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February 23, 2015

Office Lens Update: Convert pictures into searchable PDF

Throw away your scanner: With the Office Lens app, you can now take a picture of text and that document will be saved as a searchable PDF file.

The folks behind Office Lens have been busy. They recently improved the app so that you can take photos of text documents, which are then automatically saved as PDF files into OneDrive.

Office Lens trims and enhances the text image for better readability and uses optical character recognition (OCR) so you can search text within images. The new update makes it easier to do your work, but it can also come in handy in unexpected ways.


Let me give you a real-life example. I walked by a new restaurant the other day and its inviting design—red leather banquettes and retro zinc bar—made me take a look at its menu. I didn’t have time to study it in-depth, so I whipped out my Lumia Icon and used Office Lens to take snapshots of the four-page menu.

I later viewed the PDF file by tapping recent in Office Lens and opening it via PDF Reader (you can use other PDF apps such as Adobe Reader). I searched for a favorite dish (ratatouille, anyone?) and bookmarked the page so I could return to it quickly.

I then emailed the PDF to my husband to see if he’d be interested in checking out the new restaurant. End result: We’re having dinner there this weekend. So despite its name, Office Lens can be a useful tool for work and play.

Of course, before this update, you could use Office Lens to photograph your documents and save them as Word and PowerPoint files. The new PDF feature just gives you more options to save, search within a document, and share with colleagues, family or friends.