OneNote OCR PDF or Image: 6 Facts and Its Alternatives

2019-07-11 21:58:22 / Posted by Connie Wisley to PDF Follow @ Connie

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 5 facts you need to know about OneNote OCR on PDF or Image. After reading this guide, you will be able to utilize OneNote OCR to serve for purpose and decide if you want to install OneNote on your device, no matter you are using OneNote on Mac, Windows PC or iPad, no matter you are using Microsoft OneNote OCR 2016 or 2019.

6 Things to Know about OneNote OCR

#1 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.

#2 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. So, if you want to utilize OneNote OCR, go to its desktop or mobile versions.

onenote online

Different versions of OneNote make the tutorials to do OneNote OCR on different platforms differ from each other. But it’s OK, you will find all the step-to-step tutorials of OneNote OCR in the following parts. 

#3 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 handwritten files, you’d better try other professional OCR software.

onenote handwritten

#4 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.

#5 Tutorials to Do OneNote OCR PDF or Image (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.

OneNote OCR Image on Mac | Windows

  1. Run Microsoft OneNote for Mac or Windows PC.
  2. Go to Insert>Picture, choose an image to import to onenote ocr on mac
  3. Perform OneNote OCR by right clicking on the picture and choose “Copy Text from Picture”.onenote ocr on mac 03
  4. 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.

OneNote OCR PDF on Mac | Windows

  1. Run OneNote on your Mac or Windows PC.
  2. Go to Insert>PDF Printout, import the PDF file to OneNote.
  3. 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
  4. Paste the text to OneNote or other text processors.

How to Do OneNote OCR on iPad?

For the reason that OneNote for iPad allows users to upload pictures directly taken by the iPad camera, many users prefer to do OneNote OCR on iPad, and following are the steps:

  1. Launch OneNote for iPad on your iPad.
  2. Tap Insert>Pictures (Camera/ PDF Printout), find the image or PDF you want to perform OneNote OCR.onenote ocr 01
  3. Tap on the image, choose “Copy Text”.onenote ipad 02
  4. Paste the text to OneNote or other text app for further editing.

#6 ​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.

OneNote OCR Alternatives

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 about 16 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.

  1. 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
  2. Prepare for OCR.
    Turn the OCR button on, select language and page range. Choose the output format before onenote ocr cisdem 02For more accurate OCR results, you can click the "Settings" icon beside the language menu. A new interface will appear, with each part of the OCR applied zone marked as Texts, Images or Tables in different colorful boxes. You can check if all the contents are marked correctly, if not, manually adjust. For example, if you want a part recognized as Table, remove the defaulted mark box, click on "Mark Tables" under OCR Applied Zone toolbars, then drag a mark box to select the contents you want to recognize as Tables. You can resize the mark box by dragging the borders of the box.mark ocr
  3. Process OCR with OneNote OCR Alternative.
    Click “Convert” to make selected PDF files to be editable. 
  4. Copy text from image-based files.
    Open the OCR-ed file and copy, or edit as you want to.

OneNote OCR Alternative Windows---Readiris 16 for Windows

As a leading OCR software developer to offer OCR solutions, Readiris enjoys a large popularity among OCR users, for the reason of accurate OCR results and extended features to convert PDFs or edit texts.

  1. Open PDFs or images with Readiris.onenote ocr alternative windows 01
  2. Once the file is imported, choose the output as Word, or other supported formats to start the OCR automatically.onenote ocr alternative windows 02
  3. Open the OCR-ed file in output folder and copy or edit the text as you want to.

OneNote OCR VS Its Alternatives

  OCR Accuracy Batch OCR OCR Output Main Features
OneNote OCR 60%~90% No Text Take and organize notes
Cisdem PDF Converter OCR 95%+ Yes PDF,Text, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, ePub, HTML, Keynote, Pages, RTFD Create and convert PDFs
Readiris OCR 95%+ No PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint Edit and convert PDFs


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.

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1 Comments Leave a Reply

  • Annie94

    OneNote is really powerful, isn't it?

    8 months ago REPLY