Microsoft Lens can only save scans if you allow it to analyze the content

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 27, 2022

Microsoft Lens, a free scanning application for Google Android, is a document scanning and conversion app. One of its main purposes is the taking of photos of documents or whiteboards, editing the creations and saving them using several supported formats.

microsoft lens analyse content

The app is easy to use and it takes just a few taps to turn content on a whiteboard, printed documents or handwritten notes, into a digital format. Lens supports Microsoft Office formats, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel, but also PDF and several others.

When you try to save a scan in Microsoft Lens, you may get an error message, depending on how you configured the privacy preferences. The error "Use Office connected experiences" reminds users that the document can't be saved if the feature is turned off.

What may set of the alarm bells for some is that the feature allows Microsoft to analyze the content. When you check the privacy preferences, you find "Experiences that analyse content" under Connected Experiences. Scanned documents can't be saved to other formats, including PDF but also Office formats such as Word, if the privacy feature is not turned on.

It is unclear for how long this has been a requirements in the app. User comments suggest that the change landed in November 2021 or even earlier.

The explanation that Microsoft gives doesn't reveal why the feature needs to be enabled for saving functionality:

Connected experiences that analyze your content

Connected experiences that analyze your content are experiences that use your Office content to provide you with design recommendations, editing suggestions, data insights, and similar features. For example, PowerPoint Designer or Translator.

The description of the preference in the app does not provide insights either:

Experiences that use your Office content to provide you with design recommendations, editing suggestions, data insights, and similar features.

Closing Words

Scans are saved in the Microsoft Lens app, even if the connected experiences feature is turned off in the privacy section. The user experience is limited without save and conversion functionality, however, and while some users may not mind it, it may make the app unusable for others.

The introduction of the change last year does not seem to have impacted the application's rating in the Play Store, as it has a high rating of 4.8 out of 5 currently.

Android users may check out alternatives, including Text Scanner or Adobe Scan, but these may be limited in the formats that they support.

Now You: what are your thoughts on the analysis requirement for saving documents?

Microsoft Lens can only save scans if you allow it to analyze the content
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Microsoft Lens can only save scans if you allow it to analyze the content
Microsoft Lens, a document and whiteboard scanning app, blocks the saving of content to different formats if you disable the content analysis feature.
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  1. Lol said on January 25, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    Shit, i ended up going back to Camscanner..

  2. Peter Parker Kent said on April 29, 2022 at 1:24 am

    I’m not surprised here. A free product has to make its money somehow, so to speak. Adobe Scan could be in a similar boat, although the product itself likely works very, very well.

    FWIW, I double-checked Genius Scan suggested by another commenter here. The developer for it is the Grizzly Labs based in France and they do sell the app for an in-app purchase of $10. Long story short, if you pay for the product, you support the developers and probably retain a bit more of your own privacy than from competitors.

  3. emaN said on April 28, 2022 at 1:38 am

    “Now You: what are your thoughts on the analysis requirement for saving documents?”

    Airgapped Linux/BSD system.

  4. Vítor I said on April 27, 2022 at 11:26 pm

    One word: Netguard.

  5. Hulusi Akar said on April 27, 2022 at 8:44 pm

    It was one of my favourite android apps from Microsoft along with Bing Translator. Shame.

  6. VioletMoon said on April 27, 2022 at 8:27 pm

    No, such a bogus article. I recently purchased a Moto G 2022 because my Moto G 2021 was old. After reading the article, I installed Office Lens [it was on my old phone], and the choice to allow MS to analyze my scans as well as anything I wrote in Word or produced in PowerPoint presented itself. I tapped, “No, don’t allow.”

    The program is fully functional. I was able to scan and save the scan to PDF [other options were available]. Then I could send the file, print it, or download it to the phone.

    No issues whatsoever. Maybe update the article or try a reinstallation of Office Lens. It’s far superior to Adobe Scan.

    A lot of people like Evernote Scannable; not for me, but a lot of neat things to do with the program.

  7. Franck said on April 27, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Well said @steve99, thanks for the input, I was forgetting the real meaning of experiences :)

  8. Patric said on April 27, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    No thanks, switching to camscanner again!

  9. steve99 said on April 27, 2022 at 1:43 pm

    MS says, “trust us” – and meet our newest tool to steal your private, personal data.

    On a side note, in that one screenshot, count the qty of times MS misuses the word “Experiences”. Let’s get down to earth for a moment, “Experiences” are things like dining, kids, marriage, vacation, lost virginity, parties, nature, playing football/tennis/swimming/etc, friendship, travel, etc. Experiences involve your body, mind, heart, and social. Experiences have zero to do with digital – which is nothing more than ones and zeros. Digital robs humanity of actual experiences and robs humanity of authentic societal connection (yeah I do love our digital goodies too, which are tools ;). This hijacking of an important word by MS indicates continued corporate forced cognitive dissonance inflicted on the world by the horrid tech sector. This misuse can’t burn out soon enough, like all prior reality disconnected MS buzzwords cooked up in the BS MS marketeers.

  10. akidraham said on April 27, 2022 at 1:39 pm

    such a shame, I really love Microsoft lens because of simple, easy and yet good enough quality scan image for mobile use :(

  11. Clairvaux said on April 27, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    WHAAAT ? I’ve been using that to scan and backup bank checks, so if Microsoft is “analyzing” them I’m furious. I’ve never seen that warning and, unless I’m mistaken, my scans are saved in .pdf. I don’t understand.

    As an aside, I’ve tried many such scanning apps, and none is both efficient and simple to use.

    1. Shiva said on April 29, 2022 at 8:10 am

      I have tried all the apps mentioned when looking for a scanner app, at the end I installed ‘App Scanner PDF’ from Simple Desing Ltd. On 1.0.12 (20) version: 3 common tracker and only 6 permission, it seems to me easy to use, consecutive scans, good filters, OCR, watermark, signature, PDF preview and export.

    2. Yash said on April 28, 2022 at 9:39 pm

      Try Camscanner, either directly disable internet permission or use Netguard, plus PDF Converter(F-Droid) for some Camscanner features which are premium – really basic features which can be done in a second on desktop. But for phone only solution, both apps works best.

    3. Clairvaux said on April 28, 2022 at 3:43 pm

      Okay, one more important Brinkmann article. I took the trouble to check, and indeed, my install of the Lens app was set on “Analyzing Content” — it never asked me for permission.

      I now declined all permissions (this requires restarting the app, which seems unusual), and saving in .pdf has become impossible, as well as saving in Word format and appyling OCR on the contents. Scans can only be saved in .jpeg.

      Not that the format is useless, but every free scan app out there allows for saving in .pdf, and it’s a reassuring format in a business context for outside parties.

      I followed the link to the relevant privacy page on Microsoft website. It’s hugely long and complex, and there is no mention of the Lens app, so what “analyzing content” does with scans remains a secret.

      One more scan app going down the drain for me. It’s a pity, because it seemed the more efficient, for correctly guessing the document’s borders as well as for rendering the contents.

    4. pt56062 said on April 28, 2022 at 11:54 am

      Play Store is horrible to find good alternatives.
      I found Genius Scan [1] via Aurora Store.


      1. Clairvaux said on April 28, 2022 at 3:49 pm

        Thank you, but Genius Scan is already in my long list of scan apps candidates. Not bad, usable, but not intuitive enough. Many things are not possible / difficult / not obvious, like with all the other apps.

        My needs are minimal : scan a document once a month at most, automatically find its limits, allow easy fine-tuning of them, adjust the image in a decent way, save it and transfer it to my computer. That’s all. Well, not a single app does that easily.

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