Ability to mark up imported PDFs

The ability to highlight & otherwise annotate PDFs that have been imported into a Scrivener project is unfathomably important. It is a critical research process, and would alleviate the need to use a third-party application for the purpose.

This has been asked several times. Scrivener cannot - ever - be a full PDF editor, in the same way as it cannot be an image editor, HTML editor or QuickTime editor. Such files are imported into Scrivener for reference only. If I started adding PDF editing abilities to Scrivener, I would be going down a slippery path that led away from development on the core text features.

However, it is already very easy to annotate a PDF via Scrivener:

  1. Ctrl-click on the PDF in the binder and select Open > In External Editor. This will open your PDF in Preview.
  2. Annotate in Preview.
  3. Save the PDF in Preview - this will automatically save it back into your Scrivener project.
  4. Back in Scrivener, click on another document and then back on the PDF, so that it gets refreshed - your PDF is now annotated. :slight_smile:

Hope that helps.
All the best,

P.S. AmberV - if you get time, this is definitely one that would be good to add to the FAQ. Thanks!

That’s a really nice workaround, thanks very much!


I know pdf annotation has been requested a number of times, but I’d like to ask for a slightly different form of annotation. I picked this thread because it seems the cleanest and most focused.

I have recently been using a tablet which has given me a slightly different perspective on annotation. Instead of being forced to annotate in text boxes and drag circles around selections with the mouse I’d like to be able to write on the pdfs. There’s one little open source program I’ve found that will do this called FormulatePro (on Google Code), but it’s rather a moot point until Apple releases a tablet.

What is relevant that I would like to see is the ability to annotate pdfs while keeping the pdf pristine, which the programs on Windows that tablets often use for pdf annotation do, but FormulatePro will not do. I know Skim sort of does this, but really it’s just cluttering the pdf with stuff that’s only visible in Skim. Scrivener seems like the perfect program to do this because I would use the ability in it and it already has the package file format that would support such annotations.

My idea is that instead of doing any editing of the pdfs there would essentially be a glass pane over the top that could be typed, written, or drawn on freely that would be saved as another file and associated with the pdf like how the synopsis and notes are associated. This would allow annotation of any filetype, not just pdfs. You could annotate images, which other people have asked for. You could even annotate text files. There could be a normal text tool for selecting text (or editing in text files) and an annotation tool that would allow you to click anywhere and add text comments (basically text boxes) or, when the Apple gods finally grant us a tablet, and hand write comments on.

I’m not sure what file format you’d use for the overlay. Maybe svg since it would allow text boxes to be edited again after saving and would also support handwritten (or mouse drawn) lines since it’s vector graphics, though it is notoriously slow.

I realise that not only are features closed and this would probably be too large a feature anyway. Still, it’s something I’d really love to have so I thought I’d mention it anyway.

All the best.

P.S. I should probably but these in the bug section instead, but I’ll mention them now since I’m here. The Get Info window in the Finder does not display a version number like a lot of programs do. Also, the trial period counts the number of times you’ve opened Scrivener, not days. I rarely shut my computer down and I’ve just been keeping Scrivener open too. I had it running for about two weeks and the next time I opened it I was down to 28 days left of my trial period.

Hi Graham,

Thanks for your suggestion. Unfortunately, as you note, such a feature would actually be a massive undertaking from a coding perspective. It would involve creating a whole new view that would somehow overlay other views (and the view system in Cocoa doesn’t really allow for overlay views very easily anyway), not to mention learning how to support a tablet, figuring out the drawing code and features and so forth… It would practically involve implementing a separate drawing program on to of Scrivener. So, it’s not a bad idea, but it’s not something I can see making it into the program, I’m afraid.

As for the bugs… The “Get Info” thing is known and is actually fixed in the public beta of 1.12 (see the Beta Testing forum). It’s actually a stupid Apple issue where you need to store the version number in two places, except that with recent versions of Xcode etc only one is done for you by default so you have to add the other to the XML yourself (which I have now done and must now remember to update every time I release a new version…). The trial version is none-consecutive, so I am aware that you can, if you want, get it to last a lot longer than 30 days. The idea is to give users a trial that is sufficient for them to make up their minds even if they forget about the app and then come back to it later. I may tighten this up, though.

Thanks again and all the best,

Thanks anyway. Great program, I have to say. Ideally Apple itself will add some amount of handwritten annotation support to PDFKit if it ever releases a tablet, but I expect it would still be saved into the pdf. Ah well.


Graham - I’m not sure if this is useful at all; it’s a nice little application which I sometimes use to mark up pdf’s using my little desktop graphics tablet (as opposed a tablet computer).

PDFpenPro smileonmymac.com/PDFpen/index.html

As you suspected it saves the markings into the pdf, but I’m fairly sure you have the option to copy and paste everything you’ve scrawled inbetween documents, so you could in theory have a blank pdf open at all times, then paste things into it and do a “save as”.

Not quite what you’re after, but perhaps not a bad workaround.


I hope you’ll still keep the trial version as non-consecutive. I’ve had it on my desktop since early December, yet I’ve been able to use it for only five or six days. It’s been spread out enough that I review the tutorial each time I open Scrivener. I’ve really felt its been a no-pressure trial that has allowed me to work at my own pace in evaluating the program. Very nice.


Oh yes, it will stay non-consecutive. I just meant that right now it only checks when the app is opened, so if you left it open for a week at a time, you would get 30 non-consecutive weeks out of it. I may make it check on exit, too… But I dunno. If people are going to buy they will buy anyway, I guess.