Sign up ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am looking for a tabbed PDF reader, preferably with annotation support (highlighting mostly) for Mac OS X. I looked at the Skim FAQ which said that tabs would never come to Skim.

I am currently writing where I need to have multiple PDFs open for reference (at the moment 17). This is a lot of windows which clutters upp my Exposé.

Does anybody know if such a PDF reader exists for Mac OS X?

I have had a look at Adobe Acrobat Reader, Skim,, PDF Pen.

I found Dioretsa which has tabs, but no sadly no annotation.

Update 2015-11-20: Funny how history repeats itself. PDF Expert recently released a Mac version (Readdle's PDF Expert for iOS has been around for some time). The pase years I have been using Preview, but PDF Expert is now my goto PDF reader with tabs and annotation. It's fast as well (which cannot be said about Adobe's PDF products).

Update 2012-05-16: Saving annotations in the PDF itself is also a must. E.g. Skim and Mendeley do not do this. Otherwise, Mendeley would have been a good choice.

share|improve this question
+1 for this request. Perhaps someone could create a new PDF plugin for Chrome/Firefox that has annotation.. any bored developers out there? :) – Dolan Antenucci Jan 22 '13 at 17:38
For what it's worth, I tried emailing the developers of Skim, noting that could be used to add tabs to their project (in their feature list, they said the lack of native support for tabs in OS X/Cocoa is the main roadblock) – Dolan Antenucci Jan 22 '13 at 18:10
One more future option: I emailed FoxIt, and they said they're "working on rolling out Foxit Reader and Foxit PhantomPDF for MacOS in mid 2013" – Dolan Antenucci Jan 22 '13 at 18:41

7 Answers 7

Two years later, I may have found something. There is now an app on the Mac App Store called PDF Reader X. It's free, has tabs and supports annotation!

share|improve this answer

Clearview Reader from Canoe Software looks really promising. I liked their free app, PDFNut, which also supports tabbed browsing, bookmarks, and annotations. Clearview Reader has more features and for the very reasonable price of $7 I'm more than happy to support the developers.

share|improve this answer
Do you know if Clearview Reader saves annotations inside the PDF or in their own database? I read this on their home page: "Revisions will be saved in library database automatically, not on the original book files, so "save changes" prompt dialog won't appear in your smooth reading. Line, arrow, rectangle, ellipse, highlight, strike, underline, free text, comments - for PDF annotations;" – fnurl Feb 1 '13 at 21:44
I just downloaded the trial and tested, and unfortunately (for me at least), annotations are not saved to the PDF and are are not viewable in other PDF readers. This is too bad since I liked the tabs and library. By not saving annotations to the original, things like viewing annotations made on an iPad on the Mac and vice versa is not possible. – fnurl Feb 1 '13 at 21:53
This question is fairly old, but personally, I'm still struggling with exactly the same thing, and have had difficulty finding any good solution on a Mac. Anyway, I just tried Clearview, and it seems that actually, one can activate an option in preferences so that annotations are saved directly in the pdf files (and therefore viewable in other applications). Possibly this feature was added since the abovecomments by fnurl. Anyway I would love to have other opinions, but as far as I can tell, this in fact does make Clearview reader the (unique?) app satisfying the OP's criteria. – Sam Lewallen Jun 30 at 4:58
I still find it hard to believe that there are so few options for could PDF viewers / annotators, but it simply seems to be the case... – Sam Lewallen Jun 30 at 4:59

Admittedly, this isn't quite ideal, but… has a kind of tab-like behavior in the sidebar when you open multiple PDFs simultaneously, either by dragging them all to to the icon at once, opening multiple files using shift in the open dialog, or by dragging additional PDFs into the sidebar of an already open document.

Once opened this way, you can switch between documents with option-page up/down, which maintains your position in each document.

share|improve this answer

It's certainly not the primary function of the program, but what about Safari? It displays and renders PDFs. It doesn't handle annotations natively, but there are Safari extensions like Coda Notes that add the ability to annotate.

Alternately, your web browser of choice could be used similarly.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the input! However, Coda Notes cannot annotate and save the annotations to the PDF. – fnurl Oct 17 '11 at 18:10
'Doh! Sorry. I'm looking to see if there's another extension that might serve the purpose you want. – Daniel Oct 17 '11 at 19:01

You should look at 'Mendeley' which is primarily a Dropbox for the scientific Community. The Mendeley Desktop Application has an integrated PDF-Viewer which supports PDF-Display in Tabs, Text-Highlites and Notes. In the Screenshot you see two PDF's open in the Tabs and i have highlighted some Text at random.

The Desktop Software is free and you get 500 MB Space for sharing, like Dropbox you can expand that space with a premium (paid) Account.

Screenshot showin PDFs in Tabs and some random Text highlighted

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the suggestion. I recently started using Mendeley, but do not use it to annotate PDFs as Mendeley for synchronization reasons does not store annotations in the PDF, but rather in a separate database. This makes annotations un-portable. The same goes for for Skim sadly. – fnurl Mar 23 '12 at 8:10
ok - you should update your list of requirements with this feature. – J.C. Mar 24 '12 at 8:23

Mac's own Preview actually works really well when working with multiple documents. I would even say that it's better than the tabbed approach (I tried both MightPDF and PDFNut) as I would often work with 15 or so PDFs all opened, resulting in tabs that no longer display any coherent information. The thumbnail on the side approach of Preview allows me to scroll through and easily locate the document I want.

Also, any annotations made will stick if you go to the print menu then on the bottom left corner, change to "Save as PDF…"

share|improve this answer

Check out Scrivener, the writing program. It doesn't use a "tab" metaphor, but it supports PDFs and several other document formats, and is quite good at displaying lots of documents and windows of information simultaneously and enabling you to switch around between them and reorder them while you are writing. It uses its own metaphors for organizing documents, patterned after flash cards and cork boards. You should try it out.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.