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Office Lens gets you networking—scan business cards to OneNote, contacts to Outlook

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Today’s post was written by Greg Akselrod program manager on the OneNote team.

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, over 10 billion business cards are printed each year and 88 percent of business cards exchanged are thrown out within a week? Here on the OneNote team, we’re always looking for ways to help you be more efficient, and today we’re launching a new feature to help you digitize all those business cards.

Scan business cards with Office Lens

You’ve already been able to scan documents and whiteboards with Office Lens, and now you can scan business cards in its new Business Card mode! Using technology from Microsoft Research, when you take a picture of a business card with Office Lens for Windows Phone and save it to OneNote, it will automatically recognize the card’s contact information and format it nicely into your OneNote notebook. Using OneNote on your phone, tablet, Mac or PC, you can search for text contained in the scanned business card, initiate a call to the number recognized, find their address on a map or open the attached VCF file to save their contact details to Outlook or your phone’s contact list.

OneNote business card 1

 

OneNote business card 2

Office Lens is available for free in the Windows Phone app store—try it today and let us know what you think!

Help make it better

Business card scanning works best on English-based business cards right now, but we plan to add additional language support in the future. You can help our recognition algorithms get smarter:

  1. Upload your collection of scanned business cards to a folder on OneDrive.com, Dropbox.com, or any other cloud drive.
  2. Create a sharing link. Here are instructions for: OneDrive and Dropbox.
  3. Email the sharing link to OneNoteBizCards@microsoft.com.

We’ll only use the images to improve our algorithms.

Developers—integrate business card scanning into your app for free

Starting today, developers can leverage the OneNote API to scan and recognize business cards from their app too! Head over to our OneNote Developer blog post to get started.

We hope you love these updates as much as we do. As usual, we want to hear your feedback so we can keep making OneNote better. Let us know what you think!

—Greg Akselrod and the business card scanning team

 

 
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13 comments
  1. Surely I want business cards and contacts to go into Outlook and not OneNote? CamCard is able to do that. I would like to see Office Lens be able to replace that.

    • Once it is saved into OneNote 2013 it also saves a vcf file on the same OneNote page that you can drag into Outlook “People.”
      Very NICE!!!!

  2. Here’s a suggestion for making it better: release it on iOS and Android.

  3. Amazing, I just went through the pain of getting the data ready for you, and then got this in reply to the e-mail I sent you with the share link.

    Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
    OneNoteBizCards@microsoft.com
    The e-mail address you entered couldn’t be found. Please check the recipient’s e-mail address and try to resend the message. If the problem continues, please contact your helpdesk.

    • Hi danielgr- Sorry about that, we’re having trouble with that email address and are fixing it. In the meantime, you can reach us at OneNoteProducts@microsoft.com. Thanks for taking the time to submit business cards!

  4. It’d be great if I could actually save it to onenote on my Onedrive.. For some reason I keep getting 800700005 errors which if I’m correct is a permission issue.. trying to figure it out.. also while I hear that it save it as a .vcf I’d still like to skip a step and have go right into outlook contacts…

    • Hi drvax- sorry you’re having problems. What is the full error message, and where exactly are you seeing it? Is it in Office Lens, or in OneNote? Are you able to do anything before seeing the message? Are you able to download other apps from the app store and sync OneNote notebooks normally? And can you check to make sure the date, time, *and timezone* on the phone is set correctly? Sometimes this error comes up if the date/time/timezone are out of sync with the server.

      As for streamlining contact saving — we hear your feedback. It’s a common request so we’ll work to make it better!

  5. So I have a Windows 8.1 phone with all UK updates and I can only scan to a jpg. in OneNote on the phone. Am I missing something or are there different versions of software with the same name that don’t do the same thing?
    If I need the latest desktop version of OneNote to get this feature how does that work for a mobile worker with just a phone at hand? Surely it would be better to scan straight to your contacts in OneDrive

    • Hi t5- Are you trying to take the picture by opening OneNote and inserting a picture? In order to use business card scanning, go to the app store and download Office Lens. If you already have Office Lens, make sure you have the latest version installed.

      To answer your other question — you don’t need the desktop version at all to make use of business card scanning. You can just scan with Office Lens, and then open the resulting page in OneNote on your phone. Thanks for your feedback about streamlining saving the contact, we hear you. Keep a look out for future updates!

      • Hi Greg,

        i just tried it on a Lumia 930, WP 8.1, and it scans the card nicely, and i see the image in OneNote, but no .vcf is created. How would i get the information from the image to Outlook then?

      • Hi Greg,
        Process:
        Open Office Lens > Set mode to Business Card > Take image (white border is shown around BCard) > tap Save icon > select OneNote location and save > tap the displayed link to open in OneNote > shows downloading image.

        There is nothing in here other than the auto crop around the business card that I can’t do with the Lumia 635 camera app. I’d be very interested if you could get it to work and post a video proving it works as I can’t see how I could be getting it wrong.

        • Hi t5-

          Sorry for the trouble, it sounds like you’re doing everything right! We’re working to improve the percentage of business card layouts, styles, and languages that are successfully extracted. It would help us tremendously if you could share the business card images so we can investigate further. You can email them as an attachment or a link to OneNoteBizCards@microsoft.com.

          Thanks for your feedback!

  6. When taking a picture with from the OneNote iPhone app, it doesn’t make the image searchable by default. You have to go into note note on the desktop, right click the image and manually tell it to make the image text searchable. Is there any plans to change this so that images taken by the iPhone app are searchable by default?

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