Having a touch screen device like an iPad, combined with some kind of stylus, can make your life so much easier. The benefits include drawing or editing images, though that is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s fantastic that you can write notes using handwriting and have it in OneNote as text. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it should be, but it definitely is possible! Let’s see how.
Microsoft has not added the ability to convert handwriting to text to the OneNote app on the iPad. You are able to take handwritten notes in OneNote, but converting them to text takes a few extra steps, either on a Windows PC, or using Apple’s Scribble feature directly on the iPad, in another app.
After so many years, it’s a pity that Microsoft still did not add their Ink To Text feature to their iPad app. After all, it works perfectly on Windows tablets like the Surface, while the iPad ecosystem is left lacking. Thankfully there are ways around this, but they are just that: workarounds.
Let’s look at available options that will convert your handwriting to text on an iPad and use it in OneNote.
Handwritten Notes In OneNote On iPad
You can take handwritten notes in OneNote if you have a stylus and a touchscreen device like an iPad. It turns your iPad into both a drawing tablet and a paper notebook, which is convenient and much faster than struggling with a Bluetooth or touchscreen keyboard.
Taking quick notes during a meeting, lesson, or even a brainstorming session, has never been easier.
With this feature, you can even write notes on top of other media, like pictures or PDF documents. Simply load a PDF into OneNote and scribble your notes on top of it with your stylus! Your iPad, a stylus, and OneNote make a perfect productivity combo, and you will wonder how you ever managed without it.
To take handwritten notes, simply do the following:
- Open OneNote and navigate to the notebook and page where you want to take handwritten notes.
- On the ribbon, open the Draw tab.
- Select the Drawing Mode icon.
- Here you can select “Draw With Touch,” which is for drawing with your finger, or a simple “finger simulator” stylus. Remember that this method will be very imprecise, and OneNote might have trouble converting it to text. Or you can select “Stylus Orientation” if you have a stylus, like the Apple Pencil, that you would like to use.
- If you chose “Stylus Orientation,” select the option closest to how you usually hold your stylus to draw. This will help OneNote to filter out unintentional touches on the screen.
- Now you can select your pen or highlighter, thickness, and color from the Draw tab and write your notes using either your finger or stylus.
I recently wrote a post that covers using non-Apple made styluses on your iPad. If you’re having troubles with converting your Handwriting to Text, a cheap stylus might be part of your problem. This can happen because your handwriting is hampered by the stylus’s performance.
The Problem: Converting The Handwriting To Text
Sometimes you may want to convert your handwriting to text. This is because your handwriting is treated as a picture by your iPad, and if you wish to edit it, you have to either erase it and start again or convert it to text that can be edited. This is where the problem comes in.
Currently, the only version of OneNote that supports Ink To Text (Microsoft’s handwriting-to-text conversion tool) is the Windows version. None of the mobile or even the Mac versions of OneNote support this feature.
This means that the only way to convert your handwritten notes into text directly in OneNote is to use a secondary device that runs Windows.
This can be any device, from a Surface tablet to a desktop PC, as long as it runs a full version of Windows and has OneNote installed. To do the conversion, follow these steps:
- Ensure that OneNote is logged into the same Microsoft account on both your iPad and the Windows device that you will use to do the conversion. OneNote automatically syncs all notes between devices logged into the same account.
- After creating your handwritten notes in OneNote, ensure that you are connected to the internet and give it some time (a few minutes) to sync the changes.
- Now open OneNote on the Windows device and navigate to the notebook and page that you wish to convert.
- Go to the Draw tab and choose the Lasso Select tool.
- Drag-select the handwritten notes that you wish to convert to text.
- Now click on the “Ink to Text” button in the “Convert” group of the Draw tab.
- OneNote will now convert your handwritten notes to text that you can edit.
- This will also be synced to your iPad, so you will be able to edit the newly-converted text on either the Windows device or the iPad.
Convert Handwriting To Text Using Apple Scribble
Apple Scribble is the iPad’s built-in handwriting recognition and conversion tool. It is powerful and easy to use. Suppose you have an Apple Pencil stylus or one of a few other supported models.
In that case, it will integrate Scribble’s capabilities into the interface of the iPad as well as most of the apps that you use on it, with one notable exception: OneNote.
This is a terrible pity, and Microsoft fails to explain precisely why OneNote does not support Scribble. Ironically, even other Microsoft Office apps, like Word and Excel, easily convert your handwriting to text on an iPad using Scribble.
We know OneNote has the capability on Windows, so it makes no sense, and users have requested the feature to be added at least as far back as 2015.
This does not mean that Apple Scribble is useless when it comes to OneNote, though. It just means that there’s an additional step involved. This method’s benefit over the previous one is that you don’t need any other devices; you can do it all using only your iPad and your stylus.
On the downside, though, you will be switching between apps a lot to get all your notes over to OneNote.
To use Apple Scribble on your iPad for converting your handwritten notes to text, follow these steps:
- On the iPad, make sure that your stylus is connected and configured and that it’s supported by Apple Scribble (the Apple Pencil is ideal for this since it’s designed to work well with the iPad).
- Open up an app that can be used for text and that supports Scribble. There are a number of them built into the iPad by default, including Apple’s own Notes app. You may also have Microsoft Word installed or Apple Pages. Either one of them will work. We will use Notes for this example, but the process is similar on all of them.
- In Notes, tap on the Markup button and select the Handwriting tool (next to the pen). This will activate Scribble.
- Now just start writing on the page. Scribble will automatically convert your handwriting to text as you write.
- You can use advanced techniques, like deleting a word by scratching it out or holding your stylus between words so that you can insert another word.
- Once you’re done with your notes, select all the text you want to add to OneNote. You can select the text by drawing a circle around it, or double-tapping a word to select that one word, or by triple-tapping a word to select the entire paragraph that it’s a part of.
- Once it’s selected, tap and hold on the selection and choose “Copy.”
- Now open OneNote on the iPad and navigate to the page where you want to add the text.
- Tap and hold where you want the text to be inserted, and choose “Paste.”
Convert Handwriting To Text On iPad Using Nebo
Nebo is a third-party app developed for students, teachers, and professionals who need to take many notes. An easy-to-use iPad app is available in the app store that you can install and use for free. Premium accounts are available, but purchasing should not be needed if you’re primarily using it to take notes in OneNote.
When you’re using Nebo, the process is similar to what it was for Apple Notes, but there are a few differences in terms of simplicity and efficiency.
Firstly, simplicity comes in with Nebo’s convenient “Share To OneNote” function, so there’s no selecting, copying, pasting, and swapping apps. You simply take your note, convert it, and share it.
The second thing that sets Nebo apart from other options is that users report its OCR (Optical Character Recognition) as being far superior to that of any other platform they tried. OCR is the ability to recognize characters from any image, like handwriting.
Many users have stated in online reviews that Nebo converted their handwriting to text much more efficiently than any other platform or app, despite some of them having very horrible handwriting (by their own admission).
That’s because Nebo uses AI and supports 66 languages, so it not only converts your handwriting to the closest-looking letters, it intelligently interprets your handwriting.
Another great feature that Nebo has is that it works well regardless of what type of stylus you use. It works great with advanced styluses like the Apple Pencil, but you can also use a less expensive, non-electronic, capacitive stylus.
This is a feature that other platforms struggle with, but Nebo’s AI makes it exceptionally easy to use.
To use Nebo to convert handwriting to text on an iPad and share it with OneNote, follow these steps:
- Download the Nebo app from the iOS App Store. It’s free and not a huge download.
- Nebo’s interface is similar to that of OneNote. You can create multiple notebooks, and each notebook can have multiple pages. So simply create a notebook and a blank page inside that notebook.
- You will see a keyboard icon at the top of your screen and a pen icon right next to it. Select the pen.
- Now choose your color and the thickness you want to use for your writing.
- Now you can simply go ahead and write your notes. You will see Nebo intelligently showing you a preview of the text you’re writing.
- Once you’re done writing your notes, you can double-tap on each sentence or paragraph to convert it to text.
- Once a paragraph or section of text is converted, you can format the fonts, styles, colors, etc.
- When you’re ready to transfer it to OneNote, simply tap on the More Options button in the top right (it looks like three dots in a horizontal line).
- From there, you can tap on “Share.”
- From the list of options, choose OneNote.
- OneNote will now open on your iPad. Select the notebook and page where you want to save the converted note.
Due to Nebo’s power and ease of use, many users have moved away from OneNote and use Nebo exclusively.
This is definitely an option since Nebo includes most of the same features. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that Nebo was designed with the iPad in mind, and though it can sync to the cloud and other devices, Nebo is not free on any of the other platforms.
Nebo also lacks the ecosystem that OneNote has since the latter is part of the Microsoft ecosystem. Having said all that, though, Nebo is fast taking up the space left by the fact that Microsoft is simply not adding such a simple and essential feature to their iPad app.
Some Crucial Points Regarding Handwriting To Text Conversion
As we’ve seen, you have options when it comes to converting handwriting to text. You can use established names like Apple and Microsoft, but sometimes these big companies can leave you wanting. Then there’s Nebo that fills that void quite nicely, but it also has some problems of its own.
There are many alternatives out there, but you should always keep the following factors in mind:
Stylus Compatibility And Handwriting Quality
In many cases, the process of converting handwriting to text is only as good as your stylus and your handwriting. Some platforms simply don’t play nicely with cheaper styluses or with those of us who have the handwriting of a doctor.
It’s worth investing in a high-quality stylus since that will improve the accuracy of the conversion.
Always Check Your Converted Text
It’s crucial to proofread your text after conversion since it’s not always perfect. Though OCR has improved tremendously over the last 20 years, it is still far from perfect, and even excellent AI platforms can struggle at times.
Keep Your Privacy In Mind
Remember that you are relying on a computer system to convert and interpret your handwriting. Sometimes this is done by a server, which is online. These systems belong to a company that needs to make a profit.
Especially if you’re using a free conversion tool, it’s entirely possible that the creators may log your activity and perhaps even the text you write to either show you relevant ads or, maybe, even sell your data to other companies, since that is their only source of income.
In this case, “free” is not always “cheap.”
Apple is very strict about full disclosure of how app developers will collect data and how they will use collected user data. That information is shown in the App Store. Before you download and use an app, look at the data policies and decide if that’s something that you’re happy to accept.
There is hope on the horizon. According to some sources inside Microsoft, they are working on implementing a system that will convert handwriting to text in the iPad’s OneNote app. Until that is available, though, at least we now know that there are ways to make it work, even if it’s more effort than it should be. We can only hope that Microsoft will implement its solution soon.