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I usually spend around 3 or 4 hours a day working with and annotating PDFs. I've always used Preview, but there's a few things that bother me about it. Mainly the large icons used when you place notes, which can get in the way in tightly formatted documents.

Is there an alterate PDF reader that is any better for annotating documents?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Skim is a pdf reader specialy designed to annotate pdf.

Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X. It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file. Stop printing and start skimming. Explore the links to the left to investigate Skim and consider helping out with the project.


  • Viewing PDFs
  • Adding and editing notes
  • Highlighting important text, including one-swipe highlight modes
  • Making "snapshots" for easy reference
  • Navigation using table of contents or thumbnails, with visual history
  • View all your notes and highlights
  • Convenient reading in full screen
  • Giving powerful presentations, with built-in transitions
  • Handy preview of internal links
  • Focus using a reading bar
  • Magnification tool
  • Smart cropping tools
  • Extensive AppleScript support
  • Bookmarks
  • Saving passwords in Keychain
  • Export notes as text
  • Automatic download of remote PDFs
  • Support for Apple Remote Control
  • Interaction with LaTeX, SyncTeX, and PDFSync
  • Integration with BibDesk and other third party applications
  • Spotlight support
  • Highly customizable
  • And much more...
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Check out Skim and I love it. Thanks! – Leda Feb 3 '11 at 16:46

While not meant primarily for your use case, I found Mendeley Desktop to be quite adept at highlighting and annotating.

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Mendely doens't use standard PDF annotation. What you annotate in mendeley has not readable by other PDF reader. It can be a problem. – gagarine Apr 14 at 16:32

I agree with the previous answer ... so far I think skim is the best. Yet, I had some issues that it would not display the annotations on every platform. I like to use Adobe Illustrator for annotating. Yet, you will need a lot of processing power + it's not really cheap (if you just want to use it for annotating, don't bother buying it).

There's also (opensource, yet ugly java ui)

Overview about note-taking software for different platforms:

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I also had some issues with the annotations portability, but not only with skim. For example, annotations created by Preview can't be viewed by okular on linux. – Nicolas NOEL Feb 3 '11 at 14:50

To be honest if you are spending that amount of time a day with PDFs its worth buying Acrobat Pro. Its not cheap but nothing else comes close in terms of its feature set. I have found version 10 to be really stable too.

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There are plenty of good PDF readers on Mac, including: Formulate Pro,

PDFPen and PDFPen Pro (a little bit expensive but really good software)

PDF Checkpoint that I like very much which allows you to automate your workflow.

You should try their free version to see which one suits your needs ;)

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