Read Images and Image Recognition in Evernote

By David E. Y. Sarna

One of the coolest things about Evernote is its ability to read images. If there’s text in an image, including images embedded in PDFs, Evernote can read and catalog the information.

Evernote doesn’t make images in PDFs searchable. Evernote’s image recognition is performed on image files (JPEG, GIF, and so on); PDFs are separate cases. For Premium and Business users, Evernote uses optical character recognition to scan PDF documents. This process is optimized to make text documents searchable.

So where are the instructions for running this cool feature? That’s where the program is really neat. Image recognition is automatic. Any image you add is automatically scanned for recognition. You don’t have to do anything other than add the image to your Evernote account.

Want to remember the name of that dish you had at that quaint little restaurant in New York? Snap a picture of the menu with your mobile device, and you’ll have it forever and can search for what you need.

Image recognition even works on handwritten stuff, but it’s limited by the neatness of the handwriting. If you can’t make out what you wrote, don’t expect Evernote to be able to read your writing either.

Evernote doesn’t run the image-recognition software locally over the application, but within its servers, so there’ll be a delay from the time when you store the note until it’s read. If you store a note and search for it immediately, you may not find it. Have patience. A subsequent search will recognize it.

You don’t need to stay online for the file to process. After you store the note, Evernote recognizes that you’ve added a file for recognition. That file gets queued and processed. The next time you sync your account, the local database is updated, so a search on a web client (which synchronizes automatically) may see it first.

The amount of time it takes to process image recognition depends on file size and the load on the Evernote service. Business accounts are served from their own servers. Premium members’ requests are processed ahead of requests from free accounts, so their files usually can be completed within a few minutes.

Typically, recognition often takes only a few seconds for a Business or Premium account. If you have a free account, it can occasionally take hours for the recognition servers to get around to indexing your documents. But hey, remember that you’re getting the service free.

If you have only a paper copy of a document, simply scan it or take a picture of it with your smartphone to move it over to Evernote.