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?

7 Answers 7


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...

  • 2
    What about auto save in Moutain Lion?
    – Macrod
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 14:03

You may want to have a look at the "PDFs>Extract PDF Annotations" Automator action.

  • 1
    This is useful but I have found that it rarely extracts all annotations reliably.
    – Macrod
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 11:57
  • I have created one but seems does not work. : ( ! ScreenShot
    – XYZ
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 13:28

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.

  • 2
    What if you're offline?
    – Macrod
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 11:59
  • 1
    agreed, quite good, but note limit (50) on number of "free" extractions before you need to upgrade your account
    – malcook
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 22:14

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.

  • Current GoodReader still has "Email summary" which accomplishes this very nicely. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 17:41

I tried Automator, bur it does not seem to be able to extract notes, it sees that there are highlights and lists them, but does not extract their content. I tried Skim, and it only works with some of the highlights, not all, so not good enough unfortunately. I eventually fond an app that works very well and has nice features too, highlights app available on the app store. Unfortunately it's priced at 29.99€ in EU. Too bad Apple didn't build this feature into Preview... If anyone knows how to get Automator to work, or if anything needs to be set up in Preview before attempting to extract highlights, that would be very precious information. (OS X.11.6)


Here's an app that should work. Just a matter of opening it and then either opening a PDF with the file menu or drag-and-dropping a PDF onto the dock icon.

And here's the source code (XCode project).

Also, not even sure if this one works but before knowing about the features in Quartz I made a command line tool.

It's just that the encoding doesn't work yet so some characters don't get processed well (it was good enough in my case).

To make it run, put the binary in a folder, put the PDF there too, navigate to the folder in a Terminal window :

cd folder_name

Then run :

extract_notes my_pdf.pdf > notes.txt

Source code (also an XCode project) here.


Well, you can always hit Cmd Z or Edit > Undo. Same thing.

  • 2
    This somehow doesn't really fit the question but it might just need some additional explanations. Can you please expand your answer a bit?
    – nohillside
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 12:08

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