Non-OCR'd PDF files

Hello, I am totally new to Scrivener. I played around with it for a few days, and I was hooked. I am using it on my HP Pavilion, which has Tiger OSX!

I am doing a dissertation, and I have also been doing some fiction writing. For my research, I have depended on Scientific Software’s Atlas.ti program - it’s a program that lets you ‘code’ data - (“annotate”) - for your research. Usually, you code transcribed interviews, but you can also code voice files, mp3s, images, videos, as well as any text file. It is an amazing tool for qualitative researchers like me. However, it is limited in two important ways: it doesn’t work natively on OSX and it will not recognize PDF files. The latter is a major drawback if you’ve got a million journal articles in PDF, and you want to code them with your other data - memos, scribblings, interviews, pictures, etc. So, then I stumble across Scrivener…

And my question is simple: Can you ‘annotate’ PDF files that are “image” PDFs? Usually, older journal articles will have been scanned, without OCR (optical character recognition), neither have they been typed and converted to PDF format. For that matter, can images in general be annotated?

I am forced to keep my Win XP PC dual boot to XP and OSX, because I need Atlas with all my data, but I’d love to be able to annotate those PDFs…

Any ideas would be welcome, thanks, this is a fabulous product


You can drag PDFs and images into the Research folder of the binder. When you view them, you can use the Notes area of the Inspector to annotate/classify them. If you then do project searches those documents in the binder matching your search will be selected.

If, however, you want to annotate passages of text (or areas of an image) you cannot do so in Scrivener. OS X Preview has a primitive annotation facility for PDFs but that’s about it. Anything more extensive requires Acrobat Professional. The latest version of Acrobat has a huge annotation and comment feature set.

If you search on the forum for PDF & annotation you’ll find many discussions of how to make best use of what’s available.


This is the second claim I’ve heard today that you can run OSX on non-Apple hardware. Is that really possible, or are you blowing smoke up our duffs?

It’s true. I had tried to customize XP to look like OSX in the past. but it was always fake. In lieu of buying one (my present to myself once I finish the diss), I stumbled across a wiki about it. You know, the new macs have intel, so it seemed logical that you could run OSX on a PC.

It is not easy, and it took some time to get all my devices working (some still don’t, like my built in SD card reader). but if you follow the advice here: you can find out all about it.

But that’s another thread, perhaps in the forum.

I include a screenshot of my OSX desktop. I don’t know how to prove it otherwise.

I really want to know if I can annotate imported PDFs and images…


Do you know about DevonThink Pro? It reads PDF files. The older, JSTOR-type images you may only annotate in comment windows, but it has powerful searching and many AI features. It’s exclusively Mac software. I looked at the Atlas.ti site, and it seems that DTP handles most of those data types, if Atlas will export. Many of the Scrivener users also work with DT products, to store research materials.

PS. I liked the screen shot you sent: clearly your use of a kludged-up DOS + OSX reflects “the limits to capital” !! :wink:

PDF files inside Scrivener can be annotated, just not directly. Select the PDF file in the binder and hit control-command-O (View > Open In > External Editor). This will open the PDF file in Preview, where you can edit it.

However, I don’t believe that was really the question - I believe the question was whether image PDF files could be annotated. As for this, I am not sure, because Scrivener doesn’t do any annotation itself - I would suggest that you play with Preview and see what that can do, as that is what you would use to annotate PDF documents in Scrivener.


Hi again

Thanks for the advice…I annotated in Preview, but how do I get those annotations in Scrivener?

Normally you can annotate any text file in Scrivener. The problem is: when I select text in any PDF file that was created in Acrobat (i.e., NOT an image), all of the items in the TEXT menu are grayed out, although I can select the text as if I were going to highlight or annotate. But Scrivener won’t do it. If I IMPORT a Word file, I have my TEXT menu items back.

It’s not really a serious problem, but it might be something for the developers to think about. It would be an amazing capability - to annotate PDFs and image documents…ah, always looking for the perfect application…

Anyway, Bravo on this product, I am very happy with it, it has amazing potential for qualitative researchers like me…


Hi, please read my previous post, which explains this - you cannot annotate PDF files in Scrivener. Instead, you use Open In > External Editor, which will open the PDF file in Preview or Acrobat or whatever, and you use that program to annotate.


I did exactly as you said, and my question is : How do I get my annotations from the external PDF viewer into Scrivener? I saved the file, and opened it again from Scrivener, but Scrivener doesn’t see those annotations. Or does it?

I fear that the PDF feature native in OSX does not support exporting annotations…

Thanks, R

You have to select a different document in the binder and then re-select the PDF document in order to see any changes you have made to it in an external application - I just tried adding a couple of ovals to a PDF via Preview, and it worked fine…

Perhaps one instruction needs to be added: you need to hit save in Preview.

What works for me is: after selecting “Open in External Editor,” and after annotating the PDF in Preview, choose Save. Then, if it was previously selected in the binder in Scrivener, de-select and re-select it. The view in Scrivener will now reflect the newly saved file with the annotations.

I can provide no insight about whether this is possible with Acrobat, however.


Ok! It works! Thanks…I can’t select the annotations or do anything with them, but that’s ok. At least I can mark the PDFs in the ways that I need.

Highlighting FYI: Any highlighting done in Acrobat ALSO shows up in Scrivener! I had one PDF that I had highlighted in Acrobat in XP, and in Scrivener it shows up highlighted as well. I wonder how any annotations I made in XP Acrobat will show up in Scrivener. Will keep you posted.

Thanks again, R

UPDATE: Just a quick update on my progress on this subject. WITHIN Scrivener, I am able to copy the text of my PDF annotations and paste them elsewhere.

So the process is: open the PDF in Preview/External Editor, make annotations with the annotations tool, save, change focus in Scrivener to another document, then return to your PDF, highlight an annotation, copy and paste it somewhere else.

Utility? Well, if you like to read PDFs and mark them up with comments, like I do, you can bring those notes into Scrivener and paste them somewhere useful.

Thanks again for your help, R