When you have printed tables that must be recreated, scan them into Excel with your phone using the Microsoft Office app. Photograph printed documents, turn them into Excel spreadsheets.
I recently showed how to photograph printed documents with your phone and turn them into editable Word documents using the free Microsoft Office app (read it here). What if those documents contain data in tables? You can take a photograph of them with the phone’s camera and the Office app turns them into editable spreadsheets in Excel.
This is a brilliant feature if you have a lot of printed tables. Don’t waste time and effort typing them into Excel on your computer, photo them and save them to an Excel spreadsheet on OneDrive using your phone, then open them in Excel on your computer.
Here I am using the free Microsoft Office app and free OneDrive storage. The Excel sheets can be edited in the free Excel web app at OneDrive or in the Office app on you phone.
The screenshots were taken on the iPhone, but the Android phone app is just the same.
1 Add document vs use an Action
Open the Microsoft Office app on the iPhone or Android phone (I am using an iPhone). There is a choice of using the Plus button or the Actions button. The end result, scanning a table, is similar no matter which you choose.
If you press the Actions button, then select the Image To Table option to Extract a table from your picture into Excel.
If you press the Plus button at the bottom of the Office app, three buttons appear. Tap Documents to continue.
Now you can choose to Scan table in the Excel section. There are minor differences between this route and the Actions route. You might want to try them both.
2 Photograph the document
Both methods fire up the phone’s camera and you can place the printed document on a table, point the phone at it and take a photograph by pressing the big button at the bottom.
3 Crop the image
Unless you have placed a white sheet of paper on a white surface, the edges of the document will be automatically detected and selected. However, a table may only be a small part of a larger document with other text, so you might want to select just the table to convert and crop other unwanted text out.
4 Check the conversion to text
The table is converted to text very quickly and the original image and the converted text is displayed. Down at the bottom of the screen are buttons to open it in Excel or to copy the table text to the clipboard. Press Open.
5 Edit the table in Excel
Excel appears with the table and editable text in the cells. It is not perfect and my original document was a bit crumpled and parts of the table had a green background.
It is probably not worth it for a small table, but imagine the amount of time and effort required to manually type in multiple pages of data. This Scan table feature in the Office app could save you hours of work. The spreadsheet needs tidying up afterwards and minor corrections to the layout and text, but it is still worth it for large tables.
The result of this scan is not stuck on the phone. The Excel spreadsheet can be saved to OneDrive and then opened and edited in Excel on the computer or using the Excel web app at the OneDrive website.