Microsoft OneNote Searches Handwritten Notes

The OneNote note-taking app for Windows 8.1 and Apple iPad can now analyze handwriting to help users find more content.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote, Microsoft's application for taking notes and clipping content, can now decipher handwritten notes, allowing users to find notes they scribbled with their styluses.

"Starting today, you can now search your handwritten notes that are in OneNote notebooks saved to OneDrive—just like you can search through typed text and text within images," wrote Greg Akselrod and Avneesh Kohli, program managers on the OneNote team, in a May 14 blog post announcing the new feature. "Just type your search query into the OneNote search box to locate the page and the specific handwritten note."

Microsoft's Azure-backed cloud computing platform helps OneNote make sense of what users jot down, as is increasingly the case with the company's more advanced software capabilities.

"Handwritten notes saved to OneDrive are processed and searchable within two to five minutes," wrote the Microsoft staffers. The feature will be applied to pre-existing notes stored on OneDrive "in the coming weeks," they said. OneDrive offers users 15GB of free cloud storage. Paid Office 365 plans include 1TB of OneDrive storage.

Twenty-five languages are covered by OneNote's handwriting recognition, with more to come. Microsoft is also working on improving the accuracy of the feature. After typing in search terms, the feature surrounds the relevant electronic ink in yellow.

On the iPad, the OneNote now takes some cues from the iPhone version of the app, announced Akselrod and Kohli. "Similar to the OneNote for iPhone experience, you can now easily swipe from the left to view the drawer where you can view all your notebooks, open or create notebooks, reorder and close notebooks," they stated. "Additionally, you can now more easily access and manage your accounts and app settings in this all-new user interface."

On the Mac, OneNote gains audio recording and playback capabilities. "Next time you're taking notes, click Insert, select Audio Recording and OneNote will start recording," Microsoft's OneNote team instructed in a May 14 announcement. Notes typed during a recording are automatically synced to the audio, enabling users to mouse over a section and play the corresponding audio.

The OneNote audio recording feature also supports bookmarks, allowing users to flag the notable parts of an interview or lecture. A level indicator helps users determine if their microphones are suitably picking up audio.

For mathematicians, researchers and other scholarly types, the Mac version of the app plays well with equations created in OneNote for Windows. "Simply open a page that includes equations, and you'll see those mathematical symbols and Greek letters rendered in all their glory," the OneNote team stated.

Finally, Mac users can now recover accidentally deleted notes, the company said. "Simply click the View tab and then select Deleted Notes to see everything you've deleted in the last 60 days. To restore a deleted section or page, Control-Click on it and then select Restore To."

Version 15.10 of Microsoft OneNote for Mac is available now.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...