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Converting Your Handwritten Notes to Text

When you're using a Tablet PC, OneNote uses the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition's handwriting recognition technology to convert your handwriting—or digital ink—into text.

Figure 5.8 shows how OneNote converts handwriting to text in the background. The handwriting has not yet been converted into text on the screen, but behind the scenes, OneNote has already converted the handwriting—flawlessly, in this case—and has used the text to create a title for the page.

Figure 5.8Figure 5.8 Behind the scenes, OneNote automatically converts your handwriting to text. In this example, it is using converted text to create a page title.

According to Microsoft, the conversion technology was developed after analyzing millions of handwriting samples from different people throughout the world.

While the technology is amazing and has a high success rate, it will not successfully convert everything you write (unless, perhaps, you have very good handwriting).

Unfortunately, there is no way to teach your Tablet PC your particular handwriting style in an effort to increase its conversion accuracy. Unlike voice-recognition technology, which gets better at recognizing your spoken words the more you dictate, the Tablet PC already knows all it's ever going to know about converting handwriting into text. That said, it does surprisingly well at understanding what you write.

To convert your handwriting to text:

  1. Select the note container by clicking the top.

  2. Right-click and choose Convert Handwriting to Text (Figure 5.9).

  3. Your handwriting is converted to text (Figure 5.10).

Figure 5.9Figure 5.9 Convert your selected handwriting to text.

Figure 5.10Figure 5.10 OneNote does a pretty good job of recognizing your text, but sometimes it gets the case wrong and uses different-sized fonts.


  • You don't need to convert your handwriting to text; OneNote is capable of searching your handwriting for words.

  • The digital ink that provides the magic of text conversion and searching is contained in your note file, meaning that anyone reading the file in OneNote can search your handwritten notes or convert them to text. The person doesn't need to have a Tablet PC.

  • When you paste handwriting into other applications, it is automatically converted to text (Figure 5.11).

Figure 5.11Figure 5.11 You don't have to convert handwriting before copying and pasting it into other documents. OneNote copies it to the clipboard as text, saving you a step.

To convert parts of a note to text:

  1. Choose Tools > Drawing and Writing Tools > Selection Tool (Figure 5.12). You also can choose the Selection tool from the Standard toolbar (Figure 5.13) or Drawing and Writing Tools toolbar.

  2. Figure 5.12Figure 5.12 The Selection tool is located on the Tools menu, under Drawing and Writing tools.

    Figure 5.13Figure 5.13 You can also choose the Selection tool from the Standard toolbar.

  3. Drag the Selection tool over the text you want to convert.

  4. Release the mouse button.

  5. The text in the selection area is selected (Figure 5.14).

    Figure 5.14Figure 5.14 Drag the selection tool over your handwriting.

  6. Right-click and choose Convert Handwriting to Text (Figure 5.15).

The part of your handwriting that you selected is converted to text (Figure 5.16).

Figure 5.15Figure 5.15 Right-click the selection and choose Convert Handwriting to Text.

Figure 5.16Figure 5.16 The handwriting is converted to text. In this sample, OneNote gets all the words correct.


  • You may want to convert just parts of your handwriting to text, for example, if you know from experience that OneNote won't convert some words correctly. You can select all but those words for automatic conversion and then later type over the remaining words to change them to text, too.
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