iAnnotate PDF - Techno Thursday App Recommendation - J. Kenner

iAnnotate PDF – Techno Thursday App Recommendation

iAnnotate PDF LogoA quickie Techno Thursday entry today, but although the post is quick, the app I’m recommending is incredibly powerful for anyone needing to review and mark-up documents. It’s called iAnnotate PDF, and it’s an app for all of you iPad users. (Note: the developer has a similar app for the iPhone, but for my purposes the iPad app is a can’t-live-without utility).

So what does the app do, and why is it so handy?

You can probably guess what it does by the name of the app — it allows you to take a PDF and mark it up. You can handwrite notes using a stylus or your finger, you can highlight with a variety of colors, underline, type annotations, add bookmarks, etc. Then you can take that document and email it to anyone you want (either in its original or annotated format) or you can transfer it back to your computer using the iTunes transfer protocol.

Keen, huh? Here’s a screenshot from the iAnnotate webpage to give you an idea of how a marked up page will look.

So why is this such a great thing for writers? Or, really, for anybody?

For one thing, doing this type of annotation on a PDF on a computer is really expensive. As far as I can tell, there’s no annotation program that doesn’t cost a bundle — and there’s no way to mark up with a finger unless you happen to have a drawing pad attached to your computer. By comparison, the app is only $9.99. A bit expensive for an app, but still less than 3 venti nonfat lattes from Starbucks.

So, fine, it’s economical. That still doesn’t answer the question of what to do with the dang thing. Well, how about everything?

Editing My Own Work – I’m a Mac girl, and it’s super easy to save a document as a PDF. (It’s easy on a PC, too, with the new version of Word). So I save a PDF to Dropbox (what? you don’t have Dropbox. Get it immediately–it’s free, you have no excuse. And that’s another Techno Thursday topic in the works…). Then I open the file in Dropbox on the iPad, tell it to “Open in iAnnotate” and sit comfortably on my couch with my iPad and my stylus and mark up my “hard copy” — saving about a billion trees in the process.

Editing My Critique Partners Work – I don’t always use this method (with some of the folks I critique with, Track Changes in Word is still the way to go) but when I do, I like it. It’s especially useful for making notes for myself on a document that I’m going to sit down and discuss with someone. I did this recently when I was leading a critique group. And I have the option of emailing my scribbles to the person after we discuss the notes. I’ve done this for the last couple of years at the Armadillocon Writers Workshop: markup, discuss, email after we’ve discussed that person’s work so they have an eco-friendly hard-copy.

Learning/Teaching Tool – I take several online classes in which the instructors post lessons. I mark them up in iAnnotate, and it’s just like marking up a handout in school!

Newsletters – Most organizations newsletters come as a PDF these days. iAnnotate is a great way to make notes. And one feature of the program lets you see a menu bar of the annotations, so you don’t have to scroll through pages and pages to find the 4 marks that you made on a document.

Magazines – not all magazines come in a PDF format, but many do. I save them as PDFs and read/mark-up at my leisure.

Conference Programs – I always seem to be leaving conference programs in my hotel room. But I usually have my iPad when I go out, simply because it’s such a great tool for taking notes, keeping my calendar, etc. So if the conference doesn’t provide the program in PDF (many do) I’ll “scan” it with my iPhone and save as a PDF and have it handy that way.

Galley Proofs – I’ve used the program for doing galleys as well. I’ve gotten galleys on the road before, completed them using iAnnotate, and returned them lickety-split!

Copyedits – lets me get a head start even when I’m not at a computer with Track Changes.

In other words, it’s an incredibly useful program. If I were still practicing law, I’m sure it would be even more indispensable!

Have you ever used iAnnotate? Do you have an iPad? What are your favorite iPad apps?

Filed under: Techno


Kendra Mareva

Yep, yep. I remember you using that handy little app quite a bit at Armadillocon. I figured it was just a function that came along with the ipad. Interesting to find out it isn’t. I’m not a Mac girl, but I have to admit that the ipad is a pretty cool piece of technology. I got to play with one over the holiday (sis-in-law has one). And I literally mean “play” as all I did was play a bunch of games on it. 😛


Oh, yes, it’s exceedingly cool! (iPad and iAnnotate). My only complaint is that now that I have a MacBook Air, I have too many options! There are things the iPad does the Air won’t (like iAnnotate) and things the Air will that the iPad won’t (like Scrivener…although I hear an App is coming).

too many toys…too small a purse!


You do! You do!

Dropbox is fabulous. It’s saved my bacon a number of times, and since you get 2G of space for free, there’s no reason not to try it, ya know?

Anake Goodall

hey Julie. thanks for this post; wonderfully clear and accessible 😉

i too am using a MacBook Air (being some 18 months out of the primordial ooze known as the PC world). do i take it from your post that iAnnotate won’t run on the MacBook Air? i use it for almost everything i use my iPad for. have you come across an app for the MacBook Air that does the same thing?

namaste …


Nope. As far as I can tell, it’s not available for the air, and I’ve found nothing similar :(. My guess is that since such a big component is the touch screen feature, they haven’t developed a Lion OS version.

Enjoy your conversion to the Mac world … I doubt you’ll go back to the dark side, LOL


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