Annotating PDFs on an iPad

Annotating-PDFs-on-an-iPad

Why Annotate a PDF?

One of the most important ways I use my iPad is to make corrections to PDF versions of my writing. I sometimes like not having the keyboard as a distraction: using the tablet helps to put a little distance between me and my writing.

This workflow also works with those PDF-version books and articles we all have cluttering our computer desktops that we’ve been meaning to read for a while…

Setting up the PDF-to-iPad workflow:

I use Libre Office, an open-source and free office suite. I’ve never had any compatibility issues and I like the simplicity of the Writer software.

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You can get yourself a copy here: http://www.libreoffice.org

When you’re ready to edit, select ‘export to PDF’.libreoffice_export_pdf

Save the file directly to a Dropbox folder. In my setup, I’ve created a dedicated ‘iPad sync’ Dropbox folder.

You can sign up to Dropbox here.

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My iOS PDF editor of choice is Goodreader. It’s updated often with new features and compatibility fixes with the ever-changing iOS.

You can get the Goodreader App here (It’s £3.99, which is a bargain).

Open the Goodreader App and in the sidebar select connect (1). Next to the ‘Connect to Servers’ menu select ‘Add’ and then ‘Dropbox’ (2). Follow the instructions and select the Dropbox folder that contains the PDF you want to annotate. Now press ‘Sync’ and Goodreader will synchronise the files between your iPad and selected Dropbox folder (3).

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Choosing an iPad Stylus:

Given my tendency to lose pens, I went for a cheaper stylus. At £6.99 I won’t cry too much if it goes missing down the back of the sofa. Here is the Bamboo stylus I use:

As a side note: There seem to be mixed reviews of the big, fancy stylus models. If I could be trusted not to lose it, I’d like to try this one, the Adonit Script 2. But at $75 it’s also quite a bit more than my trusty Bamboo stylus.

As well as the price of the fancy stylus models, I’m reluctant to add something else to my workflow that can go wrong. They use Bluetooth so need to be charged, which means another cable and another battery that might die. They also work best with Bluetooth-optimised note taking apps, which means another potential compatibility issue.

Are they really that much better than the Bamboo stylus? (Please tell me if they are!)

Editing a PDF on the iPad with a Stylus

Editing on Goodreader is quite straight forward. Open the PDF, choose the ‘freehand’ option on the menu bar, and you’re ready to scribble all over your writing.

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The zoom box is a nifty tool that lets you write on the iPad screen with greater precision. It automatically moves to the right as your writing reaches the end of the box.

You can easily type up text comments for those longer notes-to-yourself. There’s also highlighting, underlining, and all the other fun stuff you’d expect from a PDF editor.

When you’re done, save the file and press ‘Sync’. The PDF uploads to your Dropbox folder and is soon accessible back on your computer to type up your edits.

That’s it! Now you can read and edit PDFs on your iPad, and easily move them back-and-forth between your computer.

Use your new power wisely.

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