Being able to add your own notes to PDF files can be really useful, whether they are lecture notes you want to add your own thoughts to, documents or journal articles you have downloaded for your own research,  or student or collaborative papers that you need to feed back on. There are many different options available for this. Here are a few we found.

iOS (Apple) apps

neu.Annotate is a free app that will allow you to open a PDF file (e.g. from email, the web or a cloud storage service like Dropbox), and annotate it using typed text or freehand annotation in a range of colours, as well as adding shapes, stamps and images. You can even add whole new pages, and annotate those too. The annotations are saved as part of the PDF, which can then be sent out by email or saved back to Dropbox.

A marked-up PDF file in iAnnotateiAnnotate PDF is an advanced tool with lots of options, including the usual highlighting and annotation. It can be set up to sync with Dropbox, but also has it’s own sync tool, called Aji PDF service, that allows you to set up a live link to a folder directly on your PC or Mac. This allows you to batch download original files, and then batch upload your annotated versions.

There is also an iAnnotate Lite version of this app for Android.

GoodReader is an app that can handle many different types of files. It’s really a file management tool, that allows you to access PDFs, Office and iWork files, images, video and even archived web pages on your iOS device. It can collect together files from a range of sources, including Google docs, Dropbox and iCloud, and let you read, organise, annotate (PDF and txt only) and re-upload them. It’s pretty complicated, as apps go, but if your files are a bit all over the place, this might be a good one for you. The PDF annotation  here is kind of a bonus.

Android apps

Again, there are a number of options available. Features vary, but all of the following will allow you to mark up, type on and highlight PDFs, as well as fill in PDF forms. In order of price at time of writing:

  • ezPDF Reader includes text-to-speech and the ability to view audio and video files if they are embedded in the PDF. It also has a plugin to integrate with Google docs.
  • Repligo Reader allows you to annotate and send PDF files via email, Bluetooth, Dropbox and Evernote.
  • qPDF also allows you to send files via Bluetooth and sync files in Dropbox.

A note on workflows

Options for sharing a PDF file from an iPadIf you’re planning to annotate a number of files, it’s worth thinking through how you will transfer these to and from the device. Many of the apps listed above will allow you to download files from (and sometimes upload or sync them to) cloud storage services, like Dropbox or Google docs. This saves having to attach individual files to email, but these services also have their own limitations.

We recommend, particularly when working with documents relating to student assessment, that you transfer the files directly between your device and a University computer wherever possible, rather than using a third party cloud storage solution. You may be able to do this wirelessly, using WebDAV or FTP, otherwise you may need to connect your device to the computer. With an iOS device, you can transfer annotated files via the iTunes software for all of the apps mentioned above. If you have an Android device, you may be able to connect it via USB as you would a memory stick, and batch transfer your files.

If you’d like any help on the above, don’t forget you can always contact the LT team.

With thanks to Dr. James Xue, Lecturer in Computing, for the iAnnotate recommendation.

Disclaimer: these posts aim to recommend functionality, not particular products or services. The app world changes fast, and any third party app may not be available forever. Always make sure you have a back-up option.


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