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I use Preview on OS X and GoodReader on the iPad for reading and annotating pdfs. GoodReader allows me to 'view summary' which is a plain text list of all highlighted sections and comments added to the pdf.

Preview allows you to view annotations in a sidebar but I can't find a way to export them. I really want to create a .txt file of just the pdf's annotations.

Does anyone know of a way of doing this, either with Preview or another app whose annotations can be viewed on GoodReader and vice versa?

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5 Answers

I'll second that answer. I'm doing the same with PDF Expert instead of GoodReader. It is really important that you do the conversion in Skim on a COPY of the original PDF, as otherwise the PDF expert (or GoodReader, I assume) will lose the annotations, once converted (e.g., if you have your PDFs in Dropbox, which you then open either on the iPad or Mac). There is a slightly more elegant solution though. It's trivial but it avoids making a copy of the PDF:

Open the annotated PDF in Skim, convert to Skim notes, export notes to text or RTF, an then close Skim without saving. Your original PDF with notes will stay unconverted (and thus still annotated for GoodReader), but you will have your notes and highlights exported and saved.

As I said, trivial...

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What about auto save in Moutain Lion? –  DrGuyBH Mar 25 '13 at 14:03
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You may want to have a look at the "PDFs>Extract PDF Annotations" Automator action.

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This is useful but I have found that it rarely extracts all annotations reliably. –  DrGuyBH Oct 28 '13 at 11:57
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As a workaround, I've found this:

Annotate with Preview or GoodReader. On the iPad, GoodReader can extract the text of annotations, when you select 'view summary'. This summary can be saved as a txt file.

[Update: GoodReader seems to have removed 'view summary' in .txt format for some unfathomable reason. A workaround (at least for me) is to use the free service, Send to DropBox. You simply select 'email summary', and the annotations appear in a email message. Send this to your Send to DropBox mail address, and you have a .txt file with your annotations. In may ways, if you use DropBox, this is easier because it cuts out the step of uploading the .txt]

On OS X, I've downloaded Skim. I can open an copy of a pdf annotated in Preview or GoodReader, then convert the annotations to .skim format by selecting file>convert notes. Having done this, I can select file>export and there's an option to export notes as a txt file.

If anyone can come up with a more elegant solution, I'd be very interested to hear it.

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Current GoodReader still has "Email summary" which accomplishes this very nicely. –  Ahmed Fasih Mar 24 at 17:41
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There is a really simple yet robust online tool for extracting highlights and notes from your PDF files available at: sumnotes.

Not only does it support various advanced features like selective extraction or predictive extraction, it also allows you to save extracted highlights into TXT or DOC files. It supports all browsers and operating systems and does not need any installation. It's free, too.

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What if you're offline? –  DrGuyBH Oct 28 '13 at 11:59
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Well, you can always hit Cmd Z or Edit > Undo. Same thing.

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This somehow doesn't really fit the question but it might just need some additional explanations. Can you please expand your answer a bit? –  patrix Mar 27 '13 at 12:08
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