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.  ↩

Want More Help With Going Paperless?

4waystotame-3d-png

Want More? Get your FREE guide: 4 Ways To Tame Your Documents.

Tags:

21 Responses to “My Evernote Handwritten Note Workflow”

  1. Osaminc August 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Could you possibly make a short youtube video on this?

    • BrooksD August 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      Sure! I'll see what I can do this week.<p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

  2. johnwin August 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Just a note to let you know that OCR does work in .pdf documents, though I think this is a pro feature.

    Once a note has been OCRed (is that a real word?) it stays OCRed even if you let your subscription lapse.

    • BrooksD August 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi John,You are right that OCR works in PDF documents. That works really well. What *doesn't* work is OCR for handwriting. That only works for JPG files at the moment, regardless of your subscription level.Thanks for commenting! <p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

      • johnwin August 22, 2012 at 11:14 am #

        Ah! I see what you mean now!

  3. SophieK August 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Brooks this is fantastic! Thank you for this! I agree you should make a short YouTube video on it :)

    • BrooksD August 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

      Thanks Sophie, how can I say no? :)<p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

  4. Corey Pudhorodsky August 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Using a LiveScribe pen is another great way to save handwritten notes to Evernote. The send to evernote feature makes it really easy and you can also save a copy that has embedded audio as a separate file or embedded in a pdf.

    • BrooksD August 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Good call Corey. Believe it or not I have never tried a LiveScribe, but I know many many people love it.

  5. @degconsulting August 22, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Great post, Brooks! There's always an occasion for scrap pieces of paper and sticky notes! Sending it to Evernote is great with my ScanSnap. My workflow involves scanning single page docs as JPEG and then multi-page docs as PDF. To John's point, I like to be able to search against my handwriting. To Corey's point – I love the Livescribe pen. Amazing tool and find it great for meetings!

  6. BrooksD August 22, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    OK everyone, this is now up in video format: http://www.documentsnap.com/video-evernote-handwr

  7. Kevin August 23, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Quick question for you – I, like you, initially was scanning all my handwritten notes to PDF. As of reading this, I changed that to JPG because of the OCR of handwriting. Now what can I do with the 100's of PDFs of handwritten notes? Think there is anyway to go back and convert the PDFs to JPG in some sort of script fashion to take advantage of this?

    • kachilda August 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

      print out the pdf's and rescan them as jpg'S

    • BrooksD August 24, 2012 at 6:59 am #

      Hmm, well taking a PDF and kicking out a bunch of images should be pretty easy. There's even an Automator action to do that.

      Since Evernote's AppleScript support is pretty good, I'd think that something like this could be bolted together. It might be worth checking with the king of Evernote AppleScripts, Justin over at http://veritrope.com/. You might be able to get/hire him to whip something up for you?

  8. Anil August 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I believe you can save PDF as (Save As..) JPG. At least that's a feature in Adobe Acrobat. YMMV.

  9. @riverwoodwriter August 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    I'm very excited about this. I write a lot of handwritten notes and I save them because I want to write a book about the lost art of handwritten notes. I scan some and file some, but none are saved on Evernote, which I use for so many other things. I'm going to have a heck of a time gathering them all together when I get ready to write the book.

    Moving to your system will help a lot. Thank you!

  10. Joe December 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Started using Evernote today – I believe I've solved your "reversal" issue which should save you from needing to physically reverse the pages.

    - I'm using the latest version of Evernote as of today 12/19/12 which is v5.x, FYI.
    - When merging the pages -> click the notes (while holding down Control on Windows) in the order that you want them to be top-to-bottom, then click merge.
    - Do not try to Control+Shift the entire list or it will do it the way that you've presented and list the notes out of order, you must click the notes 1 by 1 selecting them in the order you would like them to merge!

    If only we could get the dev team to allow us to remove the headers that are created this would be even smoother!

    Hope this helps- Geaux Tigers!
    Joe

    • BrooksD December 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Nice thanks Joe! I'll have to try this!

    • Owen April 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      A more efficient way of dealing with the reversal method is to rearrange which ever notebook you’ve imported the files such that the newest files are at the bottom (aka just click the created heading once).

      This effectively reverses the order of your entire inbox. Then when you select your handwritten notes and hit merge, they will be merged in a reverse order.

      This obviates the need to reverse the handwritten notes before hand!

  11. Lee Dorfman March 18, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    Brooks,
    Daniel Gold just wrote his last post by hand into his Moleskine notebook, and then added it to Evernote, where it was emailed to iDictate – mynotes@idictate.com- where we transcribed it using live typists.

    A copy of his post is at http://idictate.blogspot.com/2013/03/reinventing-
    This works with any handwritten document.

    As a disclaimer, I am the ceo of iDictate.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How I Use Evernote | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - November 27, 2012

    [...] thinking things like kids’ soccer schedules, school newspapers, community centre posters, handwritten notes, notebooks, magazine articles, and the [...]

Leave a Reply