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Microsoft Release Office Lens for Android

May 27, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Microsoft Office Lens is one of those concept ideas that seems to have been listed from a science fiction story from a couple of decades ago. You see, Lens can turn an Android smartphone device into a pocket scanner that transcribes the text from the screen and puts it straight into the application. Microsoft’s source website makes much of the 130,000 Google+ community previews and they are not afraid to lay on the praise that the application has received; apparently it’s been described as a “great app,” it works “flawlessly” and delivers “crystal clear images” whilst performing an “excellent job of transcribing a printed page, despite edge distortion.” As it happens, Lens has been out for Windows Phone since March 2014 and iPhone carrying customers have been able to access the application since early April. The Android version was given a public preview from April 2nd until today’s formal release.

Microsoft have disclosed that the Android preview involved over 270 makes of Android device and around 2,600 models. The Lens team worked hard to keep the application running smoothly across such a wide portfolio of devices. One of the features that the Lens team incorporated into the application is the ability to save an image into multiple sources at the same time, such as both OneDrive and Microsoft Word. This is a process that requires separate steps on the iPhone.

As far as the application goes, Office Lens uses recognition algorithms to detect the edge of a document, whiteboard, screen or indeed almost any rectangular media when using the application. It automatically crops, straightens, enhances the text and cleans up the image. Once the image has been taken, customers can save the image to either the OneNote or OneDrive application service for later retrieval. Of course, OneNote and OneDrive are both Microsoft Cloud-enabled and so once the image has been saved into one device, it is available in all connected devices. This joined up way of thinking is ultimately the real utility of Office Lens: scanning and transcribing the document is fine, but the chances are that the document would be easier used on a (Surface) tablet or (Windows) laptop rather than on a Windows Phone smartphone. It’s easy to see why Microsoft would make Office Lens a free application as it encourages customers to buy their other software.

The Lens application is able to save the image into Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and PDF files. Customers may also send the image via email, so it’s easy to share documents with colleagues and friends alike. One of the uses of Lens is to share business expense receipts or important documents. Lens can also scan a business card and populate a contacts file, which can be shared to a smartphone via OneNote. The free application is available in over one hundred and twenty countries in thirty languages.