Scan To OneNote For Mac - What Works And What Doesn't

Scan To OneNote For Mac – What Works And What Doesn’t

When I sat down to write this article, I was determined to come up with a way to scan to OneNote for Mac in some sort of automated fashion. Whether with the ScanSnap or with some other scanner, I figured there must be a way to do it.

I wish I could say I was successful, but I have to admit (hopefully temporary!) defeat. You can definitely scan your documents and save them to OneNote, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way to do it automatically.

This article will show you the options we do have, and I’ll update in the future when new capabilities are added to OneNote.

Why You Can’t Scan To OneNote For Mac Doesn’t (Yet?)

There are a few reasons why scanning to OneNote on the Mac doesn’t work:

1. There is no Send To OneNote Printer Driver

On Windows, as outlined in my How To Use The Fujitsu ScanSnap With Microsoft OneNote post, there is a printer driver that lets you save things to OneNote. This is the easiest way to scan to OneNote if you have a scanner (like the ScanSnap) that does not support TWAIN.

This doesn’t exist on the Mac.

2. There is no Scanned Image button

If you do have a TWAIN compatible scanner, the Windows version of OneNote has a Scanned Image button under the Insert menu. This lets you import from your scanner directly to OneNote.

This doesn’t exist on Mac, but there is an open feature request to add it. Vote if you’re interested.

3. Microsoft Doesn’t Accept PDFs

Many if not most Mac apps let you pass in files by dragging them onto the Dock icon or by specifying them in, for example, ScanSnap Manager on the Application tab.

Evernote handles this very well.

When you try to set Microsoft as a destination on the ScanSnap’s Application tab, you get The document xxxx.pdf could not be opened. OneNote cannot open files in the “Portable Document Format (PDF)” format.

Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Error
Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Error

So much for that idea.

4. OneNote Doesn’t Support AppleScript

Since all of the above had failed, I thought for sure I’d be able to create something like the Evernote Import Folder I made using AppleScript and OS X’s Folder Actions.

That way, you could scan to a folder and then the PDF would be automatically imported to OneNote.

Unfortunately, OneNote doesn’t support AppleScript. At all. There is an open feature request for this too, so I recommend you vote it up.

That’s a long list of things that don’t work. Hopefully the OneNote folks will hear our pleas and fix at least one of them so we have something to work with.

So we know there isn’t an automated way to scan to OneNote. What can we do?

Scan To A Folder And Then Attach Or Printout

The only solution I can think of is to scan to a folder first. Once you have your file(s) scanned to a folder, you have two ways of importing the PDFs that you can find under the Insert menu:

Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Insert Menu
Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Insert Menu
  1. PDF Printout: This will attach the PDF to the note but will also convert the pages to individual PNG images and display them inline in the note.
  2. File Attachment: This will attach the PDF to the note as a PDF icon. You’ll have to open it up to see it.

Here are what the two options look like:

Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Attachment Types
Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Attachment Types

To save time, you can drag PDFs from the Finder into a OneNote note.

If you drag in more than one at a time it will save them as File Attachments. If you only drag one in, it will ask you how you want to import it:

Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Insert Popup
Scan To OneNote For Mac PDF Insert Popup

This is what we have to work with at the time of writing. If you have another trick for scanning to OneNote on the Mac, please leave a comment and let us know.

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.

Leave a Reply 9 comments

Lee Herman - January 18, 2020 Reply

Sadly four years later, the same workflow problems exist. I’ve tried both the Automator and Dropbox approaches and some IFTTT applets and the best I can produce is a OneNote page with a link to the document rather than the document. I think I’m stuck with Brooks’ approach of adding the files manually to a note. I’m not thrilled about it but it’s not a lot more work than fixing titles of scanned items in Evernote and tagging them. It just spreads the workflow into Finder to drag the files onto a new OneNote page. Still sad there isn’t a way to automate into OneNote directly.

Gary Klimeck - February 1, 2017 Reply

I was an avid Evernote premier (This is not regarding the evernote Free service) account holder and used my SnapScan with Evernote. But after seeing the mismanagement of Evernote I looked at using OneNote. With an MS 365 annual subscription I get more for my dollar whereas with Evernote I only get the use of one application. MS gives me a full suite of all the MS applications, 5 users and 1 TB of space on OneDrive to scan my papers to OneNote and store on OneDrive. As much as I liked the workflow using Evernote, I would rather discover a newer method using OneNote, save money and know that MS although they are more PC based, are not going anywhere. I am still looking for a more improved SnapScan to OneNote workflow and in the midst of searching always look at my bottom line knowing I am not feeding paying Evernote for a flawed service.

Nick JB - November 13, 2016 Reply

In use my Evernote branded Fujitsu scanner to scan to Evernote then use IFTTT to sync the notes to Onenote. Remember to turn off auto sync in Evernote first otherwise it can be random that the contents come across. I finish scanning a batch of stuff first then run the Evernote sync.

e1miran - August 22, 2016 Reply

Easiest way is to use the “Save emails to OneNote” by sending the PDF to First set your scanner to save to a default folder. Then create an Automator script to watch for new files as they are saved to that folder. Once triggered you can have Automator open a new email with the PDF attached and send it to the address. It actually works very well.

    Brooks Duncan - August 22, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for that! Great tip.

    Paul M - January 7, 2017 Reply

    e1miran, thanks for your post. I’ve tried to work out the workflow for this but I’m pretty green at Automator! Would you be able to to publish this workflow here? Thanks!

    Ric - November 9, 2017 Reply

    This works on personal OneNote, it does not work with Office365 (at least with my business one). Have you used with an Office365 business account?

e1miran - August 22, 2016 Reply

How about scanning to a folder on your Mac that is synced with Dropbox. Then use Ifttt to sync those files to onenote.

Imran Anwar - August 3, 2016 Reply

OneNote has so much potential but in typical Microsoft cluelessness on usability, UX design and just common sense, it basically is a graveyard if you have lots of PDFs in your digital life. Forget their being searchable as in EverNote. EN is basically giving ON a gift by limiting users to only 2 devices sync from today. But alas ON is such a flawed product in many areas that MS will waste the opportunity. Again.


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