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?

9 Answers 9


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...

PDF Expert is hands down the best pdf editor made. Better than Acrobat.

  • 1
    Welcome to Ask Different! We're trying to find the best answers and those answers will provide info as to why they're the best. Explain why you think the software you recommended is better than others out there. Providing links can also help the OP, and others, find the software and evaluate it themselves. See How to Answer on how to provide a quality answer.
    – fsb
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 23:36
  • And it costs 80$ f.f.s
    – user128787
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 15:18
  • Too hard to find how much it costs. They wrote "free download" but forgot to say how much it costs. Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 21:58

PDF Studio Viewer is a free PDF Reader for macOS that can annotate PDF documents with text and graphical comments including text highlights and markup, shape annotations, text box, typewriter, callout, etc. It can also fill interactive forms.

All annotations are compliant with PDF specs and Adobe products and can be viewed by other readers on all platforms.


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

  • 6
    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
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 16:32
  • Mendeley also makes it very hard to draw free-hand on PDFs. This is especially important for diagrams in my field. Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 15:05

There are plenty of good PDF readers on Mac, including: Formulate Pro, http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/19911/formulatepro

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 ;)


I too can share my best PDF experience with PDF Expert by readdle.Very advanced PDF editor/viewer,and also in some very large files where Preview would crash,it didn't.Absolutely worth the money.


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 http://jarnal.wikispaces.com/ (opensource, yet ugly java ui)

Overview about note-taking software for different platforms:


  • 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. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 14:50

https://getpolarized.io/ is another mediocre, Electron (and web) solution. It is also always-online and has a free plan with 1 GB of storage. It has some integration with Anki.


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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