Exploring the Design Principles Behind Adobe Scan

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Exploring the Design Principles Behind Adobe Scan
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Thanks to Amy Casillas and Lynn Hao for their contributions to this article.

As Document Cloud designers, we envision the future of how people create, use, and store content. We imagine how people will share content and interact with each other. And, we strive to create a world of digital documents that enables you to do more.

Imagine you met a dozen people at a networking event and you have a dozen business cards to match. Fast forward a couple of weeks — or even days — and you’re looking through a stack of contact information. Maybe some cards are in your jacket pocket, in your bag, or just lost. We’ve all been there. Even if you’ve stacked those cards in one place, do you remember who all those people are?

Remembering faces and names can be challenging. But, the challenge isn’t just about remembering whose business card you’re holding either — think of all the medical forms you fill out on paper, every receipt you expense when you’re traveling, all the notes you take at school or in meetings.

The location, environment, and people you interact with before and after using a document all help create context and memory. Eventually this information is lost over time. Files are even lost even when people snap photos to save them as they become part of a collection of scans, photos, videos, and other digital content. We realized meeting these challenges was an opportunity.

How do we facilitate a scan’s transition to something useful?

We improved what we know well — a quick way to capture and transform files into high-quality, secure PDFs and save securely in Adobe Document Cloud — and then focused on what people do with digital content. All this is Adobe Scan, our free app that turns your mobile device into a portable PDF scanner, introduces all the benefits of digital files, including, sharing, on-the-go use, effortless conversion from print to digital, and easy storage.

Understanding the journey from paper to digital

Taking a step back before designing solutions, we created a timeline of how different types of documents — receipts, notes, business cards, and forms — travel along a timeline, from physical to digital. In general, all paper documents 1) have some sort of background or context, as described above, 2) are created in some way either by you or someone else, 3) are digitized, 4) are used in some way, and 5) may be used again at some later date.

With Adobe Scan, our goal is to help users along this entire timeline — from finding a quick and efficient way to capture the millions of documents that are out there, to saving them in a format that can easily be stored and retrieved at any point in the future. While there are solutions available for “saving” raw information, many of them lack the ability to include the destination context (user mind set) when the information was found that would later make the information actionable at the right place and time for the user.

Reducing physical and cognitive effort

There are plenty of other scan apps on the market, but Adobe Scan sets itself apart by requiring very little physical or cognitive effort to go from paper to PDF in mere seconds. Rather than having to crop images or scan and edit individual pages one by one, users can hold their mobile phone above a document, and Scan will capture and clean the document automatically using Adobe Sensei, our machine learning and artificial intelligence platform. We provide users with ways to edit the cleaning if they want to, but our goal is to keep the workflow as effortless as possible, letting our technology lead the way.

Since PDF is everywhere, we designed Scan to support a wide range of uses, from creative design to managing your taxes. Users who need to scan a basic one page document can quickly do so and stop there, or seamlessly continue on to capture up to a full book with specific editing on each page. It works equally well for both simple and very complex scanning workflows.

For example, not all users take action on their scans immediately. Business expenses are a common scenario for receipt scans, but it’s rare that people expense receipts on the spot in a restaurant. For scenarios where people use their scans at a later date, or revisit at a later time, we needed to provide a simple organization solution.

Storage is split into two possible views — Recent and All Scans. When a file is saved, it appears at the top of the Recent list, with suggested common actions, like sharing. Under All Scans, users can see a more holistic collection view of all their files. They can sort alphabetically, by date, or search to make it easy to find any scan they’re looking for.

Envisioning the future of digital documents

To encourage users to do more with their scans, we’re considering a number of useful features that rely on Adobe Sensei. In a release earlier this year, we added the ability for Scan to intelligently find photos of documents in your device’s photo library. These images are often lost within a sea of photos, videos and other digital files. Now, they can quickly be imported and saved as PDF, gaining all the benefits of PDF like content searching, highlighting, and commenting.

We’re also looking at document assistance. What if, after you scan a document, Adobe Scan recognizes it as a form and asks you if you’d like to sign it? We’re looking at ways we can identify documents at capture time that help users do something with them immediately. If you scan business cards, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve just released a way to quickly add contacts to your device’s Contacts app. In the future, if you scan a form, we may send it directly to Adobe’s signing feature within Acrobat.

While digital experiences are growing in popularity, the fact of the matter is that people are still exchanging paper. And that is what inspires our design work in Adobe Scan. We’re looking to complement the way people work and live, both digitally and with physical documents.

Adobe Scan

Cut paper clutter with Adobe Scan. You no longer need to keep piles of paper on your desk or stuff your wallet with receipts. The free Adobe Scan app works on your mobile device, scans documents into PDFs, and automatically recognizes text.

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