How to Do OneNote OCR on PDF or Picture (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)

Connie Wisley
June 28, 2022 Preview 44.0K Preview 1
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Microsoft OneNote is a free cross-platform office program to take and organize notes, allowing users to input text, create tables, even insert pictures, so that the notes can be shared with other authorized OneNote users.  

An impressive feature of OneNote is its built-in capability to do OneNote OCR. Here we are going to share some facts you need to know about OneNote OCR and show you how to do OneNote OCR on PDF or picture, no matter you are using Microsoft OneNote OCR on Mac, Windows, iOS or Android.

What is OneNote OCR?

OCR, the full name is Optical Character Recognition, it means electronically turn typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. Or put it simple, it means recognize the text from non-editable/non-writable/non-searchable files. Microsoft OneNote OCR refers to the OCR feature Microsoft added to OneNote, enabling users to recognize text from pictures, captures and PDF printouts. You just need to select the picture or a page, copy the text, then paste to OneNote or other text processor tool.

Tutorial #1 OneNote OCR PDF or Picture on Mac & Windows (2016&2019)

To perform OneNote OCR on an image or PDF, the steps on a Mac are quite similar to that on a Windows PC no matter you are using OneNote 2016 or 2019, but there is a little different to OCR PDF or OCR Image in OneNote on iPad/iPhone & Android.

Steps to OneNote OCR PDF on Mac or Windows

  1. Run OneNote on your Mac or Windows PC.
  2. Open your OneNote file or just create a new note file.
  3. Go to Insert>File Printout, import the PDF file to OneNote.onenote ocr pdf pc01
  4. Right click on the PDF file, choose to copy from this page or all the pages, also you can choose a paste option according to your needs.onenote ocr pdf pc02
  5. Paste the text to OneNote or other text processors.

OneNote OCR Image on Mac or Windows

  1. Run Microsoft OneNote for Mac or Windows PC.
  2. Open your OneNote file or just create a new note file.
  3. Go to Insert>Picture, choose an image to import to OneNote.onenote ocr picture01
  4. Perform OneNote OCR by right clicking on the picture and choose “Copy Text from Picture”.onenote ocr picture02
  5. Press “Command+V” on mac or Ctrl+V on Windows to paste the image text to OneNote or other text processors, then edit as needed.

Tutorial #2: OneNote OCR PDF or Picture on iOS & Android

For the reason that OneNote mobile versions allow users to upload pictures directly taken by iPhone/iPad or Android device camera, many users prefer to do OneNote OCR on iOS or Android, and following are the steps:

  1. Launch OneNote for iOS or Android.
  2. Open your recent file or create a new one note.onenote ocr mobile
  3. Tap Insert>Pictures (Camera/ PDF Printout), find the image or PDF you want to perform OneNote OCR.onenote ocr 01
  4. Tap on the image, choose “Copy Text”.
    OneNote OCR may take some time to process, you can just exit the file, wait for a moment, then re-open it, you will find the text on the PDF or image will allow to be copied.onenote ipad 02
  5. Paste the text to OneNote or other text app for further editing.

What if OneNote OCR Not Working?

Admittedly, OneNote is great for people who have to deal with papers on regular basis, however, the OneNote OCR is not working properly all the time. Following are 3 most-frequently asked questions about OneNote OCR:

1. Cannot install OneNote OCR or it crashes when working on a Mac.

I am a Mac user (MacOS 10.13), I tried to download the program in Mac App Store, the package size is about 430MB and it took some time for me to install this program. And the biggest problem is, I have no way to run this program, though I have tried many times, nothing runs except the error reports.

onenote mac error

If you fail to install or launch the program, you are recommended to reboot or remove specific folder (~/Library/Containers/ it still fails, you’d better use Microsoft OneNote for Windows, it seems OneNote works much more stable on Windows PC than that on a Mac.

2. OneNote OCR Copy Text from Picture Not Working

Sometimes, OneNote doesn't allow to copy text from the picture, in this case, you need to re-insert the image. If still fail to work, quit the program and restart OCR. 

3. OneNote OCR Copy Text from PDF Printout Not Working

In light of OneNote’s better OCR job on images than that on PDF, you can save PDF as image first, then insert the image to copy text if you fail to copy text from a inserted PDF.

4. OneNote OCR Errors

Sometimes, OneNote OCR is not recognizing text from image-based files accurately. In this case, first make sure the imported file is clear and clean, straight and flat, then recheck the OCR results and manually adjust if errors repeat.

Admittedly, these fixes are feasible sometimes, but sometimes, you cannot fix the problem of “OneNote OCR Not Working”.  And I guess that why many users are looking for OneNote OCR alternatives to shoot these troubles once for all. If you are in the same situation, keep reading to find an OneNote OCR alternative.

5. Still Not Working? Or Want Better OCR Result?

Then, you just need a OneNote OCR alternative.

OneNote OCR Alternative Mac---Cisdem PDF Converter OCR

Cisdem PDF OCR Converter, is a dedicated mac ocr converter to convert native and scanned PDF, even images to 15+ formats, including but not limited to Word, Excel, ePub, Text, PPTX, HTML… with original file quality retained. Many users choose Cisdem PDF Converter OCR due to its versatility to convert all kinds of documents in high quality.

Cisdem PDF Converter OCR features:

  • OCR scanned files and images
  • OCR files to 10+ editable formats
  • Convert native PDFs to 15+ formats
  • Create PDFs from Word, PowerPoint and others
  • Retain original file quality
  • Batch convert

How to Use OneNote OCR Alternative?

  1. Download and install Cisdem PDF Converter OCR.
    Free Download   Free Download
  2. Import PDFs or the image files you exported as PDF to Cisdem.
    Go to the interface "Converter", drag or drop PDF files into the program, or click “+” to add PDF files for onenote ocr cisdem 01
  3. Prepare for OCR.
    Select language and page range. Also, you can click the gear icon to customize output onenote ocr cisdem 02
  4. Process OCR with OneNote OCR Alternative.
    Click “Convert” to make selected PDF files to be editable. 
  5. Copy text from image-based files.
    Open the OCR-ed file and copy, or edit as you want to.

3 Things to Know about OneNote OCR

#1 Availability of OneNote OCR

As we know, Microsoft OneNote is available on all platforms, including MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, even online free. Though many users choose to utilize online OneNote, online OneNote doesn’t support OCR. As you can see in the following test result, when right clicking on the picture to start OCR, nothing happens, you are not allowed to perform OCR in online OneNote. 

onenote online

That is to say, OneNote OCR is only available on its macOS, Windows, iOS and Android versions. OneNote online version doesn’t support OCR. So, if you want to utilize OneNote OCR, go to its desktop or mobile versions.

#2 OneNote OCR Input Support

You may have realized that OneNote OCR supports both PDF and image file. In fact, OneNote OCR can do more.

It works on both native and scanned PDFs, you just need to insert them as a PDF printout. 

As for images, it supports all kinds of formats, such as JPG, PNG, GIF,BMP, TIFF, etc. No matter the image is saved from other digital files (PDF, Word, Excel or others), or captured from phone cameras, or scanned from paper files. Even, OneNote allows users to insert pictures directly from your device cameras.

Does OneNote OCR Support Handwritten Files?

Yes, OneNote OCR supports recognized text from handwritten files. However, the OCR result is not as good as expect, there are missing texts and inaccurate characters. Unless you are working on neat, clean and simple handwritings, you’d better try other professional OCR software.

onenote handwritten

#3 How Good is OneNote OCR? (The OneNote OCR Review)

You may be wondering how good is OneNote OCR. In fact, no OCR is perfect to bring 100% accuracy as the original file, neither OneNote OCR.


  1. 90%+ accuracy when dealing with simple text image
  2. Support OCR PDF and images
  3. Easy to use
  4. Free to use


  1. Poor OCR results when reading texts in table image, or other complicate files
  2. No batch OCR
  3. Only extract text from PDF or Image, there is no formatting
  4. Crash sometimes for no reason

I inserted 7 files (3 PDFs and 4 images) into OneNote for OCR. Apparently, OneNote did a better job on OCR images to text than that copy text from PDFs, it was more accurate and more intact.

Also, I inserted a 8.7-MB PDF for OCR, the program just crashed and quitted forcibly. I retried, it did OCR but the results fell far short of my expectations.


We do hope Microsoft OneNote will contribute further efforts to shoot the existing OneNote OCR problems, since it indeed brings us good and free service to manage notes. But before solutions are offered, we can try these above-mentioned OneNote OCR alternatives for our convenience.

Connie Wisley
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Connie has been writing for Mac productivity and utility apps since 2009. Each review and solution is based on her practical tests, she is aways energetic and trustworthy in this field.

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  • Annie94

    OneNote is really powerful, isn't it?

    4 years ago commonReply

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