5 of the Best Annotation Tools!

Do your students turn electronic assignments as a PDF? If so – great! Annotating on a PDF is easy and a great way to offer formative and summative assessment. Why a PDF?  PDFs are ideal for sharing documents across platforms. Not everyone may have Microsoft Word, but most Word documents can be saved as a PDF and opened by anyone with a free PDF reader. By using a PDF annotator, you can highlight, add notes,  and write directly on documents. This is a great way for instructors to give feedback on work to students.

Example:  I know many instructors offer feedback on Word documents by using the “tracking changes” feature or comment feature. This is helpful if the student uses Word. Some students don’t. Perhaps they use Google Docs? Feedback can be given using the comment feature or Kaienza, an app addition to Google Docs.  What if students use Pages? You start to see the picture. Why not allow students to use the tool they are most familiar with then save and turn in as a PDF? All documents can then be given feedback using the same tool… a PDF annotator.

Here are a few of my favorite apps for PDF annotation:

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PDF Expert by Readdle ($9.99) 

This apps does cost $9.99 but it does just about everything. Users can add text, draw, highlight, change colors, add stamps, signatures, and type directly on the document. As a principal, I use to pull up an observation template in PDF Expert and fill it out while observing. I could then easily send it at the end of the observation by email. I often receive PDF forms that companies want me to fill out and return. Again, PDF Expert to the rescue! Here is a screenshot of a rubric that I have used. I am able to pull it up in PDF Expert, annotate, and save or send.

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Watch this video about PDF Expert!

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Skitch by Evernote (Free)

I’ve always been a fan of Evernote and Skitch. It’s a great way to mark up almost anything – photos or PDFs! Easily annotate and mark up…or use the cool stamps, circle, squares, or arrows. You don’t have as much capability for typing a lot of feedback but if you want something simple this could work for you. No iPad? No fear! Skitch is also available as a Chrome web extension. Yes!

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PDF Pen by SmileOnMyMac, LCC ($14.99)

This is another great annotation tool but is limited to the iPad or Mac. Just like PDF Expert, it does just about everything. Add text, images, signature, draw, or highlight.

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Notability by Ginger Labs ($2.99)

Again, limited to an app or Mac, yet a wonderful tool! I have written about Notability many times. What doesn’t it do? This does the same as the apps mentioned above, and adds one more element – audio. I do not believe the audio can be shared outside of the app, which is a drawback. I enjoy Notability because it is multi-use. I can use it to offer feedback through annotation. I can use it to record a seminar and write notes. I can use it to sign documents. It’s many tools all in one package!

5. Notable PDF Chrome Extension (Free)

I haven’t personally tried this one out, but it states that it also highlights, underlines, and allows for comments and text. It also states that you can use it offline and with any browser.


One thought on “5 of the Best Annotation Tools!

  1. I do lots of pdf annotating. I annotate the open source textbooks I use for my classes, and I grade all student homework as pdfs. I do all of this on a Samsung galaxy note which is an android device. My top three pdf app choices are ezPDF, Foxit PDF and Adobe Reader. They each have their pro’s and con’s. ezPDF has the highest level of customization and has built in support for Samsungs S-pen, I do most annotating in this one. Adobe Reader is lighter weight than ezPDF with a lot fewer options. However it tends to run a bit faster so I’ll use it if i’m primarily reading and only occasionally annotating. Foxit is right in the middle however after its latest update annotated documents were being corrupted so it’s not currently workable. Im experimenting with Drive Autosync for syncing edited files automatically between my tablet and Google Drive.

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