How to Search for Handwriting in Evernote

Tips & Stories

How to Search for Handwriting in Evernote

Posted by Taylor Pipes on 23 Jan 2015

Posted by Taylor Pipes on 23 Jan 2015

What will you accomplish in 2015? Throughout January, we’re sharing our favorite #EvernoteTips, shortcuts, and tricks perfect for powering productivity, whether you work for yourself or on a team. 

How important is handwriting in your life?

Regardless of how much digital content we capture and catalog into our computers, smartphones, and tablets, chances are there’s plenty of manually written information that is important to your personal life or professional endeavors.

We’ve spent a lot of time developing features that preserve and archive your written words for years to come. In honor of National Handwriting Day, we wanted to share one of our favorite search tricks.

Snap a photo using Evernote or Scannable.

Then, type the specific text you are looking for in the search bar, and you should see it in your note results.

In the example below, we wanted to look for a note about our “My Life’s Work” series based on a sketch with the written word, ‘collage.’

Presto! Note found, fast.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 3.58.17 PM

Here’s the technical explanation of how OCR (or optical character recognition) works. Between you and me, the secret is an army of unicorns and some server magic. We hope John Hancock would be proud.


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29 Comments RSS

  • David huber

    Is there a way to get the OCR to work with a scanner? I use a scansnap (or snapscan? Whatever) and it’s so much easier to scan with a scanner than to try to get my phone to line up correctly with a page and take a photo that isn’t out of focus. If it’s not possible to get evernotes OCR to work with a scanner, please do so. And it would be nice if Evernote could OCR the hundreds of pages of handwritten stuff I’ve already scanned in.

    • Taylor Pipes

      David, sounds like Scannable is a perfect solution for you. It instantly recognizes documents you want to scan and you can catalog them into Evernote. Scannable connects directly to the ScanSnap Evernote Edition scanner via WiFi to streamline team scanning.

      • David Huber

        I don’t have the Evernote edition of the ScanSnap, just a regular one. I see that the scannable app on my cell phone will work to scan my handwritten documents (and also adjust for my inability to hold a camera still or get a perfect frame on the document, so that’s really cool!). But I’d like to know if the handwritten documents I scan with the scanner will be OCRed, or is there something special I need to do? I’m often scanning multiple page handwritten documents, so not willing to do that with the phone – would take too long (that’s why I bought the scanner!).


        • Bob Nadolski

          David – There should be an option in your snapscan quick menu to scan directly into Evernote – either as a PDF or a JPG. You may have to adjust your settings to see the icons.

          • David Huber

            Yes, I see that ScanSnap can scan directly into Evernote as a pdf or jpg (and do many other amazing things). That’s how I’m scanning my handwritten documents – scanning as a pdf into an Evernote note.

            But my question is: will Evernote OCR anything I scan through the scanner, or only if I use the app? I see that it is catching things that I scan that are typed – and it does so brilliantly – but it doesn’t seem to be catching **anything** that I’ve handwritten, even when said handwriting is very precise and clear. I’ve been trying to do searches on a lot of my handwritten documents, and nothing is working. I’ve done searches on documents that are a mix of typing and handwriting, and the searches are catching the stuff that is typed, but not catching the handwritten stuff on those documents. My handwriting is not great, so perhaps that’s the issue – but I want to make sure that the issue is my handwriting, and not that I’m doing the scanning in a way that Evernote doesn’t try to OCR it. Or does Evernote OCR everything automatically, whether it be through Scannable or a scanner or even just taking a photo?

            Thank you for your patience in trying to find this answer.

        • Eric

          David, Evernote Will convert everything to searchable text If you have Premium. It will do this for everything in your account, even if you were on just the free version when you uploaded it.

          • David Huber

            Thank you, Eric! It appears the issue is that my handwriting is not nice enough for Evernote to deal with it, then. Bummer. But it would probably take an IBM Watson level computer to learn my handwriting…

          • duc

            “handwriting is not searchable in a pdf” , it is what i’ve read (same problem as me).

    • duc

      “Which types of scanned PDFs are searchable?
      Scanned PDFs with clear, typed text (handwriting is not searchable inside PDFs)”

      Check this link :!/article/23169032

    • Dan McKenrick

      I also thought handwriting was not working, when I noticed that there is a two step search process (iPhone):

      1. I typed the search term. I was disappointed that my test notes were not showing. Then I noticed that as I typed the search term, only notes with that term in the Title appeared in the list. “But wait, there’s more…”

      2. I pressed the Search button on the keypad, and dozens of notes appeared. I had not noticed that the Return button was relabeled “Search”, and the activity during typing was only a limited search of only the Titles and not of notes. The activity gave me the wrong perception that it was search notes, but that doesn’t occur until the second step, tapping the Search button.

      Be sure to hit “Search” to see it that helps.

  • Skerj

    Will there ever be a day when we can teach Evernote our own cursive handwriting?

  • Lynn Mazzoleni

    Evernote OCR doesn’t work with my scanned paper notes using my Evernote Scansnap to my mac. Plus, this scannable app that apparently corrects this issue is only available for iPad and iPhone. This is disappointing. I scanned an entire set of semester lecture notes and can’t search them. 🙁

  • Brian at Scrubly

    This is one of my favorite features lately. I’ve been all over using the Moleskine notebooks built for Evernote and it works amazingly well.

    • Taylor Pipes

      Thanks for the feedback! We’re glad that handwriting is useful for you with Evernote.

  • Yura

    Scannable looks awesome! Do you plan Android version?

  • Johnny Johnsen


    When will Evernote understand that Android is as much important as Apple?
    I have Evernote premium, I use it for private and also for work. I am more then impressed of the way Evernote is developing.
    But at the same time I`m disappointed that you do not put Android up there with Apple.
    I use Android phone, Windows PC at work, Mac Book at home and Android tablet everywhere.
    So please Evernote, start to work harder on your Android solutions 🙂


    • David Huber

      And I would like to see Evernote have some consistency in features and layout from one platform to the next… for example, my Kindle app of Evernote will display my reminder notes in a nice list very easily, and the PC Windows version does as well, but won’t do it at all on my iPhone. Windows PC version will let me highlight many lines of text and click on the “checkbox”, and put a checkbox in front of every line, but the Kindle and iPhone versions if I try to do that, it will put a checkbox in front of the first line, and then just delete everything else.

      These inconsistencies get really quite annoying, trying to remember what I can do on one platform but not another.

  • Marilyn Walker

    Looks cool until I try it. Even if I slow way down and use handwriting much neater than the example above, when I search it doesn’t work. Wish I knew why.

  • R. Dobson

    I’m having issues with searching handwritten notes. If I search for a specific word, it finds nothing. However, if I search for the first letter of that word, it finds it every time. Any idea why this is happening?

    • Mig

      I’m having the same issue.

  • Not Disclosed

    Does this only work on the premium version of Evernote? I am a free user and can’t seem to get this to work for a picture I took with my iPhone

  • Kipp

    I have been trying to get the Evernote Searchable handwritten notes to work, but haven’t been able to so far. I have done the photo capture through Evernote mobile app, then go to the search bar and search for words obviously in the text, and it never finds anything.

  • Janna

    The handwriting detection is pretty hit-and-miss, even with Premium. I’m now going to just let my paid version expire, since I don’t seem to be getting much/any benefit from the two main reasons I paid for it: handwriting text recognition, and actual use of scanning/digitizing business cards. (There’s no connection to Outlook that I can find, so it’s just like taking a photo of anything else – nothing special about biz-cards.)

  • kabii

    Hi, I tried everything on all my devices (IOS phone, ipad, mac), but it cannot find any handwritten text. I have wrote on ipad in penultimate with Evernote stylus quite a lot of notes. I look into the note and I can clearly see that it should find it “private”, “CL” for example. The search box is just above the text. You can see that it is there, but it does not search. Not Evernote and not Penultimate. The search in both of them do not work at all. The notes sync automatically. Cannot find any solution to the problem. I have the Premium account. Can you suggest anything please?

  • Sjs

    I’ve simply been unable to get it to recognize my handwriting. Admittedly it is not gorgeous handwriting but even the words that are plainly clearly written don’t turn up. Is there a trick to the photograph? Eg dead straight or brightly lit or something?

  • Marc R.

    I cannot get Evernote to find anything in my handwritten notes. I am using the Evernote Moleskine journal and the Evernote document camera. I have a premium membership. Pictures upload and sync fine but when I type in the Search notes box, all I get is “No matching notes found.”

  • Ara Ekmekjian

    Why does desktop version pick up more handwriting than the app?

    How can i write so that the program can picks up my handwriting more clearly because it feels as though things are not picked up even though it seems like I’m writing clearly?

  • John Smith

    Does Evernote have a feature similar to Action Memo in Samsung. Using this feature, one can directly add handwritten content to selected application, such as adding phone numbers to Contacts, searching a location in Maps, etc.

  • Christopher

    Unbelievable that this doesn’t work for ink notes _created with Evernote_! When I write in Evernote for Windows these notes never show up in searches! Why not?