Skim - free pdf-reader and notetaker

Just discovered this via Gus Mueller’s blog. Skim is an open-source application by the creators of bibdesk, that allows for pdf-reading and manipulating. It reminds me of Adobe’s Acrobat and is definitely a step up from Preview.

And definitely more stable than Papers, which I don’t know what to make of yet.

I have downloaded and tried it too. It looks very young on its development still… it crashes a lot, even if not as much as Papers.

I love the look of Papers (it has a killer UI!) and I like the capabilities of Skim. They are, for sure, two app that I’ll keep my eyes on.

What would be cool?! A mixture of both with stability. :slight_smile: Yeah, yeah… I can dream, right?

– MJ

EDIT: Skim’s developer blog is here.

I believe Skim would be the perfect companion to Scrivener. It is free, light-weight and offers features that are very useful to writers (especially academic writers), such as highlighting. Moreover, it’s a Cocoa application! It would be awesome if Scrivener would allow to use Skim instead of Preview for PDFs. Also, I’m pretty sure that Skim will or already does make use of the PDFkit in Leopard, so it will turn out as stable as Preview.

Scrivener just uses the system’s file association system for this. If you have PDFs set up to open in Skim by default, then you should be good to go. Otherwise, you should set them up using Get Info before you drop them into Scrivener. You can do it afterwards, but it is easier unless you are comfortable mucking around in Bundles.

I had a look at Skim … I liked the idea of being able to annotate and circle parts of a text, but I hit a big problem. When you highlight text in Skim, for instance to do copy/paste, it selects the whole width of a page. You can’t, for instance, highlight a single paragraph in a multi-column page … you get the same lines in all columns, which is a serious defect.
I shall see about sending in a bug report.


You should probably send the bug report to Apple. Skim is using the Apple PDF renderer, I think. You get the same issue in Preview.


That’s really endemic to the PDF format. PDF stores where the characters are on the page; it has no understanding of columns or paragraphs. That’s why it’s so hard for any application, even Adobe’s, to reliably parse or reformat PDF text.

I don’t have that problem with Adobe Reader 8 … It highlights, and therefore copies, blocks from one column of a multi-column document without problem. I do have the full Adobe Acrobat Pro 6 from my CS suite, but I’m not sure I can justify the cost of upgrading to CS3 or the upgrade fee to the full Acrobat 8 to allow adding notes.


To select text in a multi-column PDF, hold down “option.” then select. It works the same in Skim as in Preview.

Cheers for that, namesake 8)

You are so right, it does, as does Preview, and they both exhibit the same weird behaviour … When you copy and paste, Upper-case 'T’s and 'f’s followed by ‘i’ or ‘l’ are turned into paragraph marks. Bizarre!

Seems to me the difference between Skim and Preview is down to the UI … the unified look or not, the separate “notes” menu or not … I think I prefer the look of Skim, but it’s no big deal.


You should probably let the Skim-people know about this bug as well. Incidentally, RCDefaultApp, by Rubycode, is a great way to set default behaviours for extensions.