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I don’t use my Mac and my iPhone together as much as I should; I generally tend to complete tasks on one or the other, rather than handing off my work between the two platforms. I might change this up, though, now that I see how easy it is to trigger my iPhone’s document-scanning capabilities from my Mac.

That sounds a little nerdy and niche—and it is—but I’m envisioning a setup where someone slaps their iPhone on a cheap tripod, points it down at a table, and shuffles papers under it. And rather than having to fuss with tapping one’s phone over and over to take pictures of said documents, which might invariable jostle around its position, triggering its camera via the Mac makes batch document scanning sound like a snap.

Thanks to The Verge (and the TikToker they found) for making me aware of this hack. To get started, make sure your Mac is running macOS Mojave (at minimum) and your iPhone is using iOS 12 (at minimum). Both have to have wifi and Bluetooth enabled, and both have to be signed into the same Apple ID (obviously).

After that, you’ll want to pull up an application that supports the “Continuity Camera” feature—a list of which can be found here. We’ll use Notes as the example for this one. Within any ol’ note, simply Control + Click to launch your context menu, and select “Scan Documents” from your phone, which should appear at the very bottom of the menu.

Illustration for article titled How to Quickly Scan Documents on Your Mac With Your iPhone

Screenshot: David Murphy

When you do, your iPhone will immediately hop into camera mode. If it detects a document, it’ll automatically scan its contents and ask you whether you want to keep the photo or not:


Screenshot: David Murphy

The one down side of this little trick is that you do have to tap on your iPhone to save or discard the document scan. Pick the former, and it’ll automatically appear in whatever Mac app you were using—easy as that.

In a perfect world, you’d be able to save or discard the photo directly from your Mac. And maybe that option will appear someday. Until then, Continuity Camera isn’t perfect for document scanning, but it does make the entire process a hell of a lot more convenient. And that’s even more true if you have a bunch of documents you want to try and scan in one setting. You’ll still have to tap your phone a little bit, but at least the transfer will be a lot faster than having to upload your shots to iCloud, wait, download them onto your Mac, and position them in whatever document you were working on.

Me? I just dump them all to a folder, since Continuity Camera also works directly out of Finder. As an added bonus, anything you scan with your iPhone is automatically converted to a PDF.

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