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(Actual) PDF highlighting in Evernote


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I'm a big, big fan of Evernote, and as a student I recommend it highly to my colleagues and professors. However, the one thing that I never have a good answer for is: "What about highlighting papers on my iPad?" When they ask this, they are referring to Preview/Adobe Reader/GoodReader/Readdle-style highlighting, wherein you're dealing with an OCRed document and highlighting actual text, as opposed to drawing a translucent line on top of document text. This, as far as I know, is impossible in Evernote - please correct me if I'm wrong.


Dropbox allows this sort of highlighting from third parties in two ways:


1. Their API lets people download and upload files

2. I can use the official Dropbox app to open a PDF in one of the aforementioned apps, and when I open it back into Dropbox it asks if I want to replace the existing file.


It seems that #1 is not possible with Evernote's current API (PDFPen kind of does it, but very poorly), and I suspect this isn't a priority for Evernote seeing as it how it isn't an actual file manager. But why not #2? Is there a reason I can't use "Open in..." to do a roundtrip of a PDF embedded in a note so that I can highlight in a third party app and replace the original file in the note?


Any thoughts on this would be appreciated, particularly if there's currently a way to do this on iOS that I'm not aware of.



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  • Evernote Expert

I didn't understand what you said clearly. So, correct me, if I am wrong.

PDF annotation in IOS, you can open in Skitch , do your annotations, and save it in a new note. At the moment, you cannot overwrite the annotation in an existing document.

But generally speaking, Evernote is not best suited for annotations, because unlike text, which is a core part of the note, PDF only sits as an attachment. Evernote is not best suited for constant attachments, especially on mobile devices.

Ideal work flow for PDF annotation would be to use dropbox, or Gdrive, import into a third party Ios annotation app. Finish the annotation. Save changes, and export the annotated file into an Evernote note, where you can pin other relevant documents and map them to other information in an Evernote notebook using Note links feature in Evernote.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 4 weeks later...

It doesn't exist and it's a major flaw. 

Yup, the only major negative that I have found with Evernote. Instead of using Skitch, I open the PDF in Preview on my Mac or in GoodReader on my iPad, highlight what I want, add in notes to self, then email to Evernote. There shouldnt have to be so many extra steps to get something annotated and into Evernote. Hopefully, a future upgrade?

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I frequently have pdf notes from meetings that I need to highlight or annotate.  I just open them in a pdf viewer on my tablet (android) - PDFmax, etc., annotate and then save, then import into Evernote for filing when I am done changing them. This also keeps me from exceeding my upload limit (uploading a new file each time I add to the notes), as I'm still on the free version.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am a premium user and the fact that Evernote is missing this feature in Skitch is my biggest irritation with the software. Adding text highlighting to Skitch would increase academics' use of Evernote (in addition to making me cry from happiness). It's collaborative notebooks make it ideal for academia, but PDFs are a core part of how we learn and Evernote falls short of having a useful PDF editor. Evernote, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE work to add text highlighting similar to Mac's Preview or iOS's PDF Expert in Skitch.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 4 months later...
  • 2 months later...

I am a primium member and I was surprised to find that you cannot highlight or underline a text. This is a BIG downside... 
Perhaps there is an issue of property rights they would have to purchase from another company...

Is there any chance they would bring it in in the future?

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  • 2 months later...
  • Level 5*
44 minutes ago, tjhokietiger said:

I can't believe that 3 years after this was first identified as a failure and it still is not fixed.  EVERNOTE, if you are listening, this is one of those things that you should be fixing!  This is a major flaw!  

You could add your vote to show this is major (voting buttons in the upper left corner of the discussion)
Currently, its just a request with 1 vote

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  • 1 month later...

I'm shocked that Evernote doesn't support this better. I won't be renewing my subscription if this doesn't become a feature. As an Academic, PDFs are my bread and butter, so easing interactions with them is absolutely key to a good workflow.

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46 minutes ago, molecule said:

I'm shocked that Evernote doesn't support this better.

I'm shocked that you're shocked.  Personally, if PDF annotation was important to me, I'd be looking at other third party processing, not Evernote.  My favourite tool is Notability with my iPad 

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I'm shocked that you're shocked that I'm shocked. People use tools in lots of different ways ;)


I actually just couldn't find the highlight tool in the PDF annotator when I wrote this. I had found the "draw a line" tool, but of course the line isn't transparent. After I posted this in frustration at the inability to do such a simple annotation thing, I figured out how to highlight, and was actually coming back here to edit my above comment.


I don't have an iPad, and need a tool that's cross-platform, and syncs over many devices. For that, Evernote is one of the best I've seen. Everyone always wants more, don't they.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Someone else may have already answered this question but I just figured out how to highlight PDFs in EV for Windows, at least on a PC that Adobe Acrobat installed (as my laptop does). It's actually pretty simple though surprisingly, it appears to be undocumented. 


When you select a pdf file in EV, you should see the PDF viewing toolbar appear at the top of the Note/Note Panel. Click on the left-hand most icon, the one that looks like an eye. (When hovering my mouse over it, mine reads "Evernote PDF Reader Powered by Foxit Corporation." That should open the PDF in separate window. (In my case, it opens it in Adobe Acrobat Standard DC. Not sure if you don't have that installed if the file will open in Foxit's Evernote PDF Reader.)


With the file open, you can now select the text you wish to highlight and then click on the Highlight icon in the icon bar under the main menu (again, I'm relating what I see in my Acrobat Standard DC configuration... the Evernote PDF Reader may be different). Your selected text should now be highlighted in the default highlight color. 


Save and close the file. It will be returned to your EV for Windows database, where it the resaved version will now show the highlights you made. 


I hope that makes sense and works for others, not just me. What was throwing me off was double-clicking on the PDF file and opening it, apparently outside of/disconnected from Evernote, using the highlighting tools and saving the file but then not seeing the file basically disappear (i.e., not redisplay in EV). 

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  • Level 5*
1 hour ago, kgtgg said:

Someone else may have already answered this question but I just figured out how to highlight PDFs in EV for Windows, at least on a PC that Adobe Acrobat installed

I think the point of this discussion is that these users believe this feature should be built into Evernote

Switching to external apps gives you access to many features.  This would also be my process of choice

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The point to bear in mind is that 'proper' full-scale pdf editors cost money and whilst one does not need to use the Adobe product nothing decent goes for less than round about Euro 70 - 100. 

I bought the ScanSnap Scanner from Fujitsu at the time it was bundled with Acrobat Pro.

So, indeed, nobody would expect Evernote to offer complete editing service in their current price packages. Maybe they come round to discovering and implementing new fields in business known and appreciated outside their current ra ge. I'd recommend the CEO to arrange for a business to San Jose. The folks there are certainly imaginative when it comes to tempting customers to fork out cash.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey Everyone,

Maybe I am missing the point of this discussion, and perhaps it is because I came to it late. But I am able to left click on a PDF and select the option "Annotate this PDF." I can chose "Annotate a Copy of this PDF." While annotating, I can read the document (though with imperfect resolution), marking, highlighting, writing, When I close this annotated document, the note appears in an abridged form - which highlights my annotations! This way I review the document as I see the note. 

The innate annotator does have a few limits. It cannot annotate an encrypted PDF - but I guess that is why you encrypt them.

And, this is not Foxit. I decided to hold off on the Foxit reader for the time being as I have another PDF reader (Drawboard) that I am accustomed to using. Now I can use Drawboard to create a longer visual document, and Evernote to annotate this.

Here is an example of one document, easily marked and annotated in Evernote. 


Excellent reading. 

~Velo & Paix, 


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