By Ron’e Dutta | When CamScanner, which had become the go-to scanner app for the majority of Indians, was banned by the Government of India along with several other apps citing national security concerns, many apps with similar concepts quickly made their way to the PlayStore and AppStore, hoping to acquire as many users as possible and fill the vacuum left behind by the sudden exit of CamScanner. Amid all this chaos, however, people somehow afforded to overlook a fantastic alternative to CamScanner- vFlat, which was neither launched just to capitalise on CamScenner’s misfortune nor was just another scanner app.
vFlat made its way to the stores quietly months before the CamScanner episode happened and had the potential to disrupt the market because of how revolutionary it is, but somehow people didn’t realise the error they were making by not trying it out.
Free, no watermark, no advertisements
Named one of the “Hidden gems of 2019” by Google Play, vFlat is a scanner app created by South Korean company VoyagerX that converts images taken with a mobile phone, such as documents, books, and notes, into high-quality PDF or JPG images. The borders of the documents are automatically cropped and adjusted by vFlat. You can also convert the captured images to text to search for or copy the desired keyword.
It instantly straightens the curved edges of the pages. You can achieve the same scanning results using vFlat as those obtained using a professional book scanner. You can simultaneously shoot the left and right pages of a book in the two-page shooting mode and store them in a split.
Anyone who uses a scanner app ought to give it a try because it is far better than anything else available. It doesn’t require you to have an account to use it. It’s completely free, doesn’t leave a watermark, and doesn’t bother you with advertisements.
A scanning app like no other
For two specific reasons in the year 2020, I was planning to buy a sheet-feed scanner. First, I needed to scan thousands of pages every month as part of my content creation routine for my educational blog Online Free Notes (onlinefreenotes.com); second, I needed the OCR to be crazily accurate to meet my purpose. But a good sheet-feed scanner costs a hefty amount, which I was hesitant to invest in and decided one day in the early days of 2021 to try out the scanner apps before I made the purchase.
I tried out dozens of scanner apps, read blogs and reviews of the apps, and found several apps that had manageable OCR when I tried them. However, the accuracy of the OCR remained a problem until I tried vFlat and was stunned by how accurate the OCR was.
With more than 10 million downloads and an exceptional rating of 4.7, vFlat is like no other scanner app, and those who have used multiple scanner apps to get the perfect results, like me, would never dare to disagree. Since then, I have been using vFlat to scan books after books, invested Rs 0, and didn’t feel the need to buy a sheet-feed scanner because I was scanning books at a far faster pace than a sheet-feed scanner could do, I needn’t pay anything, and the OCR was unbeatable. Further, the option the app provides to string the pages together and convert the scanned documents into a single txt file is something I never knew I needed and now cannot do without.
Instead of a sheet-feed scanner, now I have a cardboard box open on one side to slide in the books, and with a hole on the top where I place my phone camera. I keep the box in front of a window to let the light fill the box before I start scanning.
I also happen to be a journalist, and journalism comes with a lot of responsibilities and handouts. Soon after I discovered the app, I started scanning the handouts we would receive at events and sending the txt file to the reporters from other media houses voluntarily to relieve them of the tedious task of typing everything. Soon, most of them started asking for the app I was using because of the accuracy, which had blown them away.
I had them all astounded when one day I snapped low-quality images of a PPT presentation being projected from several feet away and sent them the converted txt file from the images created using vFlat. Needless to say, you can expect the app to accurately analyse the texts even if the images are poor and blurry, something other apps and tools are far behind in.
One of the best features of the app is that even if you scan a curved document or you scan it from an obscure angle, the app will flatten it and magically make it look like you have scanned the document while holding the phone on top of it. The quality is greatly enhanced. Furthermore, you can decide if you want to scan one page at a time like a resume, or two pages at a time like an open book by toggling the options, or you can simply put it on auto mode and the scanner will automatically analyse without error the number of pages and select the mode for you. If it is scanning two pages at a time, it will save the two pages separately, one after the other.
When using vFlat to scan documents, it automatically detects the area of the document and shows you a preview of the length and breadth of the document it is going to scan. It has a finger removal feature and can be used without any issue to detect hundreds of scripts across the world. You don’t need to scan the documents using the vFlat app first to extract the texts you want. The app gives you the option to import images and PDF files and run text recognition over them to get the task done.
While vFlat doesn’t have much downside, however, the limit of running OCR only on 100 pages per day might seem like a problem for a fraction of users. Also, for new users, noticing the option using which they can import images and PDF files might be a bit difficult, and hopefully, the developers will tweak the UI soon to make the import option more easily visible. Furthermore, the finger remover feature is still in beta and it might not always do the trick.
Although vFlat has more than 10 million downloads as of July 2022, it would be safe to say that it is still underrated and an underachiever in India simply because it beats other similar apps by miles and yet isn’t much talked about. The app should be a must for anyone who is looking for an accurate OCR. Yes, there are other free OCR tools out there, but it would be an underestimation to categorise vFlat with others.
For anyone who is not particularly concerned about OCR, vFlat might seem like another scanner app, except for its capability to flatten curved pages, which is awesome. But for those who need OCR, which can be students and professionals, they should not look beyond vFlat.
It would be great if it could also scan and convert diagrams and formulas into word documents, but perhaps I’m expecting sorcery (for now)!
The author is a journalist and the founder of the educational blog Online Free Notes