How To Make Paper Notes Searchable For Free

Evernote search thumb

My post on the technology in OneNote that makes ink notes on the Tablet searchable has touched a vein with many. I’ve heard from quite a few who are in two camps — the ones who swear by this technology and the ones who didn’t know it existed. While the Tablet PC/ OneNote combo is powerful for those who take a lot of handwritten notes, there are those who don’t need quite so much firepower for note taking. There is a simple way using Evernote and a mobile phone to turn any notes handwritten on paper into fully searchable information.

Evernote is the note application that works on just about every platform. This includes Windows and Macs, and most smartphone platforms. Notes can be imported into Evernote a number of ways, and all notes are stored in the Evernote cloud. There is a free version of the service for light users, and a Premium version for those needing more online storage.

Notes in the user’s online notebooks are accessible from any device that can run the Evernote program. They can consist of text notes, images, web links and the like. One of the strengths of the Evernote technology is how it scans any image a user uploads into the notebook, to determine if there is any text that should be indexed for searching. Upload a picture of a stop sign, and after a brief period of background scanning on the server you can run a search for the term “stop” and Evernote will find that image across all of the user’s notebooks.

This works for handwriting, too, so turning handwritten notes into searchable text is quite simple. Take the notes on paper as usual, and when done you’re ready to bring them into the Evernote cloud. Fire up the Evernote app on the smartphone with a camera, take a photo of the page and send it to your online Evernote notebook.

Once it’s there, the Evernote processors take over and scan the image for any recognized words. It may take a while as Evernote is doing a lot of this in the background, but once the scanning has taken place the entire page is now searchable in the Evernote desktop app.

You can then search for text using Evernote on any device, and all notes that contain the search phrase will be presented, with the search phrase highlighted. Since the search is taking place in the cloud, your ink notes are accessible (and searchable) from any device that runs Evernote. The program presents the photo of the note page, so you can refer to all of the notes that you took along with the object of your search.

This is not a high volume solution, so if you take lots of pages of notes, you’ll need another method. But if you only¬†occasionally¬†take notes, or you want to capture that one important note you scribbled on a napkin, this is a good solution. The impressive thing is it is low cost, or even free.


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