iPad trick: Searching digital handwriting (how-to)

iPad trick: Searching digital handwriting (how-to)

Summary: This simple method allows taking handwritten notes on the iPad and having the ink searchable. Never again will that handwritten note disappear, never to be seen again.

TOPICS: iPad, Mobility

Ink note in Penultimate

The iPad is being deployed in the workplace in increasing numbers, with enterprises looking to deploy cheaper tools that employees want to use. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is picking up steam outside official company programs, with iPad owners bringing the tablet to use at work. It is not that unusual to see the iPad in corporate hallways as a result.

Taking notes on an iPad is a natural function in the enterprise as they are just as easy to bring to meetings as the legal pad. There are many pens available for the iPad that mimic the old ink models, and note-taking apps to capture the digital handwriting.

I am only beginning to experiment with the new Wacom Bamboo pen, or stylus, that I bought. I like inking notes digitally on the iPad as I find it is often easier to do than using the onscreen keyboard for typing. Writing a note on the iPad is much like using the paper counterpart.

When I started experimenting with digital inking on the iPad, I made one function mandatory to get the most use out of using the pen. My years of using a Tablet PC with OneNote demonstrated how valuable it is to have the ability to search the digital ink. This facilitates finding notes no matter when they were written, and turn the digital handwriting option into one that far surpasses the pen and paper method.

Ink search in Evernote

It didn't take me long to find a good method for doing that using the pen and the iPad. I am sure there are other ways to make handwritten notes on the iPad that can be searched, but this is the way I am doing it.

I use the note-taking app Penultimate on the iPad, it is a robust app that is easy to use. Most importantly, Penultimate has the ability to interface with the Evernote online cloud. I am a heavy user of Evernote so this is important to the way I work.

The Evernote integration is not only important for making my ink notes available on all my mobile devices, it is an integral part in the ink note searching technique. After I take a note with the pen and iPad, I save it directly to Evernote within Penultimate. There are two options to send the note to Evernote, JPEG and PDF. I choose JPEG to save the note page as an image to Evernote.

This is important because Evernote does some cool things with such page images on the server side. Once a note page is uploaded to Evernote, the service begins converting handwritten words it senses to make a text index for searching.

It happens quickly, and a few minutes after a note in Penultimate is uploaded to Evernote, handwritten text is searchable using the Evernote app on all mobile devices.

That means I am able to find that particular handwritten note I made, even on my Android phone or iPhone. I enter the search term I want and Evernote presents every note, handwritten or otherwise, that contains that term.

This is not the only way to do this I am pretty sure, but it is easy to start using this method and it works very well for me. I intend to continue experimenting with other methods to eventually come up with a better one if it exists, but for now I am quite happy with Penultimate, the iPad, the Bamboo stylus, and Evernote.

I will be looking for a similar method using Evernote and inking on Android tablets too. If you use a good note-taking app on Android tablets that works with Evernote, please leave a comment.

Evernote recently acquired Penultimate, and the company has promised to bring handwriting recognition to the app. This marriage can only be a good thing for digital inkers on the iPad.

See also:

Topics: iPad, Mobility

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  • Good idea but which is it - PDF or JPEG?

    Hey James,
    This is an awesome tip that I plan to try. There's a typo in your article that would be helpful if you correct. You say I can save a file as JPEG or PDF and that you use PDEF. Was that supposed to be JPEG or PDF? Don't mean to pick nits. I haven't been using handwriting on my iPad just because I hadn't figured out how to access it later. I plan to give this a serious try.
    • JPEG

      I fixed that right after publishing but it took a while to refresh.
  • Hmm

    While the article is interesting, you should stick to facts... I still have not seen an iPad deployed for business and, BYOD isn't something I have seen beyond phones so just saying it is happening doesn't make it true.
    • I have seen it

      In several workplaces, so it is happening whether you've seen it or not. That is fact.
      • No it is not...

        I haven't seen any hard evidence anywhere and you saying you see and me working for 2 different fortune 100 companies not seeing it at all... So it is purely speculation and not fact.
      • It's a fact

        I have seen it and that makes it a fact, not speculation. Whether you believe that or not is irrelevant, nor does it make it less a fact.
      • It's a Fact

        Not just Fortune 500. Almost all of the law offices in our area have numerous users bringing their iPad's to work for note taking, email, calendaring, and research...same for the oil & gas clients in our region. Try to get over yourself Peter...

        BUT - if you really want note taking excellence, get a Samsung Series 7 Slate with OneNote - note taking nirvana...
      • It is fact.

        I see it. It's happening here. Both BYOD and some company supplied, if you are one of the lucky ones. Our company bought over 40 iPads. Others, who have bought their own, I am one of the unlucky ones, so in total, we have over 100 iPads (our company is 400 employees we are not even in the Fortune 500). I know, because I have to support them. We use IBM Lotus Notes, and one simple profile and you get your work e-mail on iOS and it integrates really well with iCal. Many use Penultimate and Evernote. There are a few Android users, but Notes on Android doesn't integrate well with any of the calendar apps. I keep in touch with my former colleagues and the iPad is happening at very high rates, of 12,000 employees and in the Fortune 100, the counts are staggering. All the Cs (CEO, COO, CFO, CIO) are really pushing IT to handle BYOD. Over there well over 2,000 employees have the iPad, sure only 6% but still there are some employees that want it, but can't buy it. Even some anti-Apple guys have bought iPads. For years that company has really pushed for paperless.
      • It's a fact.

        I've worked at a small business and now a good-sized college, and iPads were quite popular at both. In addition, I know of several folks at other companies -- financial institutions and insurance companies -- where iPads are commonly used, and not just by executives.

        I'm with James on this: iPads in business are a fact.
    • iPads in Business

      I see multiple execs at my global consulting firm using iPads.
  • Android note taking

    I use the HTC Flyer's Notes app to do the very thing that you describe for inking and storing in Evernote and that works very well. I wonder if the Skitch app that Evernote owns and provides for Android could be used as the Android alternate to Penultimate?
  • I'm not seeing where Penultimate gives me a choice

    I see that I can link Penultimate to Evernote and I see how to send notes from Penultimate to my Evernote notebook. Where is this setting to choose between JPEG and PDF?
    • This may help. (or it may not, grin.)

      After creating a Penultimate page, a use is given an option to "send" that page somewhere. One option is to send it to Photo. If a user does that, than that image in the photo gallery is saved as a jpeg file. That jpeg file can then be sent to anywhere (via email, to Dropbox .. ex cetera)

      As for the PDF option, I'm not sure. I suspect that any PDF app reader or PDF file app editor could turn that jpeg file into a PDF.
    • Send page to...

      Choose that option under the share menu and it shoots it to Evernote directly.
  • Thank you! - My son's HS is requiring iPads for incoming freshman and

    upper classman and sophmores can participate, so he received an iPad 3 for his birthday. He has taken to it like a duck to water. However, I wondered about search becasue the school uses Penultimate and Evernote.
  • Ah, the irony of the stylus using iPad owner

    Disclaimer: I also use a stylus with my iPad.

    I have to chuckle every time I hear someone rave about how great it is to own an iPad with a stylus. You see, for years we've heard from Apple fanbois (and Steve Jobs) that if you have to use a stylus with your mobile device, that device is a fail. No matter how many times you try and tell that fanboi that a stylus is optional and that you only really needed it to do notetaking, they would cover their ears and just repeat "fail fail fail". They would talk about how a stylus adds bulk, how it gets lost, etc. The irony is that at least those older devices that came with a stylus always had a place to store the stylus. The iPad doesn't. So not only does a stylus with an iPad actually add more bulk (you now have to carry 2 things with you) it is also much easier to lose an iPad stylus.

    So James, clearly the iPad is a fail, right?

    Thanks for the laugh, always good to laugh on a Friday.
    • Look up non-sequitir

      You make the initial point that requiring a stylus is a fail, then go on and accuse fanbois of covering their ears in horror when you tell them they don't have to use a stylus.
      • Look up reading comprehension

        [i]You make the initial point that requiring a stylus is a fail[/i]

        No. Apple fanbois and Steve Jobs tried to make the point that requiring a stylus is a fail as a way of proving that Windows and Palm mobile touchscreen devices were fails (because they came with a stylus). I have always responded that on any mobile device, the stylus is optional, only really being needed when you were trying to handwrite something. That is when the fanbois cover their ears in horror. [i]No Todd, if someone uses a stylus on a mobile touch screen device, that device is a fail. Steve Jobs says it is true so it must be true.[/i]

        Only now those same fanbois are saying exactly what used to make them cover their ears in horror. [i]No no Todd, you don't understand. A stylus is only needed on the iPad for handwriting. Now, where did my iPad stylus go. Hmm, it sure would be nice if there was a slot on the iPad for storing a stylus.[/i]

        Uh huh.
    • logic?

      So, toddbottom3, you say that "if you *have* to use stylus with your mobile device, it's a fail".

      Well, that does not make the iPad fail. Because, with the iPad you don't *have* to use stylus. But you may, if you so desire or need for whatever reason.

      Get the slight, but important difference?

      People like Steve Jobs are brilliant, for they rarely say something without reason. ;-)
      • reading comprehension?

        Why do so many Apple fanbois lack it?

        Look up 1 post.