Microsoft's mobile apps will get better image capture and OCR via the Office Lens camera app

We'd still like to see OneNote integration, though.

Currently, Microsoft’s Office Lens is a specialized mobile application for pulling images of whiteboards and other visual information into Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. But Microsoft says it will soon become much more powerful.

Office Lens originally debuted on Windows Phone, but it moved to Android and the iPhone in April 2015. It was handy for classrooms and meetings because you could take a picture of a whiteboard, for example, and Office Lens automatically aligned the photo so it would look like a screenshot.

Office Lens was originally a standalone app, but as of this week it’s built right into the Word and PowerPoint apps within iOS and Android. That makes it marginally more useful, but what’s more exciting is what’s coming down the pipe: optical character recognition, or OCR. Soon when you snap a photo of a presentation, Word will extract the relevant details for easier integration into your notes. 

It’s worth noting that OCR capabilities are already within Office Lens for Android, albeit with a specific purpose in mind: scanning business cards. But there’s no direct connection to Outlook—the information is scanned into OneNote, which then requires you to edit it before exporting. 

Microsoft revealed the Office Lens roadmap inside a summary blog post of some of the changes being made to the various components within Microsoft Office. Next up is a similar integration path within the Excel app, as well as the ability to capture documents. 

Why this matters: The new Office Lens features will add important enhancements to Microsoft's mobile apps, so we hope Microsoft keeps going beyond Excel to the OneNote note-taking application—both on the desktop and the mobile space. Microsoft’s current workflow assumes—probably correctly—that any notes taken inside OneNote will eventually be summed up inside a more formal Word document. But OneNote works better as a loose collection of data that the user can collate and distill later, and Office Lens could help with that.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iOS 10MicrosoftAndroid Nougat

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?