Best options for digitizing handwritten notes

by Sunelle | Last Updated: 29/04/2020

I prefer handwritten notes as I can do it easily and quickly with pen and paper. To make the most of my notes, I want to digitize them to keep them safe and searchable. Notebooks take up space, making it difficult to carry multiple notebooks around. Digitizing handwritten notes also allows for syncing notes between devices. If you are in the same boat as me, you may wonder how to digitize your handwritten notes for future use.

There are many options for digitizing handwritten notes, but none are perfect. From typing your handwritten notes to scanning them to make them searchable, each method of digitizing handwritten notes comes at a price in terms of effort, speed or cost. This table summarises the different digitizing options with their pros and cons.


(1 = slow, 5= fast)

(1=cheap, 5 = expensive)

Manually typing all notes

Scanning with a physical document scanner before storing as a PDF or image

Scanning using your smartphone and making it searchable in Evernote or OneNote

Scanning and using an app or software to convert handwritten notes to text

Electronic writing-on-paper pens

Digital handwritten notes

Let’s look at each of these methods individually to make it easier for you to decide which method to use under different circumstances. Each method has further options available for digitizing your handwritten notes.

Typing Your Handwritten Notes

This is an easy option, but it is a manual process that could take longer to complete if you have many or long notes handwritten notes that require digitizing.

Digitizing handwritten notes

Scanning And Storing Your Notes

Another old-fashioned method of digitizing handwritten notes is by scanning them. You can use a physical document scanner, especially if you have many loose pages of notes to scan. After scanning your notes to a PDF or image, you still need to import it into a note-taking or note-storage app for further use.

Technological advances mean you no longer need a physical scanner to scan documents. To scan your handwritten notes, here are some scanning options:

Both Evernote and OneNote are free applications. Both are available across different platforms, including iOS, Android and desktop (PC and Mac).

Scanning and converting your notes to text

The ideal is for digitizing handwritten notes by converting them to editable text. This is usually done through OCR. The most important thing to remember is that the conversion quality will depend on how clear your handwritten notes are.

The best available options are:

Electronic writing-on-paper options

Under electronic writing-on-paper options, there are several tools that can help you create digital handwritten notes. Take your pick from the following tools:

Digitizing handwritten notes with ipad
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Taking Digital Handwritten Notes

The iPad and Apple pencil (and similar devices) made digital note-taking popular. You can take notes directly on the iPad with the Apple pencil using one of the multitude of note-taking apps that are available. Although this is still handwritten notes, it feels different from writing with a pen on paper. There are tools available to make it feel more like a pen-and-paper experience, but it will never feel the same as writing with a pen on paper. Writing your notes directly on an electronic device saves time and you can print your notes if you prefer using paper versions for studying or reviewing later. It is the most expensive of the options for digitizing handwritten notes and definitely not something everyone can afford.

These are the options available for digitizing your handwritten notes. Which method you use depends on the time and money you have available. I use Evernote and Google Drive most of the time for digitizing my handwritten notes. The method I choose depends on whether I need to edit the notes in which case I use Google Drive, or just have access to them in which case I use Evernote.

Digitizing Handwritten Notes | Productive Notes