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7 Best Apps to Convert Handwriting to Text on iPad and iPhone

7 Best Apps to Convert Handwriting to Text on iPad and iPhone

The Best apps to convert handwriting to text on an iPhone or iPad will use OCR technology to recognize the written text in a picture taken from your tablet phone. These apps are specific to iPhone, iPad, and tablets and work the same way they would on a laptop or computer, only mobile.

To convert handwriting to text with iPad or iPhone, you’ll need to download an app to digitize your handwritten notes. There is also a built-in option. The iOS app or camera roll can scan your handwritten notes from a picture or image and turn it into text to be used on your PC.

Not using an iPad or iPhone? See our post: 14 best apps to convert handwriting to text (all devices)

Update (important): iPad iOS now allows you to easily convert handwriting to text without downloading a third party app. See our first section in this post on how to convert writing to text for full instructions.

If you are converting handwriting to text often, then you likely want to invest in a digital writing pad, which is a new type of devices that is designed for handwriting.

Side Note: Some of the best note-taking apps for iPad allow for handwriting to text.

Scan handwriting to text apps: By using the apps listed in this post I was able to convert scanned handwriting to text by taking a picture of handwriting and converting it to text (using my iPad and iPhone).

In this post, I’ll go over how you can take written words that are in a picture you have and turn them into text characters on a computer to edit and use in a pdf.

Related: iPhone Font Generator: Make Stylish Text messages

How to convert handwriting to text with iPad/iPhone

How to convert handwriting to text with iPad_iPhone

If your iPad is fully updated you can now convert your handwriting to text directly on iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Pro. Here’s how:

  • Take a photo of your handwriting using the iPad or iPhone camera, then visit your camera roll.
    Step 1 convert handwriting to text on iPad and iPhone
  • Once the photo is stored you can highlight the text and hit copy.
    Step 3 Scan written text on iPad to make computer text
  • Next, paste it in the notes app or a google doc app.
    Step 4 paste the handwritten converted text
  • Congratulations, you can now convert your handwriting to text on iPad and easily transfer it to any computer, laptop, text app, or device.

It’s more simple than ever to turn notes you’ve taken on paper into digital text. There are even third party apps that allow you to turn cursive into text and physical handwritten documents into a PDF.

Alternatively, you can also use a drawing tablet to write on a computer, but the third party apps below on iPad will work best for more advanced handwriting-to-text cases.

This process is known as digitizing text or “OCR” and will allow you to take any notes you’ve written on paper and convert the image to text that can be used in a PDF or online. This will convert handwritten notes into text by using iPad and iPhone apps.

If you’re a teacher, you may want to do more than just scan handwriting to text using an iPad. I this case, see our post: Best Digital writing pad for online teaching & digital whiteboards.

Related: Do I Need an iPad if I Have an iPhone? (Is it Necessary)

Best apps to convert handwriting to text (iPad & iPhone)

Best apps to convert handwriting to text (iPad and iPhone)

To convert handwriting to text using iPad Pro/Air or iPhone, an iOS app is needed with OCR technology. This will even allow you to turn text into PDF by simply using an iPad/iPhone app.

Related: reMarkable 2 Vs iPad Pro & Air – Which is better?

The apps listed in this post allow the digitizing of handwritten notes through the process of scanning handwriting from a picture and turning it into text.

If you are looking to write on a computer screen with a pen, then you candy this various ways other than a handwriting app. For example, you can decide whether the Apple Pencil 2 is worth it or not.

Below are the best apps that turn handwriting into text on iPad/iPhone:

1. Microsoft Lens (OneNote): Best handwriting recognition app for iPad & iPhone

Microsoft Lens (OneNote)_ Best handwriting recognition app for iPad and iPhone

Even though OneNote is created by Microsoft, the iOS version (iPhone and iPad) can use it to convert notes to text from a picture because it is iOS compatible. Onote allow the written words on a physical paper to be transform into text to be used in a PDF.

You’ll need to have the picture either scanned, stored on, or sent to your mobile device for this to work. You’ll also need a Microsoft OneDrive account, Microsoft Lens, and Microsoft OneNote on your iPhone or iPad.

Note: If you don’t want to utilize all these microsoft apps, you can simply download CamScanner or Text Scanner Pen to print as an alternative on iPad.

Keep in mind: Best Digital Writing Pads (Electronic Notebooks) can also be used to take notes in the future.

Here’s how you can convert handwritten notes to text on the iPhone & iPad:

  1. Download Microsoft lens from the apple app store.
  2. Ensure you also have Microsoft OneNote for iOS on your iPhone or iPad.
  3. If the text is written notes, select document
  4. If the written words you want to convert are a mix of drawings, writing, graphics and charts, on a Whiteboard select ‘whiteboard’.
  5. Next, snap a photo of the written words, paragraphs or drawing using Microsoft Lens.
  6. Save the text to your phone or iPad’s photo library and select export/share.
  7. Save the image to the ‘Word” option and it will save to your OneDrive account.
  8. In your OneDrive account, you’ll see the OCR technology of OneNote has converted the written notes to text!

By using Microsoft lens you’ll be able to have all your written text on your iPhone, but you do need a lot of different apps to make this happen.

It certainly does a good job overall for OCR and is faster than many other apps, which is why it’s first on our list.

Related: 10 Best Tablets for Writers (Professional Writing)

If you plan on using a stylus, consider viewing our post: The Best Digital pen and pad for drawing & writing

Related: Does iPhone have an SD Card slot? (How to add one)

2. Cam Scanner (OCR): Best Document scanner to turn written words into text in a pdf (iPhone & iPad)

Cam Scanner (OCR)_ Best Document scanner to turn written words into text in a pdf (iPhone & iPad)

Cam Scanner is a well known, free app in the apple community. It is used to turn your written notes from paper into sharp, pdf editable documents. It also allows you to email, print or add these files to the cloud of your choice (I prefer google cloud). This text will be searchable and editable if needed.

You can use this to e-sign documents or record/save whiteboard projects before you erase the board. Annotation and extracting the actual words from an image using OCR technology is what makes the cam scanner unique.

This cam scanner has a lot more utility than many need, but if you need something that is advanced and is professional, cam scanner works well. I’ve tested this and used this in many scenarios with success.

If you’re looking for higher quality handwriting to text, you can also use a document camera. See our post: 10 Best document cameras for teachers (Math and Art Visualizers)

See our post: How to use your iPad like a Laptop

However, this OCR option does require a very small payment. Many real estate professional use this app for common documents. The Premium model allows you to edit the OCR document it creates and export it into a .txt.

Related: 11 Best Digital NotePads

3. PDF Scanner App with OCR: Best multi-purpose option

PDf Scanner App Photo fo the actual app

The PDF Scanner app is a pocket-sized powerhouse. It takes any document, receipt, or chaotic scribble and turns it into digital text.

The OCR technology that fuels this app tidies things up with color correction, perspective adjustments, and it can even lump together multiple scans into one neat PDF.

I took this OCR & PDF Scanner App for a spin, and it outpaced Office Lens and OneNote in the OCR department when it came to ease-of-use, particularly with my handwriting

I recommend testing Google Keep, OneNote, and other apps side by side along this one if you have wild handwriting and see which is best for you.

This choice from Accordmobi worked well for me – It’s ideal for someone who really needs to scan things often, rather than someone who has a one-off use case in mind.

Mostly because this tool does have a free trial, followed by a weekly subscription, which subjectively, is it’s primary drawback. The OCR might throw a fit with some messy handwriting… but so do most all of the current technologies.

But all in all, I was impressed with its multi-purpose solutions. With the PDF Scanner app, your smartphone just got a whole lot smarter.

4. Google Drive: Best handwriting to text app for iPad

Google Drive_ Best handwriting to text app for iPad

Google Drive will allow you to index handwritten notes and turn them into PDF format to be edited. You’ll need to scan the text first, then open the scanned image in google doc’s to be converted into text.

Microsoft lens isn’t the only one with a lens app as Google also also has their own version, called google lens and is slightly different. It can be found inside the Google Drive App for iPhone or iPad. This app will allow you to scan an image and created editable PDF documents based on a picture you took with words written on it from a pen or pencil.

It’s fairly difficult to go wrong here, google is always improving their services and is Google drive is one of my favorite utilities.

If you’re using your iPad often for digitizing handwriting, you may want to consider using the Best iPad Document Camera Stands (iPhone & iPad)

Let’s take a look at how this works

  1. First, tap the plus icon in the bottom right hand corner
  2. Select ‘scan’ after choosing the handwritten note. This will create PDF.
  3. Next, open google drive on your iPad, iPhone, or even Mac or windows.
  4. Select, ‘Open with’, then ‘Google Docs’
  5. Congratulations, You’ve converted your handwriting to text using an iPhone or iPad!

5. Pen to Print app: convert handwriting to text

Pen to Print app_ convert handwriting to text

Pen to print actually processes each line of every single text that is written from your notebook or paper that you used to write with pencil or pen.

After this, it uses its OCR technology to convert and turn the words you wrote into a text that can edited, but it has a unique feature many other apps don’t and allows you to turn handwriting to text on the iPad or iPhone without an Apple pencil.

This unique feature on the pen-to-print app allows you to convert the handwritten text, then display the words, one by one, and edit them one sentence at time.

This way if the words aren’t clear (or you used some cursive there), then pen to print app will allow you to clean it up right there and then. This is a huge advantage over many other OCR apps that convert notes to text and makes it one of the best apps that has this technology.

Related: See the best stylus pen for procreate

Here are some benefits of the pen to print app:

  • One of the best handwriting recognition apps since it allows editable text from handwritten notes.
  • Best note to text conversion apps to quickly make paper or documents with words on it into text. This is an app that not only converts handwriting to text, but does so near instantly and with an easy process.
  • The user interface navigates easily without confusion and makes and turning school notes, lectures, lists, and recipes a quick process without frustration.
  • Most importantly, their OCR engine, which is unique to others is free, but has in app purchases

So, if you wrote a letter, recipe, meeting notes or lists on a piece of paper and need it converted on your iPhone, then pen to paper will do the job quickly and with accuracy.

It is one of the best OCR apps on the iPhone and iPad.

See our post on 7 Ways to Write and Draw on a Non Touch Screen Laptop

6. Handwriting to text recognizer: Scan Handwriting to text app (cursive to text)

Handwriting to text recognizer_ Scan Handwriting to text app (cursive to text)

The Handwriting to text recognizer app is a very well known, established app in the apple app store. Not only does this app electronically turn hand-written notes into text, but it can also identify and convert and turn cursive to text.

Related: Notability vs GoodNotes

Not only can it take your cursive from a photo and make it text editable in a pdf, but It also supports multiple languages and mixed/multiple languages in the same image; English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portugues.

Like the other apps we chose on this list, the Handwriting to text is unique as its capable of on the go changes and script/cursive translations from pencil to text.

If you need to hold your phone up, consider comparing between the Pop Socket vs Ring Holders. This can be useful especially If you’re using your phone often.

The best part? The app is free, but with in-app purchases available if you want extras such as unlimited access and extra export options.

Related: Notability alternatives: most comparable (Free and Paid)

7. Adobe Scan: Convert scanned images to text on iPad/iPhone (OCR)

Adobe Scan_ Convert scanned images to text on iPad_iPhone (OCR)

Adobe scan is an app on the App store for iOS and has a credible, authoritative name brand with complete OCR text recognition capabilities for notes written on paper or physical documents.

Related: Best GoodNotes Alternatives for Note-Taking

The completed digitized note works seamlessly with Adobe. Can create PDF or JPEG files and the app is free to use.

This works great to scan tax documentations, legal documents, receipts, school notes, and many others.

You can even clean up and erase marks or stains on your papers, documents and written notes. Once scanned, you can use adobe scan, and edit the image to remove the marks and stains.

One thing I really like about adobe scan is that you don’t need the full adobe suite or adobe acrobat like the laptop and desktop versions do to turn handwriting into text. Instead you can use Adobe’s iphone and iPad app to make this process free, and easy.


What is the best app to use with an Apple Pencil for note taking & handwriting?

Notability allows you to write on the iPad or iPhone itself and then turn the words into text. It has extra features such as pressure sensitivity, responsive ‘ink’, and shortcut options like double tapping (apple gestures).

See the 26 Best Note Taking Apps for iPad (Free & Paid) – we tested each individually.

This app is unique because you don’t need to take a photo or image of the text like the other apps require you to. Instead, you’ll write directly on the display like you would with a digital writing pad.

Many will find it a surprise, but Notability actually has adjusted their app to work well with the Apple Pencil 1 & 2. It recognizes the apple stylus’ location by utilizing the bluetooth connection and enabling features that benefit handwritten words into text.

To use the apple pencil for note-taking and handwriting and turn your written words into text, you will need to connect the apple pencil using bluetooth. Next you’ll tap the home button and re-enter the app. Begin writing in the app and the written words should transform into text that is edible (typed text).

If its notability does not work with iPhone or iPad and an Apple Pencil, then you can restart your device and re-enable the bluetooth function. If all else fails, simply re-install the app, update it, or try it on another device.

Related: See Apple Pencil vs Zagg Pro

Can Apple Notes convert handwriting to text?

Yes, you can transcribe/convert your handwritten words into digitized text on Apple Notes. Look for the Pencil/pen option on the left side of the screen in Apple Notes. Then, begin scribbling or writing with your finger or Apple Pencil.

Related: My Review of GoodNotes, an alternative to Apple Notes that lets you use handwrirting to text conversion.

This can also be used in conjunction with markup and other apps and tools. What’s even more interesting is that you can search this text with-in the apple notes app as well due to its OCR technology.

Related: 7 Best iPad Air Stylus for Drawing and Note Taking (Top Pens)

Is there a handwriting setting on the iPhone?

Yes, you can use apple notes to enable the handwriting settings on iPhone or iPad for free. Utilizing Note taking this way is fast and you can quickly scribble down notes. simply open notes and locate the pen/pencil tool on the left.

This handwriting settings gets things done quicker than any other app when using the Apple Pencil. One of the best features is that it seamlessly syncs to other devices with ease, especially useful if you use Mac. This means you can write notes on iPad and open them up on the iPhone and vice versa. You can also use them as PDF files upon export.

Related: See the 8 Best Phone Grips & Hand Holders with Wireless Charging.

While this option does a good job, I’ve found iOS apps made specifically for the purpose of converting handwriting to text on the iPhone much easier, straightforward, and better for professional documents like legal, real estate, and other papers.

How to convert iPhone voice memos to text

Yes, you can convert a voice recording or memo on iPhone or iPad. This can be done by selecting the desired recorded Audio note file in the memo app and swiping to the left.

This will reveal another menu that has 2 options. Choose the more button and save this to your iPhone downloads folder.

Next, you’ll need to open an app, such as the transcribe app or speech notes for iPhone. You’ll upload your file and let the app convert your voice memo into text.

Related: How to get Chat GPT3 App on your iPhone or Android


When attempting to turn handwritten words in a picture into text on an iPhone or iPad, Converting handwriting to text has never been more simple with the mobile apps that utilize OCR technology. The top apps for handwriting recognition on iPad & iPhone are Microsoft one-note, Pen to paper, Cam Scanner, Google Drive & Docs, Handwriting to Text Recognizer, Adobe Scan, and Pen to Print. 

If you’re using an iPad, you can see our review of Notability app on iPad for note taking.

These all will allow you to take a photo of the text that you have already, then convert the words on a page into words in a PDF that is editable. Technically, OneNote is the best overall app for converting handwriting to text by recognizing text on images and its available for iOS (iPad/iPhone). It requires many different apps, but it has the best OCR technology next to Adobe’s scanner. The downside is it’s ease of use isn’t as simple as pen to print and other apple store apps.

Also see: How to convert handwriting to text on GoodNotes app

In this post, I covered the best “Scanned handwriting to text apps” available on the iPad and iPhone that technology allows for us. You can simply turn words you’ve written on paper into text by using an app that uses OCR by converting images to text with OCR(Optical Character Recognition).

This allows you to digitize notes via handwriting recognition on iPad Pro (and iPad air) – which are two the top note taking tablets on our list.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ