How to use OCR in Evernote

I love Evernote – it’s become my second brain over the past couple of years – but I only just discovered its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) facility.  This means that any images or PDFs you store in Evernote will be processed and indexed so that you can find them again based on their contents.

This is a really great feature – here’s a couple of ways you could use it:

  • Store PDF white papers and eBooks that you may want to use as a reference for research in the future
  • Store PDF versions of user / operations manuals
  • Take photo of white board with the notes from a meeting or lecture – yes!, Evernote also supports handwriting recognition
  • Take a photo of your own notes from a meeting or lecture – again, handwriting recognition ftw.

It’s really simple to use – just take a photo on your iPhone and then add to Evernote manually, web clip or email to Evernote (I really use this email facility a lot with evernote).  Once you have done so, your image will be queued into the OCR process on Evernote’s servers (Premium subscribers are processed faster).  This means that it may take a couple of sync’s before the indexed version is available on your desktop/device.  But once it is, that’s it.

Note that this is just an indexing function – the actual detected text does not appear in your note but when you search, you will be able to see it.

Here’s three of my tests:

1. An image of an award certificate (photo taken on iPhone and emailed)


2. An image of a white board (photo taken on iPhone and emailed)


3. An image of some [awful] handwriting  (photo taken on iPhone and emailed)


4. An image of a sign from my Instagram stream (this is how I discovered this feature).


As you can see, this feature could be really powerful – especially if you are a prolific note taker.

Have fun.




  1. I must be different NONE of my photos sent to evernote are searchable. Nada.
    Guess its actually only in the premium edition.

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