Mark It Up! PDF Annotation Software

POSTED ON Jan 26, 2011

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) has turned out to be a big winner when it comes to broad adoption across the web for a variety of uses. From print-ready files to full-color ebooks, PDFs are the lingua franca of the internet.

In book publishing, the first time we generate a PDF of a book is the first proof after the layout is complete. The proof goes out to a proofreader for checking, and often the author reads a copy as well.

Then the inevitable question comes up of how to make corrections, and how to transmit the corrections back to the book designer to be fixed in the book files.

Some people prefer to work on a print out of the page proof. This has to be mailed (or faxed if there aren’t too many changes) when finished, and that’s the way we’ve been doing it for years.

But it’s much more efficient to simply mark up the PDF itself and send a copy back as an email attachment.

The problem is, most people don’t own software that will annotate PDFs, that is, allow you to make notes or otherwise mark them up.

If you own Adobe’s Creative Suite, you’ll have a copy of Acrobat or Acrobat Pro. These are the premier tools for working with PDFs, and there are robust annotation tools available within the programs.

But what about everyone else? I went on a hunt on behalf of my clients, and here are some of the programs I found. If you know of others, please share them in the comments.

PDF Annotation for Windows

Note that these programs don’t edit the PDF files, but add objects to them. These objects, including notes and drawing objects, can then be read by other PDF-reading applications.

Foxit ReaderPDF annotation“Foxit PDF Reader is a small, fast, and feature rich PDF viewer for Microsoft Windows, which allows you to open, view, and print any PDF file.” And it’s a free download.

PDF-XChange ViewerPDF annotation“The PDF-XChange Viewer is smaller, faster and more feature rich than any other FREE PDF Reader/Viewer/Editor available.” Also a free download, with a sample of upgradeable features.

PDFillPDF annotationAlso includes form tools, drawing tools, and it’s only $19.99

Nitro PDF ProfessionalPDF annotationSticky notes, drawing tools, highlights, stamps and file attachments are some of the annotation tools offered by this program. $99.95

PDF AnnotatorPDF annotationNotes, drawings, and other annotation tools. $69.95

PDF Annotation on the Mac

If you own a Macintosh with System X, you already own a basic annotation tool: Preview. This utility, which comes with the system, is a display platform for many kinds of graphic files. But if you load a PDF file and go to Tools / Annotate you’ll see you can add notes, drawing objects, links and other objects to the file. They will be readable in Acrobat, too.

The Future

PDF looks like a format that will be with us for some time. It makes sense to get used to dealing with these files. Being able to mark up a 300-page book and send it with the speed of email is a great advance, in my opinion.

I’ve spent too much time and money shipping paper all over the country. Get one of these free annotation programs and spend a few minutes learning how to use it. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Let me know your experience with these programs, or if there are any good ones that should be included.

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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