Prizmo 5 iOS scanning app; the first really usable one?

Creaceed, an iOS and macOS developer from my native country, Belgium, has released its newest scan software for iOS, Prizmo 5. Now, there’s a lot of that for the iPhone and iPad, so I was very curious to see what Prizmo 5 has in store for its users.

For starters, Prizmo isn’t new. It has been on the market for 10 years on the Mac, then there was a period where Prizmo remained in a sort of state of hibernation, only to be resurrected now on the iPhone and iPad. Previous Prizmo versions weren’t bad but not too thrilling either, so I didn’t expect too much of it.

Well, I can only say that this new version has a definite wow! factor to it — and it’s not only the interface design that’s well done. Prizmo 5 has everything what a good scanning app should offer. It’s a nail in the coffin of other scanning apps that I’ve tried over the years. Most of them either were very frustrating to use, didn’t come with features that you can actually use or depended on a Mac for the OCR part.

We will have none of that with Prizmo 5. First of all, the scanning feature is absolutely great. It’s fast and pretty accurate at detecting the parts of the page that matter for OCR — expect about the same performance — or slightly better — as Apple’s own algorithm that you use when you want to use Continuity Camera’s scanning functionality.

For multiple page scanning, you can activate an Autoshoot feature that lets you focus on the page framing, rather than on the shutter button, which is very handy.

Once you have scanned what you want, you are taken to a page with icons along the bottom. Most of these give access to image improvement functionality, including perspective crop, cleanup, brightness & contrast, edge repair and document flattening. Many of them are locked once OCR has been performed. OCR will have been performed almost instantly with pages that look right from the first try, but even if you have a page that’s too bright on closer inspection, and after you made it darker on the adjustments page, the OCR works well.

And indeed, Creaceed’s claim that they’re using best-in-class OCR is no exaggeration. This OCR algorithm works like it’s supposed to. You have two options, though:

  • a reliable and very accurate on-device OCR powered by machine learning in 28 languages (I tried it with English, Dutch and French; all worked very well)
  • a high-performance cloud-based OCR in 26 languages with handwriting recognition (English only for now).

While the OCR worked great on printed text, it was less useful with handwritten texts. I expected that; handwriting recognition is still in its infancy. However, Prizmo did recognise written capitals as good as printed text.

Next to OCR, Prizmo also does a good job of recognising data. I tried that with a business card — for which the starter screen has a separate icon. And again, Prizmo 5 did a wonderful job recognising the “fields” on that card. That interaction with detected data (phone numbers, dates, locations, email addresses, URLs) also happens with other documents and it only failed in my trials when the background was a glossy dark purple. Oh, and with personal data, you can export to the Contacts app or vCard format.

Of course, Prizmo also lets you import images from Photo and the performance is exactly the same.

Other features that appeal when you’re scanning and OCR’ing documents

Prizmo 5 offers output to PDF, as most scanning software does, but with this app you’ll get the opportunity to set options such as password-protection and different compression formats (customisable JPEG, CCITT G4, JBIG2). In addition, you’ll be able to automatically upload PDFs to the cloud with iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive and WebDAV supported.

I would have loved to see a much longer list of supported platforms, including, for example, Firefox Send, Sync and Box, but I realise a developer has got to draw the line somewhere.

A very nice surprise is that Prizmo 5 has a text reader with a voice that you can change, of course, for what I found to be a lovely reading experience using my iPad’s speakers. A yellow box shows the word the app is currently reading aloud.

A very nice tough to people who have a reading disorder is that Creaceed has added the OpenDyslexic font. Other accessibility capabilities include full VoiceOver support, spoken guidance and a spoken description before shooting.

Finally, Prizmo 5 comes with a batch editor to replicate settings across pages, the use of the Shortcuts app to automate document processing, Siri Shortcuts that allow you to quickly recognise a text document using Siri and a Message extension — a mini-Prizmo that shoots a document and sends it to the recipient without leaving the conversation.

Conclusion and pricing

I thought scanning with an iOS device was tedious at best, plain useless at worst, but Prizmo 5 genuinely proved me wrong. It’s been a while since an iPad app has made me enthusiastic, but this little gem has.

On the iPad, it supports multitasking and comes with a Photos extension for cleaning up the image outside Prizmo, which I found unnecessary with my test images.

Premium Pack is a one-time in-app purchase to unlock all limitations: unlimited on-device OCR, full access to text & text-to-speech, smart actions and watermark removal. It can be purchased within the app for €14.99.

An optional Cloud Plan subscription provides the Cloud OCR feature in addition to all Premium Pack features. Plans start at €0.99 per month.

A ‘Prizmo – Volume Edition’ is specifically targeted towards enterprises and educational institutions that use Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP). It is functionally equivalent to Prizmo with Premium Pack and is available directly on the VPP store.