using OneNote for OCR

If you have Office on your computer you probably also have a programme called OneNote. I really like OneNote for a lot of things, but did you know that you can use it as a quick and handy OCR (optical character recognition) tool? What is optical character recognition? It’s when you convert an image to text.

Here is some things I use it for when I need the output to be text rather than an image

  • Copy a list of files in a folder
  • Copy the error message that comes up when something crashes (if I turn it into text I can then search for a solution in Google)
  • Copy a list displayed in software like Nvivo (often quicker than exporting them!)
  • Copy text from pdf scans (how well this works depends on the quality of the scan though – sometimes its quicker to retype than correct!)

Here is how you do it.

Here is a list of files in a folder I might want to have as a text list.


Press the windows button and S on your keyboard at the same time which is the keyboard shortcut to open the OneNote screen clipper. If you have never opened OneNote before, you will need to open it first, but after that it should launch automatically.

Then drag the mouse to select the area you want to capture the text from and then when you let go the mouse, a dialogue box will open. Either Copy to clipboard and paste into OneNote or Send to selected location if you know where in OneNote you want to put it already.

Try to get just the text (without any icons or images) like this:


Once pasted into OneNote, right click on the image and select Copy text from picture. This will capture the text into the clipboard and you are then ready to paste it anywhere you like.


And this is what you get

Johnson 2011.pdf
Golden 1992pdf
Wanner 2001.pdf
Armstrong 2008.pdf
Bland 2005.pdf
Comm 2003.pdf
Toutkoushian 2003.pdf

Just like that – neat hey?

You need to check it for accuracy. As you see above it missed off one full stop and sometimes it gets the odd letter wrong.


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