Tools for Annotating Your PDFs!

Welcome to the new year! An important part of “doing research” is reading the literature to learn what others in the field have already done. It’s easy to read the paper and then forget what you’ve just read. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take notes in (aka annotate) your PDFs? Well, you can! Here are a few options (platform independent):

Adobe Reader X or XI

With the latest versions of Adobe Reader, you can highlight text and add virtual sticky notes to the PDF. This is especially useful with PDFs that are downloaded from databases or produced by LaTeX. The latest version has expanded annotation capabilities: “Reader XI comes with a full set of commenting tools. So you can add sticky notes, highlight text, and use lines, shapes, stamps, and a typewriter tool to place comments anywhere on your PDF document.”


If you are also looking for a reference manager, Mendeley is a great option. It allows you to export bibliographies/reference lists, organize your PDFs/citations and share your notes, papers, and annotations! You can add sticky notes and highlight text directly in the PDF. This here is a good comparison chart of common reference managers.


From their website: “nb is an annotation taking tool developed by the Haystack Group at CSAIL. Students and Faculty can use nb to annotate arbitrary PDF files online, in a collaborative fashion.” This video gives a great introduction to using nb:

Thanks to Adrienne Gauthier (Instructional Designer in Educational Technologies) for these suggestions!

Have one that you like? Leave us a comment!

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