You can easily scan a document or a QR code on Chrome OS with the built-in cameras and Camera app. This walkthrough will show you how.

Annotation: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

In November 2021, Google announced that Chrome OS has added the ability to work as a document scanner as well as QR codes. These features appear as new scanning options in the built-in Camera app, along with the existing video, photo, square, and portrait options.

To get started, open the Camera app as usual. To do this, you can select the launcher, enter Camera in the search box, and then select the Camera app icon to open the app. Next, select Scan in View Modes and choose Document or QR Code. Then proceed to the steps for the selected action below.

How to scan a document with the Chrome OS camera app

1. Position your document

In Scan mode, the camera attempts to automatically detect the edges of the document. The application displays a blue line on the screen to indicate a detected document edge. Move the document you want to scan (or your computer — or a combination of both) so that the edges of the document are in the camera’s field of view.

SEE: Feature Comparison: Time Tracking Software and Systems (TechRepublic Premium)

One important tip: Rotate your document to optimize the portion of your Chromebook camera’s field of view covered by your page (as shown in Figure A). Holding a standard page in portrait orientation may not cover the camera’s field of view as much as rotating the page. The system allows you to rotate your scanned document while viewing it, so move your document around to get the best possible scan from your Chromebook camera.

Figure A

When scanning a document on Chrome OS, adjust your device and document so that the scanned document fills the camera’s field of view as much as possible. Note the blue lines and corners displayed on the screen, which indicate that the application has detected the edges of the document.
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

2. Select the button to take the scan

When your document occupies as much of the camera’s field of view as possible and the blue lines accurately identify the edges, select the button to capture your scan. The system will remove the parts of the image outside the detected edges of the document, leaving you with an image of your item.

3. Review the analysis

The app displays your scan. Make sure the scan captures all parts of your document. Sometimes when I attempt a scan I accidentally capture an image that cuts off part of the page. If you don’t like the displayed scan, choose Resume to repeat the positioning and capturing process.

4. Save as JPEG or PDF

Next, choose to save your scan either in JPEG format, which you can usually use for photos or images, or in PDF format, which you can usually use for text or printed pages. The Camera app saves the file to your local system.

To access scanned items, open the Chrome OS Files app, go to My Files (in the left menu) and select Camera. Scanned items will be displayed on the right, with system-assigned names and .jpeg or .pdf file suffixes. You can open and review items as described in Figure B. I recommend uploading scanned items that you want to keep long-term to Google Drive.

Figure B

Chrome OS Camera app saves scans to My Files | Camera folder, in JPEG or PDF format. The analysis above, taken from a handheld document with a Pixelbook Go’s webcam, has been shot for reading.
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

SEE: Tips for becoming a Chromebook expert (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to scan a QR code with the Chrome OS Camera app

1. Place the QR code in the frame

In the Chrome OS Camera app, select the QR Code option that appears in the frame of the image. Move the QR code (or your computer, or a combination of both) to align the QR code within the targeted frame displayed in the Camera app. Once aligned, the application will display the detected link above the frame as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The Chrome OS QR code scanner quickly recognizes codes from images placed in the frame shown. Click on a link to open it or select the icon to the right of the decoded content to copy the QR code data.
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

2. Examine the detected QR code information

The information detected in the QR code is displayed above the target area in the Camera app. As always with QR codes, be sure to only scan information from trusted sources. Examine the decoded data to confirm that it contains the content you expect (for example, a link or text).

3. Click or copy content

If the QR code contains a link, you can click the link to open it in a new Chrome window. You can also select the icon to the right of the decoded QR code content to copy it and then paste the information elsewhere.

Although most QR codes are links, be aware that a QR code can also contain other types of information, such as a contact card, geographic location, text, or name and password Wi-Fi hotspot. If the decoded data contains anything other than a link, copy the contents and paste the information into a Google Doc (or Google Keep note). This allows you to review the data and then do something with it (eg, enter coordinates into Google Maps, establish a new Wi-Fi connection, create a new Google contact, etc.) as appropriate.

How do you use the Chrome OS Camera app scanner?

As a general rule, I recommend using the best camera available to capture an image or scan. For many people, a smartphone camera might be the best option, but having the ability to scan a page or QR code from a Chromebook is nice.

Why do you use the Analyze option in the Chrome OS Camera app? Have you tried scanning a photo or single-page document? Or have you used the QR code option to follow a link, open a social media profile or search for a restaurant menu? Let me know what you think of Chrome OS’ camera scan feature, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).