check out this article.

5. Set any other scan preferences, then click Scan.

6. A new PDFpen document containing the scanned page will appear. The Scan window will remain open in case you want to add more scans to the document.

7. When you’re done, close the Scan window.

To learn more about scanning options in PDFpen, check out this page.

Scan a Document to PDF using Continuity Camera (PDFpenPro v.11 and Higher)

Scan a document to PDF with Continuity Camera.
You can also scan with Continuity Camera. Screenshot by Apple. Source: Apple.

To use Continuity Camera, you’ll need macOS Mojave 10.14 or later on your Mac and iOS 12 on your iOS device.

Before scanning, check that:

  • Your Mac and iOS device are nearby.
  • Bluetooth is enabled on both devices.
  • You are signed in to iCloud on both devices with the same Apple ID.

Once you’re ready, follow these steps:

  1. Open a document or choose File > New > One Page Document.
  2. Choose File > Import from iPhone or iPad > Scan Documents.
  3. Use the camera on the iPhone or iPad to begin scanning.
  4. After scanning, tap Save. Scans will appear in PDFpenPro.

Having trouble? This article might help.

Improving Scans for OCR

Scan a document to PDF then deskew it with PDFpen.
A slightly skewed scan that can be improved for OCR. Photo by Baudouin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Once you’ve scanned your document, you can have PDFpen perform Optical Character Recognition on it – or, as we say around here, you can OCR it – to make it searchable and editable.

The quality of the OCR will depend on the quality of your scan, so it’s worth making edits and adjustments to ensure the best condition possible.

You can:

  • Rotate & Deskew Page. Improve slightly skewed or poorly exposed scans by slightly (up to 20 degrees) tilting them and increasing or decreasing their exposure.
  • Adjust Image. Modify the exposure, contrast, and saturation of images and apply effects on them.
  • Resample Image. Reduce file size by changing the resolution and reducing the depth of color.
  • Deskew and Adjust Image. Make fine adjustments to the skew or tilt of the image, page, or document, or adjust contrast and exposure.

You can access most of these functions by choosing Edit from the top bar.

Tip: Increasing the contrast of the document (so that the background is as white as possible) helps.

Performing OCR on Scans

Once you’ve made your adjustments, you can tell PDFpen to perform OCR on any single page of your PDF by choosing Edit > OCR page.

You can also set your preferences (PDFpen > Preferences) so that PDFpen performs OCR automatically upon opening a scanned document. After you do, follow these steps:

  1. Open your scanned PDF. A “Would you like to perform OCR?” message will appear.
  2. Choose “OCR a page” or “OCR document.”

After OCR is complete, you can search your document and make edits.

Have any tips for scanning documents to PDFs? Let us know @PDFpen and on Facebook.

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