Office Lens is a useful tool for any smartphone

Office Lens is a good app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.   If you want to convert photos into a Word document (as text) or PDF, the Office Lens is the way to go.

Lens has a wonderful straightening trick that turns an off-center photo into something ‘straight on’ which is easier to read and convert into text. It’s available for Apple iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Office Lens has some handy features and is worth space on your smartphone, mostly for photos of documents, receipts and other text sources.

The enhanced ‘crop’ feature alone makes it worth having available.

What is Office Lens?

Lens is a slick way to take a photo on your device and insert it into various Microsoft Office apps, especially OneNote.  The OneNote option is important because OneNote is what provides some of the features hyped in Lens, most importantly Optical Character Recognition.

Lens can take a photo of a document, receipt, whiteboard or anything else and lets you save it to OneNote, OneDrive and other Microsoft options.

If that’s all Lens did, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But Lens has many tricks up it’s sleeve.

You can crop and straighten the image in ways that aren’t normally available.  Microsoft’s example is a whiteboard image taken from the side.  After going through the Lens cropping, you can see the whiteboard ‘front on’ which is easier for humans and OneNote to read.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft demos are one thing, we thought we’d try it ourselves with a crumpled receipt taken at an odd angle.  Click on the Crop button and select the relevant part of the image (not necessarily a square or rectangle) then click the ‘tick’ button.

This is where Lens gets clever because ‘Crop’ doesn’t just trim the photo.  Lens reorients the selected area so it looks like you took the photo right in front of the object.

That’s a pretty neat trick on any computer, let alone a small device.

The image buttons across the top are Delete, Crop, Image Type (Document, Whiteboard, Photo). Under the dots icon: Recent History and Settings.

Save to many places

Click on the Save icon to reveal your choices for saving the image.  This is another bit of Office Lens cleverness because you can save the one image to multiple locations and in different formats.

The above example is from Office Lens for iPhone. 

OneNote – inserts the image as a new page into your OneNote notebooks.  That will then synchronize with OneDrive and to your other devices with OneNote.  Saving to OneNote is important because that’s where the OCR or ‘image to text’ happens.

OneDrive – saves a JPG image to the OneDrive Camera Roll, just like any other image taken on a device with Camera Roll on for the OneDrive app.

Photos – saves a JPG to the default folder for camera images.  This will trigger any app with a ‘Camera Roll/Upload’ feature to copy automatically images saved to the Gallery, for example, OneDrive, DropBox or Resilio Sync.

PDF – the image is inserted into a new PDF.  That document is saved to OneDrive.

Word, PowerPoint – the image is inserted into a new document or deck.

Mail — makes a new email with the image included.

Image to Text

Lens has an effective ‘image to text’ (aka OCR – Optical Character Recognition) which isn’t obvious because there’s no ‘convert to text’ option.

Choose Document from the main menu then either take a shot with the camera or select a photo from the device.

Crop or edit the image then move to the Export menu and choose Word. That makes a new document with both the original image AND the text extracted from it.

A pity there’s no obvious ‘convert to text’ option where the text can be selected and pasted wherever you like.

Camera or saved image

Originally the nice crop/straighten options were only available for photos taken by the device camera with Lens.  Now any image can get the Lens special treatment.  Select the photo then choose the usual Crop icon, you’ll see that the four corner handles appear as shown above.

Get Office Lens

Download Office Lens free from the usual app stores:



Multiple Images now in Office Lens for Android
Office Lens, at last it’s available for iPad