My Evernote Handwritten Note Workflow

Handwritten NoteAnyone who has been on the phone with me will know two things about me. First, I talk to myself a lot, and second, I take a lot of notes.[1]

I have played around with taking notes on my iPad, but more often than not I am re-using the back of paper from around the house.

This might surprise some of you and I can hear it now – “What? Mr. Paperless takes paper notes?”

Guilty as charged, but to me the key is not our use of paper but what we do with it afterwards. As Malcolm Gladwell writes:

The solution to our paper problem, they write, is not to use less paper but to keep less paper.

I generally use Evernote to store my notes, and until recently I scanned my notes to PDF, stored them in Evernote, and got rid of the paper.

I did this for years until I wrote this newsletter issue about Evernote and handwritten notes. To quote myself:

One of the big keys is, for handwritten notes, to scan the documents as JPGs instead of PDF. For whatever reason, their handwriting recognition only works on images.

Now, my handwriting is absolutely abysmal[2], but Evernote has proven remarkably adept at indexing it, so I have switched my workflow to scanning my handwritten Evernote-bound notes to JPG instead of PDF. Here is how I do it.

Scanning To JPG

I use a ScanSnap S1300i, but this will work with any scanner that will scan to JPG.

On the ScanSnap Manager Application tab, I choose Scan To Evernote (Note).

ScanSnap Application Tab

ScanSnap Application Tab

On the File option tab, I set it to scan to JPG.

ScanSnap File option tab

ScanSnap File option tab

Prepare And Scan To Evernote

This will sound strange, but when I am scanning handwritten notes, I scan them in reverse order.

You will see why in a moment, but if I am scanning a three page document, I stack the paper so that page 3 is on top and page 1 is on the bottom.

Once the paper is stacked in reverse order, I pop it in the scanner and go.

Process and Merge Pages In Evernote

Some of you may have seen this coming a few steps ago, but if you are scanning to JPG, it will create one file for each page. If you are scanning to Evernote, it will create one note for each page, as you can see below.

Evernote Scanned Pages

Evernote Scanned Pages

Some people may work around this by scanning to a folder on the computer and then dragging the JPGs to a new note, but I prefer to keep things as frictionless as possible and do it all in Evernote.

Fortunately, newer versions of the Mac and Windows clients give you the ability to merge notes together. Highlight the pages of your document, and on the right side you will see a Merge button.

Evernote Merge Button

Evernote Merge Button

Once you click it, your notes will all be merged to one note, and your pages will show up one after another in the new note.

The merging will be in the order that the notes show up in Evernote. Since I normally keep my notebooks sorted in Descending Date order, I needed to scan my documents in reverse order so that Page 1 would be at the top. This way when I merged, everything is all nicely in order.

Evernote Merged Notes

Evernote Merged Notes

One thing that I know will annoy some of you: when you merge notes together, it shows the title between each page like in the above screenshot. You can either leave it like this, or if it bugs you, just highlight the text and delete it.

This Evernote handwritten note workflow has been working really well for me. If you have another way that you process handwritten notes, I’d love to hear it.

(Photo by photosteve101)


  1. Both of these are collateral damage from my years of doing software support.  ↩

  2. Once a teacher threw my homework on the floor and said “I’m not reading this”. Not that I’m scarred or anything.  ↩

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

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