Making sense of OneNote’ OCR

OneNote’ ink to text is one of its most impressive feature, and although I don’t use it a lot, it was a welcome improvement when it was introduced to the App version last summer.

In addition to converting ink to text rather flawlessly, OneNote UWP manages to differentiate font sizes and colors, and keeps the portion of text highlighted.

You can ink to text at once, but ink is not searchable instantly

Oddly, whereas handwritten text can be converted instantly, it takes some time to be able to search for ink. Actually, you need to be online, and it can take no less than 5 minutes before you can search for your ink.

Also, converting twice give odd results sometimes :

Not so smart, actually !


What’s more of a concern, is that text inked in OneNote UWP can’t be “inked to text” in OneNote desktop. Nor is it searchable there…

The opposite is not true nevertheless, meaning any handwritten text in OneNote desktop is searchable in OneNote UWP :

Results are shown differently, whereas the text was handwritten in the UWP (right) or desktop (left) version.


This indicates clearly that OneNote UWP’ ink format is not fully compatible with the desktop version… (or retro-compatible, since the desktop version is older).

One last detail : OneNote UWP highlights the first result in grey, and the subsequent in yellow :

See the first occurrence of the word “desktop” in grey – written in OneNote desktop – in OneNote’ UWP client (left). Note also on the right side of the above picture (OneNote desktop) : text handwritten in OneNote UWP (on the right column) is not parsed by the search command : retro-compatibility issue !


LIRE AUSSI  Anchor ink annotations to picture ?

Sometimes also, the search if shown differently (as a selection in a resizable box) :

Note also that the left pane says “no result for your search”, despite two occurence found and “highlighted” ?!


As a conclusion, I would not dare to use the same wording than Microsoft, which says that “OneNote for Windows 10…dramatically improved ink-to-text option”, but it’s great to have this feature finally available in OneNote UWP.

And although it behaves distinctly in OneNote desktop / UWP, and is plagued with retro-compatibility issue, you may enjoy the reliability of ink to text with no hassle if you stick to one version !


Further reading : Free vs Paid OCR article from MakeUseOf

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