What iPad PDF reader can I use to highlight text? I don't really care about annotations, saving, or transferring. It just helps me read better if I can highlight things.

It does not look like I can do anything other than bookmark pages with iBooks.

4 Answers 4


It depends slightly on what you mean by "highlighting text". The PDF specification allows for highlighted text and some apps, such as GoodReader, do their highlighting by taking advantage of this. Other apps, such as iAnnotate and GoodNotes, work in a slightly different way. They consider the PDF as a background and then draw on top of it. If you draw with slightly transparent ink then you can create the effect of a highlighter pen. These two techniques are different:

  • Proper highlighting. Main characteristics: it follows the text precisely and it goes under the text. The latter is a definite advantage, but the former can be irritating: if you have, for example, maths where the characters go above and below the line then the highlighting goes up and down as well.

  • Overlaid highlighting. Main characteristics: it is not constrained to follow the text and it goes over the text. This means that it is much more like a real highlighter pen on paper and so you can highlight absolutely anything on the page.

I use GoodReader, iAnnotate, and GoodNotes and like them all. GoodReader does "proper" highlighting whilst the other two do the "overlay" type (GoodReader can do overlayed highlighting if you choose the pen correctly). I find the overlay type fits better with my reading (but I am a mathematician), but GoodReader has various other benefits that make it the better choice for reading PDFs for me.

(I often have GoodReader and GoodNotes open as "adjacent" apps so that I can flip between reading a PDF and writing my ideas.)

  • iAnnotate is expensive but has good features. have not tried GoodReader yet. thanks.
    – cwd
    Jul 5, 2012 at 18:03

I use GoodReader for this. It can do highlighting, different kinds of underlining, annotating and save annotated copies to preserve your originals.

It's a great general purpose file management and viewing app as well. Sort of like a "Preview.app" for iOS. Costs $5 in the App Store. Well worth it IMHO.

I've heard that iAnnotate is far superior at annotating tasks, hence the name, but it's $10. I already own GoodReader, and it fulfills my needs, so can't see a reason to spend $10 more just to markup PDFs.

Hope that helped.

  • I second Goodreader. It's a wonderful app that keeps getting better.
    – C. B.
    Nov 24, 2011 at 2:47

I use Easy Annotate, which also enable highlighting text, as well as underlining, drawing, etc on PDFs. It even allows editing two PDFs side-by-side.

Disclaimer: I developed Easy Annotate myself, as there was no app that fulfilled our needs.


I use writepdf, which allows you to highlight text and I find it fairly easy to use. It's an app that isn't shouted about as much as it should be! I have tried various other apps that claim to do the same but as I said for usability it is easy and simple to use, when I downloaded it there wasn't anything fussy and I was opening, editing and saving PDFs quickly. I love the search function which comes up with a list of clickable links also. It wasn't too expensive and just for those options alone it's worth the money. I had one query and customer support dealt with it within 10 mins and I was ready to go. Like I said, worth every penny.

  • Thanks for your answer, Marin! Can you please add a link to the software you mention in your answer? It is always helpful to add a link to help the OP to find the right software. Thank you.
    – daviesgeek
    Oct 14, 2012 at 23:37

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