Annotating your PDFs

Have you ever needed to annotate pdfs with your own notes, highlights, comments or corrections? Perhaps you’ve been asked by your boss for your comments on a document or to collaborate on corrections before releasing a final version. Perhaps you’re a student wanting a way to highlight important sections of your pdf or make notes in the margin. Or you’re at home, have read a great pdf and want to highlight important points or insert sticky notes before archiving it away in a notebook organizer such as Evernote. Well I’ve found just the app.

I have to collaborate on marking up and correcting pdfs at the moment. I was initially asked to compile a list of pdf corrections in a separate Word document detailing page number, column number, paragraph number and the correction. There had to be an easier and more productive way and I found it – PDF-XChange Viewer. There are paid versions for creation of pdfs but I found the free version is fine for my needs. Installation was simple – just watch the prompts during installation; you may not want it to be your default pdf viewer until you’re happy with it, so uncheck that box.

Annotating the pages just couldn’t be simpler. The Comment and Markup Tools menu is shown below to illustrate the tools available

annotate pdfs2

You can highlight text in the colour of your choice, strikethrough or underline it, insert sticky notes, text callouts and text boxes, draw arrows and other symbols, draw with a pencil tool and erase the pencil annotation. The app is intuitive and quite easily set up the way you want it. For example, to change default annotation styles, just use the fly-out menus in the Tools menu shown above. If you want to change any style, just click on Show Comments Styles Pallet. Click the default style and modify it, or clone the style and modify it if you want to go back to the default style at some point. So, for example, you can set up a number of highlight colours for different purposes. You may want to change the default text size in text callouts and sticky notes. If you want to change the default text size, type the text in the font size you want , then right click on the text and choose Text Formatting and then Set Current Text Formatting as Default – or right click in the box and choose Set Current Appearance as Default.

Here’s an example of a pdf where I’ve insert a variety of sample annotations. No annotation has been added subsequently in the screenshot program.

annotate pdfs

You can show a comments list in the left margin and move through the comments and mark up that way. You can also export comments as an fdf file. Double clicking on this loads the comments and the original pdf in your default pdf reader. I haven’t tried it but presume that if you have to return corrections  or comments to someone, if they already have the pdf, all you have to do is email the (much smaller) fdf with the comments rather than a saved pdf. If they open the fdf they will be able to see your comments and corrections, make further changes and save the file.

You can rotate pages, or insert a number of different stamps over the document. You can search for text in the pdf using the standard Ctrl-F keyboard shortcut to put the cursor in the search box at the top. You can search for phrases and you can make the search case-sensitive. A nice feature is that if you have a number of pdfs open in tabs, when you hover over each tab you get a thumbnail view of each document. Another nice touch is that there’s a button to attach the active pdf directly to an email message. There’s also a function at the bottom right corner of the screen to open your default pdf viewer with the current pdf loaded.

All in all, a nice utility if you have to annotate your pdfs and well worth checking out. It would actually make a pretty good default free pdf reader.

Disclaimer – I haven’t been asked to write a review of this app and have not been paid for this post. I do not do paid reviews, but just like to find and blog about great apps, preferably free!

5 Responses

  1. Andy - The Digitante Says:

    I just started using PDF X-Change Viewer recently after being dissatisfied with the lack of features on Sumatra.

    I understand Sumatra is meant to be lean, but as computers get more powerful, at least add a few features.

  2. techandlife Says:

    Yes, I understand you cannot copy and paste from a document opened in Sumatra which wouldn’t suit me. Foxit is my default pdf reader but perhaps not for much longer

  3. tdixon Says:

    I still do not seem to have an option to change the font size in callout box. It looks like PDF-XChange Viewer should allow me to do this. Any suggestions? (I can change color, line thickness, transparency. no font choice.)

  4. techandlife Says:

    Yes, it’s not exactly intuitive is it. I remember having this problem at the start. I found the answer but didn’t write it down so now I’ve just relearned it.
    Make a Text box or a Callout box, then right click in it and select Show/Hide Text Formatting toolbar. If it wasn’t already present at the top it should now show there. What’s confusing is that this toolbar switches to text properties only when you are working in the text box.
    So now you can type some text in the box, highlight it and change the font and size from this toolbar. If you want to make your new text style the default, highlight the text, right click on it, select ‘Text Formatting’, then select ‘Set Current Text Formatting as Default’.
    Incidentally, from the Text Formatting menu just mentioned, you can superscript and subscript text, or use the keyboard shortcuts listed there.
    Hope this helps.

  5. CA Says:


    Thanks a million!! Finally I can change the font size!!

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