Scanning from within Microsoft Word or Office

Can you scan a picture or document directly into Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook? Certainly, but these days we’re spoiled for choice and have fantastic features like using a smartphone as a simple scanner.

Back in the day, you could click a button in Word 2003 to scan a document or image and drop it into a document.

Word 2003 – Insert | Picture | From Scanner or Camera

Microsoft dropped that in Word 2007 and later but there are many alternatives plus even more now with smartphones doubling as scanners.

Scan to image file then insert

The traditional and official way to get a scan into Word is by scanning the image, saving to disk then inserting that image file (JPG, TIF etc.) into the document.

That works fine and personally I prefer that method because there’s a backup copy of the scan outside the document, sheet or slide.

But I know there are folks who prefer the single step approach.

Scan direct to Office documents

Graham Mayor has some VBA code to start the Windows Imaging module from within Word. It’s marked as compatible with Word 2013 and later (possibly only 32-bit Office). You’re welcome to try it with modern Word and Windows.

Scan to clipboard, then paste

Some scanning software will let you copy the scanned image directly into the clipboard. Then you can simply paste (Ctrl + V or Cmd + V) into any document, email, worksheet or slide with no need to save a file first.

Ed Hamrick’s excellent VueScan (Windows and Mac) has a copy to clipboard option (Edit | Copy) which works from a preview or full scan.

Other scanning software might have a similar feature, check the menus or documentation.

Depending on the quality/resolution you need, it might be enough to take a screen-shot of the preview window and paste that into the document.

Camera to document

On mobile devices, it’s possible to take a photo to drop directly into a document. Office Mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android have Insert | Camera in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook apps.

In any Office app (including Windows/Mac) go to Insert | Pictures to select a previously taken photo from a Camera Roll folder. Either way will drop the image direct into the doc, slide, sheet or email.

Camera Roll

Use the Camera Roll option in OneDrive (or similar with other cloud storage apps). Camera Roll will upload smartphone photos to cloud storage then they can automatically sync to a computer. I do this often and the time from photo to appearing on my computer is less than a minute.

Microsoft Lens

Microsoft Lens for Apple or Android has excellent features to scan documents from the inbuilt camera and turn them into text, table, PDF or just images to insert into documents, slides or sheets.

Lens can not only take photos of documents but also straighten those images so they look good. Multi-page documents can be turned scanned to a PDF.

Similar features are in the somewhat overloaded Microsoft 365 App. I prefer Lens which has a more straight-forward interface.

Excel Data from Picture

Modern Excel has an ‘image to text’ option called ‘Data from Picture’. It’s in Excel Mobile, next to Insert Photos and Camera.

It’s also in Excel 365 under the Data tab as a tiny button under ‘Get & Transform Data’.

Insert photo from mobile device

Some Office apps have an Insert | Pictures | Mobile Device option, in this case ‘Mobile Device’ means Android.

Source: Microsoft

It’s available in the web browser versions of Word and Powerpoint. Also in preview for Word and PowerPoint for Windows. However, it’s only for Enterprise customers.