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Pen PDF Annotation in Skitch

Wesley Bland

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I'm a little disappointed in the ability to draw on a PDF in Skitch. I review a lot of papers and in all of the other tools I've used, one of the best way to make notes is to "draw" on the PDF (essentially just handwriting). However, in Skitch, this isn't really possible because when you zoom in to do the writing, picking up your pen at all ends the annotation you're currently working on. This means if you want to write a letter like a 'T' or 'H', it's pretty much impossible. As soon as you pick up the stylus, the previous line gets locked and now instead of drawing the crossbar, you're selecting the previous line again. I realize that one of the major design decisions for the Skitch editing style is to allow all of the annotations to be selectable, but not being able to write on the PDF is a big pain.


I know that there is also a text box option, but this option doesn't seem to work well across devices. If I set the text to flow a certain way by resizing the box on my iPad, when I open up the PDF on my Mac, the text box doesn't reflow and flows all the way out of the page which makes it unreadable. I also can't make the text small enough to fit in many of the margins for the kinds of papers that I'm reviewing.

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Regulars are probably growing tired of me talking about my feelings on this, but I never get sick of talking about them!


I also deal with a lot of academic journal articles that require considerable annotating. While I LOVE the organizational capabilities of Evernote, I have never found it effective for reading and annotating multi-page PDFs, so I store all (well, 98%) of my PDFs in Dropbox and use PDF Expert (Readdle, $9.99) to read/annotate on my iPad. PDF Expert is a fantastic reading and annotation tool, I highly recommend it for this purpose. You might find the "review" mode to be rather helpful, this actually allows you to make in-line modifications to the contents of a PDF. (GoodReader is another option but I find the user interface to be VERY cumbersome).


Once you are done with the reading and annotating, you can either leave it in whatever cloud storage service you are using (Box, Dropbox, Google, (S)FTP are all options for PDF Expert) as I do, or you can "flatten" the PDF (that is, more-or-less embed the annotations, including hand-written notes) and "open in..." Evernote for long term storage taking advantage of its superior organization ability. 


My 5¢ on the matter! 


Honestly I think there are a lot of work that needs to be done to make Evernote/Skitch on iOS a useful PDF reader/annotator for my needs. That being said, my workaround described above works just fine for me, so the shortcomings of Evernote/Skitch aren't a deal breaker for me by any means. If the never improve in the way I require, no skin off my teeth!

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I don't disagree with what you're saying here (I actually am trying to move over from GoodNotes). I don't necessarily mind using the other app, it's just the idea of having to keep papers that I'm reviewing in a bunch of different places and keep up with all of the different organizational schemes / reminder systems / lack of edittable annotations after "flattening" / etc.


This isn't a dealbreaker, but I really do like to be able to keep it all in one place without having to bounce around to different apps.

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