Legal Professionals: Searching scanned documents

The Problem

Legal documents are archived by scanning. Scanned documents just contain an image for each page. Therefor it is impossible to search for specific text.

That means you have to spend lot of time groping in the dark trying to find a small paragraph in long documents.

It is possible to make searchable PDFs using Adobe Acrobat as well as many other third party applications. However, most documents are usually scanned as just standard images.

Don’t worry. There is an solution available. In fact you may have had the solution on your PC for upto 10 years.. but you may not have known it.

The solution is OneNote – a part of Microsoft Office since 2003.

How to check if you have OneNote?

Press Windows key with R key. Run dialog will open.

Type onenote and press Enter.

It it is installed it will open.

By the way, this method can be used to run other Office tools and other Windows applications as well. Here are the exact phrases winword, excel, powerpnt, outlook, mspub, paint, …

Using OneNote to search a scanned document

Open the PDF file containing the scan


Choose File – Print – Send to OneNote (The version number ).
Choose the desired notebook. For testing purpose just choose the current notebook.

It will print the pages to a new page in OneNote. Each page from the scanned document will be one image in the OneNote page.

Now press Ctrl F to go to Find on Page


Type search text and see what happens…

OneNote highlights the words which start with the characters you are searching for. This is very helpful in finding various word forms. The up and down arrows allow you to navigate instances of search results quickly. Of course, you can also scroll manually and check visually.

Want the text?

Of course you will want it sooner or later. So don’t worry. That is also available.

Right click on any page image and choose if you want it from that page or all pages (thoughtful feature… is it not? That is called User Focus).

Now you can paste it anywhere.

Of course the recognition depends upon scan quality.

Practical considerations

  • The page must be in vertical layout
  • Slanted text is difficult to recognize so rotate the image as required
  • OCR is available in multiple languages, depending upon which Office language packs are installed.
  • In case of multi lingual text, you can choose the OCR language by right clicking on the image
  • Handwriting can also be recognized if it is clear and legible. Like text, handwriting also needs to be horizontal. Tilted handwriting is more difficult to recognize

Never lose a visiting card – Use OneNote and SharePoint

Practical Problem

There are many methods available for managing contacts and visiting cards. Using a card scanner and using OCR works well. But most methods fail due to lack of discipline.

Here is what you can do. By the way, this can work for you as a person or the entire organization.

Use OneNote

    1. Create a new notebook using OneNote. DO NOT make a local notebook.
    2. Store it into SkyDrive or SharePoint. This way you can access it from any mobile or pc anywhere. Name it Contacts. Create sections like personal, business, friends, recruitment, customers, etc.
    3. Everyday, take photos of new visiting cards which you received. Just use any simple mobile camera. Make sure the photos are sharp. The resolution does not matter. Even 2 Megapixel camera will be fine.
    4. Import the images into OneNote and put them in the correct section.image
    5. Now you can search for any text in that notebook. CTRL F – find , type any text. Choose the area to search – section, this notebook or multiple notebooks.image
    6. OneNote can search for text automatically. The OCR (optical character recognition) software is built-in to OneNote. It also supports multiple languages.image
    7. If you want the full text from a visiting card, right click and choose Copy Text from Picture and paste it into any other place.image
    8. This way you can create a simple but effective contact management system!

Adding photos directly with OneNote on Mobile

OneNote is available for free on Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Using OneNote mobile makes it even more easier. Just open the notebook – Insert Picture – take a photo of the visiting cards. That’s it.

Working in a team

Share the OneNote notebook with your team members. Create a section for each person and ask them to add photos directly.

Adding the backlog

Remember that you don’t need to take the photos separately for each visiting card. You can arrange multiple cards on a table and take a photo. This way you can add all your existing cards quickly to OneNote. Make sure you add all the past cards.