• No more third-party ads in Genius Scan

    We’re happy to announce that Genius Scan displays no more third-party advertisements.

    When Genius Scan took its first steps in 2010, ads were the natural way to monetize free applications. While Genius Scan displayed minimal advertisement compared to the industry standards1, it still showed ad banners: an inferior user experience from multiple perspectives.

    In 2016, we removed third-party ads from Genius Scan for iOS. Today we’ve eliminated the last one in Genius Scan for Android. We use the space instead to display informative banners to promote our other applications and to share tips on how to better use Genius Scan.

    We give here several reasons why we removed third-party ads from Genius Scan.

    Technical black boxes

    When you include ads in your application, you have to embed a closed-source ad library (or ad framework). As a developer, you can’t see what’s inside, you don’t know what it’s doing, and if something goes wrong, you have no way to fix it. You have to trust it blindly.

    A few years ago (Genius Scan still displayed third-party ads), we started receiving loads of emails from users who reported seeing alert pop-ups interrupting them with fraudulent ad content. We located the problem in an advertiser’s framework2 and urgently reached out to their support. We never received a reply (were we too small fry?). The only way to solve the problem was to stop embedding this ad provider’s framework. Since that provider accounted for a large portion of our ad revenue, this prompted us to reconsider the presence of ads in Genius Scan and our reliance on ad revenue.

    Recent events cannot better illustrate the dangers of this careless reliance on third-party code: On May 7, 2020, hundreds of iOS apps, some of them from major companies such as Spotify, Pinterest or TikTok, couldn’t work because they integrated with the Facebook SDK. A change on the Facebook servers led to bad data being returned to the app, which led to the app crashing. The crash happened when the app launched, not even when the users tried to log in with Facebook!

    By removing third-party SDKs, developers can maintain control over the stability of their apps.3

    A matter of values

    The digital world is full of too many ads for too many products. Advertisements lure us to buy more goods, and there is already too much waste on planet Earth. The mobile ads generating the most revenue are often the most disturbing — gambling, sketchy dating, waste-of-time make-your-child-spend-money games…

    If you show ads in your app, and if it’s your primary source of revenue, it motivates you to keep your users for as long as possible in your app. That’s the reason why so many apps try to develop addictive features at the expense of their users’ time and attention. We don’t think it’s right in general 4, and it just doesn’t make sense in a productivity app supposed to enable users to perform their tasks as quickly as possible. How can you help users speed up through their tasks while ensuring they spend as much time as possible watching your ads?

    Ad companies track your behavior to target you more precisely. We don’t buy the fact that we should prefer to see “more relevant” ads at the cost of our privacy and at the expense of our freedom to choose. You want to buy a company’s product because it’s superior, not because they have been good at targeting you precisely on Facebook or at pouring money into ads.

    “Rich” advertisements provided by some of these ad frameworks have unfortunate consequences. For example, the AdMob SDK allowed some ads to create events in your calendar (you’d see a promotion for a concert, and could add it to your schedule). To achieve this, it needed some iOS permissions5. Even if you didn’t use these features, you needed to embed code in your app to manipulate calendars. But would that just let users create events in your calendar? What prevented the ad frameworks from scraping your calendar to know what activities you were interested in? Who knows? Even today, if your app needs permission to use the user’s location for some genuine feature, ad frameworks such as AdMob can hijack it to “better target” their ads, unbeknownst to the developer’s knowledge.

    Although it’s the developer’s responsibility to know what they include in their apps, ad companies are never eager to disclose the intricacies of the frameworks they provide or make privacy-invasive functionalities opt-in. Removing ad frameworks is just an obvious step to avoid having a snitch in your app.

    Ad network companies don’t give a damn about the quality of your app, your brand, and your users’ privacy. They push you to add more ad inventory. They insist that you display full-screen video ads that report more precise data about your users. Some of them will suggest collecting geolocation data in exchange for money.

    Genius Scan always displayed simple ad banners, and we never crossed that gray line, but it is a gray line. These behaviors never aligned with our values, and entirely removing ads is an unequivocal stance.

    What Does it Mean For You?

    We’re happy to have improved Genius Scan further. To us, developing our apps doesn’t mean adding tons of extra features, but ensuring they are prime quality, respect our users’ privacy and match our values. We are thrilled to have taken this step and to keep making apps we’d want to use.

    By removing third-party ads, we bite the bullet financially, but we think this is the right thing to do. For you: no more third-party ads, no more tracking, less cognitive overload.

    We can make better use of the spot taken by third-party ads: we replaced it with our in-house banners. We use them to promote our work and display announcements and tips on how to use Genius Scan better. More importantly, they fully respect your privacy.

    Before

    After

    As a business, we now rely entirely on selling our apps and products. We want you to buy our products because you do need them, because they will last, because they are honest, because they help make one’s life better. That’s what we will keep targeting with our apps.

    1. We only showed a simple banner, never displayed any interstitial or video ads. 

    2. The ad framework could display HTML ad banners, and someone exploited that to inject JavaScript alerts. 

    3. This is true for ad frameworks, but also true for any kind of third-party dependency, especially closed-source ones. 

    4. Our Minds Have Been Hijacked by Our Phones. Tristan Harris Wants to Rescue Them

    5. According to the release notes, AdMob SDK 7.11.0 removed this. 

  • Genius Scan 5.5

    Genius Scan is based on three pillars: scan, organize and export, and for the release of Genius Scan 5.5, we focused on the export features.

    Export shortcuts

    You often need to export documents to the same folders again and again. Why have to select a folder every time? With the new export shortcuts, you create shortcuts that let you export to specific cloud folders in a single tap.

    Export shortcuts can also let you pre-fill some fields; this easily lets you create shortcuts such as “Email to myself” by pre-filling the recipient’s email address with your own email:

    Auto-export rules

    One of our goals with Genius Scan is to ensure your documents are automatically backed up. For instance, we emphasize that your documents have been safely exported by displaying a colored dot next to each document. Another essential feature for this is Auto-Export: it exports your new scans to a cloud folder automatically and in the background. Auto-Export rules now let you be very specific: you can export documents matching a condition to a given folder, while other documents matching other conditions could be exported to another folder (or not exported at all).

    With them, it’s effortless to export to your Dropbox “Expenses” folder any document tagged with “expenses”:

    Auto-delete

    For both export shortcuts or auto-export rules, you can now enable auto-deletion. Auto-deletion automatically deletes the document as soon as it has been successfully exported. This is ideal if you are scanning confidential information and don’t want it to stay on the phone more than necessary. Note that this is an advanced feature and you need to be careful with it as there is no way to recover a document that has been auto-deleted.

    More reliable Text Recognition

    Genius Scan 5.5 also brings improvements to Text Recognition (OCR). We’ve regrouped everything related to Text Recognition under the text recognition button available in all documents. If OCR has been applied, that’s where you will find the text of your document. If it’s in progress, that’s where you will know it, and if you need to re-apply it, that’s the button you need to tap.

    That’s it for the most visible changes. Genius Scan 5.5 also improves a lot under the hood, such as improved localizations, smart auto-completion for tags, the ability to re-activate notifications.

    And as usual, we are already working on the next update. Stay tuned!

  • Genius Scan joins 1% for the Planet

    We have officially joined the 1% for the Planet movement.

    1% for the Planet is a group of companies that give away at least 1% of their revenue for the environment1. It was started by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.

    While being mindful of nature and wildlife has always been important for us2, preserving our planet is a growing concern for our team.

    So it was natural to join 1% for the Planet to turn this concern into a stronger public commitment, not just something that we enforced on ourselves. Every time someone buys one of our products, at least 1% will go to non-profits developing actions to preserve the environment.

    As producers and consumers of digital goods, it’s easy to think we are not concerned. After all, we don’t pollute with big factories; we don’t drill for oil; we generate little waste. We just need a computer and we are all set.

    Yet it’s typical in our industry to travel for business and fly to tons of conferences. We buy new shiny hardware regularly. We sit on the couch watching a 4K (8K!) movie while ignoring the energy required to bring each of these pixels to our screen in real time. As an industry and as consumers in the 21st century, we need to be aware of our impact on the planet.

    In addition, this year we will support the following non-profits:

    • ASPAS which devotes itself to protecting wildlife in France. Europe is a much more densely populated than the US as a territory, and there are little refuges for wildlife. Among other actions, the ASPAS tries to create safe havens.
    • Terre de Liens encourages organic and traditional farming by renting land to farmers at a reasonable cost and preventing agricultural land speculation.
    • The Tara Ocean Foundation organizes scientific expeditions to study the impact of climate change and the ecological problems on the oceans.
    • Zero Waste France encourages waste prevention.

    Let’s all try to do our share to protect our home.

    1. And not profit! Protecting the planet becomes part of the business and not merely a bonus

    2. We named our company The Grizzly Labs in the first place because the magnificence of Yellowstone National Park bewildered us. 

  • Genius Scan 5.2.1 now available in 20 languages

    Genius Scan has always supported the major world languages, but we decide to take a step further: Genius Scan 5.2.1 localizes the interface for nine additional languages. Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Hebrew, Indonesian, Korean, Swedish, Turkish and Vietnamese join the existing French, English, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, simplified and traditional Chinese and Spanish translations.

    For cost reasons, mobile applications often target the US market only, so people in other countries receive a suboptimal experience. Localizing an app isn’t free and takes time. You don’t just throw your copy at Google Translate and integrate the results. And every supported language creates more maintenance. New copy you will add to your app will need to be translated and checked for each language.

    Translating the app isn’t enough for some languages. In Arabic and Hebrew, not only is the text written from right to left but the interface is also flipped: bullet points are listed on the right of the screen, screens slide from left to right, some icons need to be inverted. Both the localized copy and the interface adjustments are important to create a natural feel to the app in the desired locales. All this requires careful translation, engineering, and testing to ensure that customers in these locales can enjoy using Genius Scan. You can’t get great translations with an automated service, so we used the services of applingua, a company based in the UK and specialized in translation and localization for the tech industry. From an engineering point of view, we have localized Genius Scan in a couple languages from day one, so we were already using best practices throughout the app and it was easier to expand to new locales.

    We have always emphasized localization for Genius Scan. Of course, this helps reach more people which should be good for business — we still have to see a convincing study on the subject – but more importantly, it provides a better user experience for everyone. We do our best to make our applications accessible to everyone. While this means implementing accessibility features such as VoiceOver, we think it’s also more inclusive to offer the app in the language expected by the customer.

    We hope you will enjoy this update. If you notice any quirks or a suboptimal experience for your locale, please do let us know.

  • Introducing Text Recognition in Genius Scan 5.2

    With Genius Scan 5.2, we wanted to make the scanning experience even better. We focused on the feature that was most requested by our users: text recognition — that you may also know as OCR, for Optical Character Recognition. With Text Recognition, Genius Scan not only creates an image version of your scanned documents, but is also able to extract the text from the image. This gives you multiple benefits:

    Index and search the content of your documents

    Until today, the search field in Genius Scan only searched in the titles and tags of your documents.

    With Text Recognition you can now search your documents based on their content. This will let you quickly find an old iPhone receipt by searching for “Apple Store” even if the text doesn’t appear in the title of the document but only in the actual document.

    Create searchable/copyable PDFs

    With Text Recognition, the PDFs you export from Genius Scan contain a text layer. You can easily copy the text from these PDFs.

    Alternatively, you can also export your documents directly in text format.

    Since your scanned PDFs now contain a text layer, you can also search their content. This is convenient to find the information you need in a long article:

    Scan business cards and perform content actions

    Genius Scan is also smart enough to recognize structured metadata in your documents and surface smart content actions.

    In particular, it recognizes business cards and lets you rename a document based on a detected contact name, or directly create a contact in your address book.

    The content actions also let you directly call a phone number or open a link present in a document.

    These actions will appear on any document once it has been processed by Text Recognition:

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    Text Recognition is available either as part of Genius Scan+ (a one-time purchase of $7.99 that unlocks the advanced features of Genius Scan) or with the Genius Cloud subscription ($2.99/month for backup, synchronization and all the advanced features.) It’s an iOS-only feature for now. You can learn more about Text Recognition in our knowledge base.

    We are looking forward to your feedback. Do not hesitate to reach out support@thegrizzlylabs.com with any questions or comments.