Annotate PDF Documents on Your iPad


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One of the most-useful things you can do with an iPad is view and annotate PDF documents. There are many apps for this (some of which Nicole Black reviewed on Lawyerist last year), but Easy Annotate recently asked me to try its app. So I did, and I compared it to two other apps I already use: GoodReader and Skitch.

iOS now makes it easier to open things in other apps. All three of these, for example, reside in the sharing options. When you are viewing a PDF in any other app (Dropbox, Mail, Gmail, etc.), tap the sharing icon, select “Open In … ,” and then the app you want. You can send annotated PDFs back to the app it came from using the same dialog. That makes iOS work pretty similar to your computer when it comes to opening and saving documents.

Easy Annotate and GoodReader, though, give you additional options; they can pull in documents directly from other sources. Tons of other sources, in the case of GoodReader.

Once you get those PDFs into your app of choice, you have, basically, five ways to annotate them:

  1. Highlight
  2. Underline
  3. Add comment
  4. Draw
  5. Add text

Some apps add things like stamps, arrows, and other shapes that are basically pre-formatted drawings. Or different styles of underlining (including strikethrough).

PDFs come in two flavors: those with text and those that are only images. Many of the annotation features only work when the PDF contains text, whether because it was converted from a Word document or because the text in an image has been recognized by OCR. Namely, highlighting and underlining text only works on documents that actually have text.

Otherwise, you are limited to the drawing tools for typical markup, though you can use thick lines and adjust the opacity to make highlights. And you can still add notes and text. But still, your options are more limited with image-only PDFs. All the annotation apps have the same limitations.

Anyway, on to the apps.

First up, Easy Annotate.

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  • lorna

    hi sam, also worth a look is writepdf

  • We just launched our newest update: 2.3. We added a web browser which can be used next to your pdf, and through which you can easily download pdfs. We hope you like it.

    • Who is “we” in this case?

      • my apologies for the confusion. The “we” refers to the Easy Annotate team, which includes yours truly.