The second app to unwrap is...

Office Lens

Office Lens is a capture app that turns your device into a scanner. However, Lens includes optical character recognition (OCR) and it is that which gives this particular capture app the edge for student use over other free capture apps that are available. Lens can be used very effectively as a stand-alone app but it also integrates seamlessly with OneNote, which was the app we reviewed yesterday.

Lens can be downloaded for free from the Windows Phone Store, iTunes and Google Play. You will need to have, or create, a microsoft account to use it.

*DIT staff and students, you can log into Office Lens using your usual DIT username and password.  


A quick overview of the app, watch this video


What does Lens look like & how does it work?

Screenshot of Lens 


As you can see from the image, Lens has a number of modes (business card, photo, document and whiteboard) and you choose which mode is the most appropriate for the task in hand. You can take the capture of the document and whiteboard from any angle and Lens will straighten up, crop and enhance the image for you. Then you decide what you want to do with your image. You could...

  1. Email it to yourself, text the image to one of your contacts, or, depending on what other apps you use you could, for example, post it to facebook or save it to DropBox.

  2. Save it to your photo library.

  3. Choose to convert it into a real Office Word document or a PowerPoint file. Layout will be preserved and the file will be editable. To do this, you’ll need to install the free Word and PowerPoint apps on your phone or tablet. You documents will be saved automatically to your Office Lens folder on OneDrive. You can download the OneDrive app or log on via your PC.

  4. Convert your image to a searchable PDF document and email it to yourself, find it in your Lens documents folder on OneDrive, or save it/upload it somewhere as described above.

  5. Send the image straight to OneNote where the text on the image will be searchable, and depending on the quality of the image, you could even be able to copy the text from the image and paste it elsewhere for editing.

 But how can Office Lens help you to Personalise your Learning?

The following sections explain how Lens can help Visual learners, Auditory learners, Read/Write learners, and Kinesthetic learners access and engage with information, and demonstrate your understanding of it. If you do not know what your preferred learning style is, go to the student page and take the short questionnaire linked to there and read how understanding your preferred style can help you personalise your learning. 

Visual learner

Office Lens can help you both access information and engage with it, as well as help you prepare materials you might need if you are required to express your understanding of a concept or topic to your peers or tutors in the form of a presentation. To explain, you access information well, or take it in more easily, when it is represented in the form of maps, diagrams and flowcharts etc. or even doodles showing arrows and circles that explain the linkages and relationships between various topics or issues. Therefore, what is on a whiteboard and/or on your own writing pad at the end of a class is often an essential learning tool for you and those images need to be captured and saved in some way for study and revision purposes later. If you use Lens to take a capture of that whiteboard or doodle you can do so much more with the image than you could before with a picture taken using your regular phone or tablet camera. The same is true for any diagrams or charts you come across in books and articles as you study that you might like to capture and keep. e.g. 

  • If  you are a OneNote user, refer back to yesterday’s app page to read about what you can do with images within OneNote notes pages.

  • but if you’re not a OneNote user, never fear because can also export your capture as a PDF file and when you open that file up via the OneDrive app you can use the drawing tools provided there to draw and write on the PDF document.

  • If you export your captured image from Len to PowerPoint, the hand-drawn strokes in the whiteboard image captured by Lens are converted into objects that can be moved about , resized, recoloured etc. You can re-save your edited image then from there for use elsewhere, or continue on and create a presentation around it, all right from within the powerpoint app

Auditory learner

Find out how Auditory learners can benefit from Office Lens by pressing play on this audio piece below You can choose to download the transcript here.

Read and write learner

It’s often the case that your tutors or lecturers give out paper documents during class e.g. an assignment schedule for the year; guidelines for an assessment; or a list of previous exam questions for example. You can use the document mode on Lens to capture this paper-based text and by exporting it to Word convert it to electronic text, which you can then edit to create a checklist from it for example, or insert notes etc. Furthermore, you can use the business card mode to capture the important  information on a business card and save that data as a contact in an address book or into OneNote’s contact section.

Kinesthetic learner

Office Lens can help you access  and engage   with content around what you’re working on. As explained yesterday, gathering real-life pictures and photographs from field trips etc. is something that you tend to do to help you make sense of information and document concrete experiences. Office Lens will make it so much easier for you to work with the images you capture. To explain:

  • Like the visual learner above, being about to export a captured image straight from Lens to OneNote, Word and PowerPoint, or as a PDF file, should appeal to you. Depending which office product you choose, you can go on to draw on the image and explain your thoughts further, or add additional information and media around it, before sharing with others and potentially collaborating online with them within that document.

Does Lens provide opportunities for you to communicate and/or collaborate?

In a roundabout way, yes it does actually! From within that Word document, PowerPoint file, or PDF file that you created via Lens, you can share your document with others and even invite them to edit it too.

Alternative Apps to check out.

CamScanner is available for both iOS and Android and it’s quite a good app. But, the OCR capabilities are available only in the paid version. There are other free OCR apps available but as they all work in different ways you’ll have to search and find the best one for you. Many have been reviewed in various technology blogs so a quick Google search will find a lot of them for you. However, the big advantage Office Lens will have over any of the others you’ll find is its integration with the other Office products and the value that holds for you as a learner.  

Optional Task

optional task
Optional Task

    1. Install Office Lens

    2. Find a free whiteboard around your institution or organisation

    3. Using a whiteboard marker, write “I love Office Lens #12appsDIT” on it and sketch a very quick outline of a christmas tree

    4. Save the image to the photo library on your phone or tablet

    5. Tweet your whiteboard image to #12appsDIT and be in with a chance to win a prize today!
  • Don’t forget to tweet comments, tips and hints about Office Lens to #12appsDIT