iAnnotate PDF for iPad

If you’ve read our iPad Interface and Court Records post, you know that every document our office handles eventually ends up in PDF form. That post generated so much traffic to our site we went over our bandwidth limit for the month twice. We really appreciate all of the responses and encouragement. Based on the iPad court records post, I was contacted by Geoff from Aji, the developers of many great iPhone/iPod/iPad apps. One such app is iAnnotate, and I couldn’t be happier with it. iAnnotate is a PDF reader/editor, better described by Aji:

iAnnotate is both an elegant PDF reader and a powerful annotation tool that finally lets you work with your PDFs. You can open documents from email, sign and send out contracts fast, enter notes for edits, sketch diagrams, copy text, and add highlights or underline with the drag of a finger!

Aji has a great overview with some “how to” material available on Youtube HERE.

I’ve been using iAnnotate for about a week now, and it has improved my iPad workflow. There really is no other app like it anywhere in the app store. While I’m not going to do an intensive review, I am going to show you how I’ve been using iAnnotate in the real world, especially when I really needed it in an important case recently.

Since iTunes now supports two way file transfers, that’s the method I’ve been using to place most of my PDF files in the iAnnotate app. You can also import them from your DropBox, GoodReader, mail, etc…. accounts by the simple “open in” feature. I have not tried Aji’s PDF reader service, so I cannot comment on its functionality, but below is a sample from my DropBox account.

Once opened in iAnnotate, you are ready to edit and mark up your PDF. You can open multiple PDF files and sort through them in convenient tabs that show up across the top of the app itself.  Note the tabs at the top of the app in the screen shots below.  Imported documents show up in your iAnnotate library.

Notice I was reading the “How to become a paperless master” PDF.  Excellent reading if you are interested, written by Ernest Svenson, aka “Ernie the Attorney”.  Check Ernie out HERE and HERE.  His “Paperless Master” document is HERE.

There are plenty of  options present to annotate/mark up your PDF.  The day after Aji sent me the app, I used it in Court in a hearing on a Capital Murder case.  The Edwards case is the pictures is the actual document I used.

I opened it in iAnnotate, quickly used the highlighter option along with the bookmark option and created a concise outline of what I wanted to argue and the points I wanted to make, all organized in bookmark form.  When I was finished, I emailed the PDF to myself and uploaded it to the proper case file, notes and markings intact.

The screen shots below are self explanatory for the most part, so I won’t comment much on them.

Tap the note icon in the toolbar to easily add a note.  Notes also transfer to your final PDF should you chose to use it off the device.

Writing and underlining is easy, and colors are easily changed in the options menu.  See below.

Bookmarks are added by selecting the bookmark icon from one of the toolbars you create.  Bookmarks are then organized in to an easily accessible list.

Sharing your work is easy, you can email it, upload it through iTunes, or even “open in” you PDF viewer of choice on the iPad.  I could not get the annotations I made to show up when opening the PDF in GoodReader, though.

The toolbars are highly customizable, and have a lot of different options, such as location, opacity, etc….

Midway through writing this review, the good folks at Aji updated iAnnotate, and now there is an email icon on the top bar, instead of buried in the menu.  Excellent update, shown in the shot below.

iAnnotate has some really useful features built in, for example, when you email a PDF file, you can choose to send a summary of your annotations with it.  I found this very useful, you get a summary of your main points in the PDF, as well as the ability to copy and paste the text in a different document.

As you can see below, the annotated PDF appears perfectly when opened on your computer.  I could not get the bookmarks I made in iAnnotate to show up in the bookmarks feature of Acrobat, however.

Final Thoughts:

iAnnotate is a must have app if you work with PDF files.  There is no other app that comes close to it in terms of PDF productivity.  I’ve been using it everyday.  The user interface is very easy to use, the menus are intuitive and highly customizable, and it seems very stable.  One feature I would like to see added is a redaction tool for easily removing information from PDF files, but other than that I have no gripes.  If you are looking for a solid way to edit PDF files on your iPad, give it a try.

  1. #1 by Martin Crossman on June 2, 2010 - 10:04 AM

    Great review and I will check out this program.

    I assumed this pdf was OCR for the highlighting to work. Is there a markup tool for PDFs that have not been OCRed.

    Curious about the Summary. Does this get appended to the last page of the annontated pdf?

    When you say that the bookmarks didn’t appear in Acrobat, where you using the full version of Acrobat or the Reader?

    Did the pages have anything to indicate they had been bookmarked or was the only reference to that just in the summary page.

    You mentioned that you then transferred these back to the case file back at the office. Do you use any kind of litigation support/document management system for this or just rely on the folder organization.

    Again great review, I am new to the ipad and am looking to practical uses and applications such as this. Many of my clients have cases with thousands of pdfs and I am sure some fo them will be looking at the ipad to do just what you demonstrated here.

  2. #2 by admin on June 2, 2010 - 10:54 PM

    Martin, you are correct about the OCR. Files that have not been processed can only be edited with the pen tool, the highlighter tool does not work without OCR.

    The summary is not added to the file itself, when you email the file, it appears as text in the email, and the PDF is an attachment. Regarding bookmarks, I’m using the latest version of Acrobat Pro 9, not reader. The pages only show the bookmarks in the iAnnotate app, not in Acrobat.

    We have developed an in-house case management system called eLegal Case Pro. You can see some screenshots here: http://www.wisecwa.com/digitaloffice/?p=449 It is a simple SQL database with an interface built on Microsofts ASP. Works well with the iPad, as anything with a browser can look at case files for a decade now.

  3. #3 by Richard on June 13, 2010 - 6:20 AM

    I emailed an annotated document to myself to view on the iPad. I can’t see the edits within the document. It’s just the original document. Why did this happen?

  4. #4 by howard on June 27, 2010 - 6:59 PM

    iannotate does not let you sign a document and resend it. I have tried to send it to myself and on the ipad it does not show the signature but when I send it to my home computer I see it but when I print it does not show up. If you need this for signing contracts I would look at other programs

  5. #5 by Daniel on June 30, 2010 - 7:43 PM

    Hey folks,

    We’ve launched somewhat of a free version of iAnnotate called iRead. It has shot up to the top 40 overall apps in less than 2 days, and it allows a lot of the features that make iAnnotate great.


    - full-featured PDF reading
    - easy PDF transferring via email and iTunes sync
    - fully customizable toolbars
    - tabbed PDF reading
    - document and full-library search

    So if you were on the fence for iAnnotate, be sure to check iRead out and tell us your thoughts!


    iTunes link:

  6. #6 by Brad on August 7, 2010 - 3:28 AM

    This is all great but you CANNOT EMAIL ANNOTATED DOCUMENTS. It only emails the original document. Your recipient does not see the highlights, signatures, notes etc. on their email. Money wasted for me.

  7. #7 by Eileen on September 1, 2010 - 4:15 PM

    What is the function of drop box and how do you set it up?

  8. #8 by Akin Nakamura on December 27, 2010 - 7:31 PM

    I met a problem in tHe newest version of iAnnotate PDF (Dec.2010).
    The problem is a phenomenon of inescapable stuck from search-tool.
    No tools which is supposed to appear on the screen is existing; I could not escape from this situation even if I turn off the iPad.
    Can I have a rescue advice?

    Thank you.

  9. #9 by heather on June 27, 2011 - 4:28 PM

    In Iannotate does anyone know how to rename a file?

  10. #10 by CT on August 16, 2011 - 1:23 PM

    How to rearrange pages within a pdf doc in iAnnotate?

  11. #11 by Ollie on December 22, 2011 - 7:29 AM

    I’m still not clear on a point.
    Here is my issue.
    I have 170 pdf files on my pc (about 8GB of sapce). They are OCR.
    I have extracted some 1000 subfiles pdf OCR (about 1GB of space) out of the 170 original files. I am a barrister and those are documents relevant to an important trial in front of law court and I need to attend hearings having all that pdf OCR documents with me. This is why I’m turning now to iPad. I need to stress OCR is fundamental for my job to make quick searches (shift-ctrl-F)during hearings.
    At present I am able to have such material on my iPad, but I have no application to search those files as OCR and I use them as images in jpg, which is not what I need. Acrobat Reader was doing the proper job on my pc. Which application should I use on my iPad now to have the same facility (OCR quich search, I mean: shift-ctrl-F)?
    Thanks in advance!

  12. #12 by Ken on December 27, 2011 - 10:37 AM


    I’d look to Evernote. It does OCR search generally, in certain folders, and of specific notes. It also allows you to take notes and will share all of this between separate computers. I’ve seen a number of attorneys use this program and no two use it exactly the same, but everyone seems to find it productive.

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