Microsoft gives one of Windows Phone's best features to iOS, Android

A quick scanning app popular with Microsoft's Windows Phone users will now be available on iOS and Android.

Lumia 830 Denim folders Microsoft
Credit: Mark Hachman

Windows Phone is not setting the world on fire, which means that only about 3% of all mobile phone users even know about some of its cool features. Rather than keep those features to itself, Microsoft is making them available to other platforms.

The company has announced that Office Lens, its photo scanning app that crops pictures and automatically drops them into OneNote or Onedrive, is available for free at Apple's App Store, and that the Office Lens Android Preview is available for testing.

The idea behind Office Lens is comparable to the Scannable feature in Evernote. It lets you take a quick picture of a whiteboard, receipt, billboard, or anything else similar and quickly scan and save it to a storage service. The app will auto-crop receipts, whiteboards, and anything else where there is a white object against a dark background.

Office Lens can scan a document at an angle and automatically rotate the text so it looks straight on to the user and not angled. It can take a bunch of images and turn them into a Powerpoint presentation, or scan a few sheets of paper and save them as a Word file. Office Lens also supports JPG and PDF formats.

Office Lens also lets you scan business cards to add new contacts to the device's address book. And its export/share functionality works with other services than just OneNote and OneDrive.

This will undoubtedly upset the Windows Phone faithful who chose the platform for its unique features like Office Lens. But Microsoft has its "Mobile first, cloud first" strategy, and keeping Office Lens exclusively to the WP platform would have been short-sighted. It's a reflection of the changing attitude at Microsoft that it would offer up such a nice feature to the Android and Apple communities. This would not have happened a decade ago.

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