Use Foxit Reader to Annotate PDFs

PDF IconAdobe’s PDF file format has become fairly ubiquitous. Most of the scholarly journals and databases provide download access in PDF format. And when they are available in full text, books from Google Books can also be downloaded as PDFs. All this means that there’s quite a bit of reading to be done in PDF format. Unfortunately Adobe has priced Acrobat, the full suite of editing and creating tools for PDF files, well beyond the reach of the average graduate student. Of course, Adobe has always made Acrobat Reader available to the public as a free download. And in recent years a bevy of third party programs have made it possible to view and even create your own PDF files with very little fuss. The newest versions of Microsoft Office even allow users to save files directly to PDF format.

Foxit Reader's Comments Menu

While reading PDFs and saving PDF files has never really been easier, very few of these programs allow the user to make markups or annotations to PDF files for which you are not the original author. Adobe recently added the ability to add sticky notes and highlights to PDF files using Reader. Fortunately one of the free third-party PDF readers out there has even more features. With Foxit Reader you can add notes, draw lines boxes and other shapes, type text onto the file, and add your own bookmarks.

Here’s the workflow I follow for reading this type of file. I’m not generally one to write copious notes and other marginalia alongside the text of books are articles I read. Unless I’m truly struck by a flash of cognitive inspiration, I limit my annotations to lines drawn alongside valuable paragraphs and the occasional star next to a particularly juicy tidbit. To accomplish this with Foxit Reader, I typically read through a PDF while using the draw line tool to add simple lines along the side of the text. If I need to stop reading and close the file before I’ve finished reading it, I’ll place a bookmark where I left off so that I can easily return to that page. Once I’ve finished, I’ll go through the document again stopping where I’ve left these marks and adding notes about them to my Zotero database. In the screen grab below I’ve added a line along one paragraph and placed a comment alongside another.

Foxit Reader screengrab

Click the image above to see the full size screenshot.

If you’ve been frustrated by the “read only” nature of Acrobat Reader, or if, heaven forbid, you’ve been printing an old growth forest’s worth of paper in order to read your downloaded books and articles, Foxit Reader might be the tool for you. This advice also applies to those of you who’ve been ruining your eyes by printing journal articles out with four pages shown on each side of the paper. Embrace the digital revolution; read and annotate on your screen; save even more trees.

Foxit Reader is available for PC, and Linux. For you Mac users, it looks as if Preview, a PDF and image viewer bundled into OS X, provides a similar collection of handy features.

If you’ve developed your own methods for annotating PDFs, let us all know about them in the comments.

8 responses to “Use Foxit Reader to Annotate PDFs

  1. That’s right, on a Mac, the built-in Preview app has these features. Open a PDF in Preview, then click the Annotate button. A toolbar pops up along the bottom of the window, and you now have the ability to draw arrows, boxes, and circles on the document, you can add highlighting, strikethrough, and underline to any text, and you can add comments (which appear in the sidebar) to any text.

  2. Pingback: Use Your Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera as Document Scanner | DIY Ivory Tower

  3. This is interesting. I use Adobe Acrobat to Reader-enable documents so that the end user (my school students) can add comments, highlight, and save data in form fields. Adobe does price Acrobat competitively for schools use…but it isn’t free. With one copy of Acrobat, however, I can make endless copies of accessible documents: especially useful for disabled users due to features such as the built-in ReadOutLoud. Someone asked me about FoxIT Reader as a free alternative. I will check it out now I know it can do some of the same things.

  4. “Foxit Reader is available for PC, and Linux.”

    Yes, but the Linux version is very basic and lacks the annotation functionality.

  5. Pingback: PDF Tools & Tricks #1: Annotating & Notetaking « UT Health Science Center Library

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