OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that makes computers recognise printed text characters and handwritten ones. You can take a photo or scan a document to convert it to text. You can write with your Apple Pencil on your iPad and convert it to text.

A lot of note-taking apps offer this feature, but Nebo remains (by far) the best app for converting handwriting to text. Other apps supporting this feature include:

These will convert your handwriting to text. The accuracy of the conversion has improved dramatically over the past years. With some apps not needing any corrections to the conversions they make if one’s handwriting is neat enough.

Screenshot of Notability on an iPad pro 2018, showing some rough digital notes, searching through the handwritten notes
OCR on the iPad Pro

Handwriting recognition in note-taking apps allows you to search through your handwritten notes without necessarily converting them to text, which is a handy feature.

Scanning apps also have OCR technology. Scanner Pro by Readdle is my go-to scanning app. It allows you to take photos of documents and turn them to scans. You then have the option to convert the scanned text into editable text.

Scanned PDF in Readdle's Scanner Pro app on the iPad, showing OCR capabilities of scanning apps
OCR on the iPad Pro

The accuracy of the conversion in Scanner pro depends on how well you take the photos. Make sure there is adequate lighting and no shadows cast on your document when you take the picture. Taking pictures near a window provides the best natural lighting for your scans.

If you don’t like typing, you can get a keyboard that lets you handwrite characters. For that, I recommend Stylus, by MyScript. The same developers that brought us Nebo. It works in all applications on your iPad.

A keyboard from MyScript for the iPad that allows you to input characters by writing them out instead of typing them. Screenshot shows MyScript keyboard at play, searching the iPad by writing out the search enquiry
OCR on the iPad Pro

Its conversions are very accurate. MyScript doesn’t disappoint in the OCR technology department. What’s great about this is that you don’t need the Apple for this. You can use your finger to write as well.


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