Microsoft adds digital ink and search in OneNote for iPad

Did someone declare this to be “let’s all make the iPad better with stylus support” week and not tell me? First we had Astropad, a $50 app that turns Apple’s slate into a graphics tablet, and now Microsoft is bringing of digital handwriting support to the iPad.


[company]Microsoft[/company] announced the software update to its OneNote application that adds the new feature on Thursday, pointing out that OneNote has actually supported digital ink since 2003. I actually didn’t need the reminder: I remember using the first iterations of OneNote way back then on a convertible Windows Tablet PC with digital stylus. I said back then — and I still believe it’s true — that OneNote is one of the best pieces of software ever to come from Microsoft.

If you’re not familiar with the app, it works similarly to Evernote, helping you capture and categorize snippets of text, screenshots, photos and other data, including audio recordings. The secret sauce of OneNote, however, has long been its excellent digital ink support, completely with OCR, or optical character recognition.

This lets the app index all information to make it fully searchable, either in the app or in OneNote Online. The latest version of OneNote for iPad doesn’t yet do that for handwritten notes but does for images. This example shows a search for “strawberries” on a receipt photo, for example.


With the latest software update to OneNote, [company]Apple[/company] iPad owners will see a Draw option in the app. Tap it and you can draw or write with your finger or a stylus; the latter is clearly recommended. You can digitally annotate any captured content in OneNote with this feature. Microsoft even added a palm rejection feature so your hand doesn’t accidentally “write” something when using a stylus.

Again, OneNote has been around for more than a decade, so it’s not new. It is, however, possibly one of the most underrated software products Microsoft has ever developed while also being one of the most useful. It’s well worth a preview from the iTunes App Store, particularly since it’s free for your iPad.