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When it comes to annotating and reviewing PDF documents on the iPad, iAnnotate PDF ($9.99) is my go-to solution. The annotation tools and features in this iPad-only app are ten times more powerful than Apple’s iBooks for highlighting, bookmarking, and reviewing annotations.
If there’s an option to download a .MOBI or .EPUB ebook or PDF version of a book, I always choose the latter because of what iAnnotate allows me to do. The app is great for students, writers, or anyone who needs to mark up text as they read.
Now that the app allows you to import and annotate Word, as well as PowerPoint documents, it’s almost like annotating content on paper thanks to the iPad’s big screen.
You can sync and import documents in iAnnotate from iTunes, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDive or WebDAV, and other iOS apps.
iAnnotate can save and sync your annotations to the original document or it can save them to a copy of the document. The app uses Safari as a built-in browser that allows you to download PDFs and save webpages as PDFs. This is a rare iOS feature you won’t find in Apple’s stock version of Safari.
When it comes to annotation tools, iAnnotate packs in the features with all the typical highlighting, bookmarking, and pencil tool you’d expect to see.
The app also includes tools for adding stamp markings, notes, and even photos and audio clips, useful for speaking your annotations. You can also create custom stamps for the type of markings you typically make. You do this by first creating the marking using the Typewriter tool, and then tap the Stamp tool in the pop-up menu. You can add a label to the marking and tap the tick icon to save it to the collection.
To add an annotation, you can select a tool in the sliding toolbar (see first screenshot above) and then drag your finger over the part of the text you want to highlight, or first select the text and then choose the tool you want from the context pop-up menu.
The only thing I’ve always found frustrating about iAnnotate is that you have to tap the Done button to apply the annotation, which I think is totally redundant.
You can customize the toolbar to include your most-used tools, and also add additional sets of toolbars, say one for navigation tools, and another for review tools, which I will discuss later.
What’s even more useful about the annotation tools is that you can append a comment to any marking you make. This is useful for when you are (for example) editing a document or want to remember why you highlighted the text in the first place. It’s also a useful tool to have access to when reviewing annotations.
One of the most important parts of taking the time to annotate a book is the ability to then review your annotations. One of the reasons I use iAnnotate is that it provides me a couple of great ways to review my annotations. It contains another sliding panel, on the left side of the app, which contains thumbnail pages of your document, as well as an outline of the document.
It also includes a handy Annotations section which lists all the annotations you make in the document. After you see how it works, you may rethink how you annotate documents to make the sidebar presentation more useful. Unlike with iBooks and the Kindle Reader app, you can add comments to your bookmarks in iAnnotate and easily locate them in the side panel.
iAnnotate can also compile your annotations into an email so you and others can easily review them. This feature alone makes iAnnotate a powerful study tool. You can email or export the entire document with the annotations—flattened and un-modifiable, or send it un-flattened for viewing and editing in desktop PDF readers like Preview or Adobe Reader.
Note: Some PDFs are formatted in a way that do not allow iAnnotate to compile a summary of annotations.
You can have about 8-10 documents, depending on their size, open in iAnnotate at the same time. The Document library allows you to search, copy, rename, delete, and move documents to different folders and documents are viewable via a library in list or icon view.
iAnnotate also allows you to add blank pages to documents, and you can set a temporary back marker to a page so that when you need to navigate to other pages, you simply tap on the marker to get back to where you left off.
Better Than iBooks and Kindle
Though Apple and Amazon are top ebook sellers, their e-reader apps simply don’t compare to iAnnotate. Sure, iBooks and Kindle may have pretty user interfaces, but when it comes to actually using and reviewing the annotations you make in documents, you will find iAnnotate that much more powerful.
Download: iAnnotate for iPad ($9.99)
Let us know what you think of this app or any others like it – have you used iAnnotate? Do you recommend any alternatives? Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.