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I'm looking for an iPad app that I can use for my PDF presentations. The absolute must-have features are:

  1. Good annotation support.

    I'm giving 2hr lectures so I have to be able to write on the presentation in response to the students' questions, or to highlight something that I want the students to take particular note of.

  2. No annoying page transitions.

    Since the presentation is a PDF, incrementing information on a slide is actually handled by having a whole new page which is almost a copy of the previous one. So when changing pages, the students' attention has to be on what just changed on the slide, not on some fancy page turning or sliding feature.

GoodReader has the second feature, but it's annotation support is somewhat limited. In particular, freehand writing is difficult.

There are many PDF annotation apps that have the first, but I've yet to find one that has (almost) no page transitions. I had found eNote Taker which was acceptable (there's a slight blurring of the image on changing, but that's alright), but today it got upgraded to GoodNotes and now page turning is done by sliding (I have emailed GoodNotes to ask them to fix this, but my next lecture is tomorrow morning so even if they agree it's unlikely that it'll be fixed in time).

So my question: is there an iPad annotation tool without annoying page transitions?

Unfortunately, none of the reviews that I've found mention page transitions so I've been reduced to watching interminable youtube videos to try to see the transitions (that's how I found eNote Taker).

(I hope that this is an acceptable question; I've tried to make it non-subjective and with a clear potential answer. However, I'm not a frequent user of this site, so if it is not acceptable, I apologise in advance.)

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

With a little hunting around, watching videos, and emailing developers, I've come up with the following list.

  • iAnnotate. This has good annotation (obviously) and when connected to an external display then the display version has no page transitions (note that there are transitions on the iPad display, though they rate very low on my "irritatometer"). Other pluses: customisable toolbars, and the presentation display doesn't show the toolbars or menus. There is a slight oddity: even though the presentation display doesn't show the toolbars, the size of the document depends a bit on what toolbars are on display on the iPad.

  • 2screens. The focus of this is on the presentation, which it does extremely well. The annotation works in a slightly different way to other apps. Imagine a glass sheet in front of the presentation and that you are writing on that, not on the presentation itself. Once you get used to that (so saving and blanking the annotations when shifting slides, I've been told that the developers are working on making this automatic) then it works well. The presentation part is very nice, with none of the menus displayed on the external dispay.

  • Explain Everything. This is, perhaps, a slightly surprising contender as it is really for recording a short presentation (or other). But it can also be used for the presentation itself and has annotation support. The external display mirrors the iPad display, but there is a "minimal" toolbar which is very discrete and contains all the main presentation controls. The only snag with this one is that there is a strange offset with the PDFs that I use (created by xelatex) which means that the slides get successively more out of sync with the backgrounds. The developers tell me that this depends on the PDF so other methods of PDF-generation may not have this problem (and I'm hopeful that it would be possible to post-process the PDF from xelatex so that it works as well).

  • GoodNotes (formerly eNote Taker). This has a little history! When it was eNote Taker then it worked just fine. In the upgrade to GoodNotes, sliding page transitions were introduced. In the current version, tapping on the screen changes pages without the sliding transition so it is usable again. The display mirrors the iPad display, but the annotation toolbars are very discreet in that they collapse out of the way when not being used.

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Thanks for sharing this. The page transitions are a real irritation. Viewing pdf slideshows is an impossible task. –  Suvam Mukherjee Jul 18 '13 at 14:32
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