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How to Take Notes on PDF

May 3 2024

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Take notes directly on a PDF to enhance your PDF research, class work, or study sessions. Our guide shows you how to use Xodo’s free Annotator tool to digitally take notes online and on your mobile device.

Being able to take notes on a PDF is a skill that every student, professor, or lifelong learner should know.

Knowing how to effectively mark up PDF pages can make all the difference in your study or work routine.

From highlighting key points to adding your own comments, you can save on the loose-leaf notes and the stress of deciphering illegible writing.

And we’ll how you how. We'll explore how to:

So let’s take a look at how to add notes directly onto your PDF!

Benefits of taking notes on PDF

First, there's the most obvious question: why take notes on a PDF at all when it isn't meant to be edited?

If you have syllabi, excerpts, or studies in the PDF format, working with the document directly provides you with several advantages. Think of the benefits. 

You can stay digitally organized and efficient, instantly engage and interact with the content, and PDFs can be easily transferred between devices, making it convenient for studying on-the-go.

Keeping your study habits digital can go a long way to help your study sessions run smoothly!

The best way to take notes on PDF documents? Xodo’s PDF Annotator tool.

How to take notes on a PDF online

Here’s how to use Xodo to add notes to PDF pages:

1. Upload your PDF to Xodo’s free PDF Annotator tool.

2. Use any of Xodo’s annotating tools by selecting them from the toolbar. Then click and drag over the text you wish to annotate or click on the page where you want to insert an annotation.

Taking notes on PDF

3. Once you’re done annotating your PDF document, click on Download or save your annotated PDF to Xodo Drive or Google Drive.

Xodo’s PDF Annotator tool is flexible enough to cater to the most common note-taking needs you may have. We take a closer look below.

Add text on your PDF

Click on any of the Text tools (represented by a “T” icon) and click on the page where you want to write on the PDF or add text. You can then type in your text.

Adding text notes to PDF

You’ll have the following options:

  • Free Text: The option lets you type anywhere on the page to quickly add note text. You can customize the font, alignment, font colour, and more. 
  • Insert Text: You can easily insert text to make notes to yourself about specific lines. Click and drag over the text to use as a reference point. Then type in your notes in the Comments panel.
  • Replace Text: Use this option to strike through text and then insert your own notes as a Comment. A perfect option for rephrasing complex sentences in your own words.

Add an underline, squiggly line, strikethrough, or rectangle

You can add regular or squiggly underlines, strikethroughs, and even rectangles to the PDF text as you read, study, or review. With them, you can mark text you want to delete, go back to, or address later.

Simply click on the markup PDF tool you wish to use and then click and drag over the text you wish to underline, strikethrough, or draw around.

You can also attach any notes to your markups by adding them as a comment in the side panel, if needed.

Adding markup to PDF text

Add PDF sticky notes

It's possible to even add a note to your PDF. Click on the Note tool and then click on the page where you want to place it. Add your text to it by typing it into the field in the side panel. Then click on Save.

Add notes to PDF

Attach comments to PDF markup

As you have seen, you can add comments to any markup note you add to the page right within the Comments side panel.

With each comment, you can take things a step further and change or update the status on them as needed, and even edit or delete them.

Customize note comments on PDF

This can come in handy if you’re sifting through your different points to include in a paper, are collaborating and sharing notes with someone else, or need to check off where you left off.

Highlight PDF text

One last tool to help you take notes on PDF documents is the Highlight tool – a staple when it comes to studying and emphasizing relevant or important concepts. 

To start highlighting, choose either the regular Highlight tool or the Free Hand Highlight tool. Set your highlighter colour, stroke width, and opacity. Then click and drag over the text you want to highlight.

Highlighting PDF text

Expert Tip #1: If you usually like to use different highlighters on paper, you can create up to 4 customized presets to instantly switch between different coloured highlighters as you go.

Expert Tip #2: Got a scanned PDF? The Freehand tool can highlight your PDF text even though it has no digitally detectable text. 

How to add notes to PDF on mobile devices

The best part is that if you use Xodo, you can take notes on your PDF anywhere, anytime. Xodo is cross-platform and is available as an iOS app and Android app.

The steps below are for Android, but the steps are similar for iPhone, so you can follow along on your Apple devices, as well, once you’ve installed it. Here’s how:

1. Tap on the Xodo icon to open the app.

2. Locate and tap on the PDF you wish to open. If you don’t see your file, tap on the plus button and then on Open file. You’ll get a list of folders from which to open your PDF.

3. When your PDF is opened, tap on the drop-down menu at the top and select Annotate.

4. Use any of the Annotation tools available. You’ll have several tools to take notes on your PDF:

  • Add Text
  • Free Hand tool
  • Underline, strikethrough, squiggly underline
  • Sticky Note
  • Callout Tool
  • Text Highlight
  • Free Hand Highlight

You’ll also have the SmartPen that automatically switches between a pen and highlighter tool. The tool acts as a pen when writing on blank space, and as a highlighter when writing on text.

5. To add text notes to your annotations, long tap on the annotation, and select the note icon from the context hover menu. Then type in your text on the blank note that appears.

To view those notes, tap on the eyeglasses icon at the bottom of the screen. Tap on Note from the list of options to view it. Tap on Close when you’re done.

To get back into annotation mode, tap on the eyeglasses icon to deactivate view mode, and select Annotate from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

Want to find an annotation in the PDF? Tap on the bullet list icon at the bottom and go to the Comments tab. Tap on any annotation to go it.

6. Once you're done, the quickest way to save your changes is to tap on the back button in the upper left. Your PDF will be saved.

No PDF annotation software is needed to accomplish the above – simply take notes on your PDF both online and on your mobile device!

Boost your note-taking skills and engage with PDFs

Taking notes on PDFs isn’t as hard as it seems. You've learned to annotate, highlight, and jot down insights directly onto your PDF documents with ease.

Need to dissect a PDF handout? Analyze PDF journal articles? Make your note-taking routine a smooth one with Xodo.

With more than 30 tools including a PDF AI summarizer and PDF text editor, you can boost your note-taking skills and engage with your PDFs like a pro.

Explore All 30+ Xodo Tools
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Reena Cruz

PDF Productivity Expert

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