PDF Annotation Applications for Android

annotation in Adobe Acrobat on Android

Introduction

This document provides a comparison between several PDF annotation tools

available on Android devices (with the Nexus 7 being the test device). Androids have a large selection of similar apps and those included in this document provide important key features at various price points.

The applications covered in this document are:

Comparison Table

 Features Adobe Reader ezPDF Reader Pro Foxit PDF iAnnotate qPDF Notes RepliGo Reader
Custom bookmarks N Y Y Y N N
Customisable tool UI N Y N N Y N
Document search Y Y Y Y Y Y
Freehand draw Y Y Y Y Y Y
Freehand highlight (semi-opaque drawing) N N Y N Y N
Highlight text Y Y Y Y Y Y
Insert shapes (e.g. Box, circle, line arrow) N Y N N Y Y
Notes Y Y Y Y Y Y
Send to/Open in/Share function Y Y Y N Y Y
Type text/Text box Y Y N N Y Y
Underline/Strike-through Y Y N Y Y Y
Voice reading N Y N N N Y

Summary

Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader is a free product mainly used for PDF viewing. However, it has some very basic annotation functionality built it. This functionality is limited to basic drawing, highlighting and adding notes/text. This app offers very little and is best used as a cheap solution for adding a few basic notes to documents as you read.

Pros

  • Light weight and simple

Cons

  • No advanced features

ezPDF Reader Pro Summary

ezPDF Reader has a full suite of annotation tools as well as a large array of viewing/navigation tools and extra features. This is one of the more feature-filled annotation apps available on Android.

The annotation tools are comprehensive and the option is available to show just the tools you use the most. Most tools have a basic quick-select version and a version which allows you to select tool attributes (such as colour, opacity, etc.).

Custom bookmarks can easily be placed and search tools are comprehensive. There are also several tools to assist in viewing/reading documents, including voice reading (aka text-to-speech).

Pros

  • Fully featured annotation suit-
  • Large array of viewing/navigation tools

Cons

  • Small interface for a small screen
  • Moderate learning curve to get full use out of all tool

Foxit PDF Summary

Foxit PDF is a popular alternative to Adobe Reader. Similar to Adobe Reader, Foxit’s main

purpose is for viewing PDF documents with the added utility of basic annotation functions. Also similar to Adobe Reader is that annotation features are very limited.

Foxit’s annotation tools are limited to freehand drawing, highlighting and placing notes. Custom bookmarks can be added and the search functions allow you to search bookmarks, outlines (contents items) and keywords. However, this ends the feature list of this product.

Pros

  • Light weight and simple

Cons

  • No advanced features

iAnnotate PDF

iAnnotate is a cut-down version of its iPad counterpart. Where the iPad version is a fully

featured, customisable annotation suite, the Android version is designed for basic annotation.

Annotation tools are limited to freehand drawing, adding notes and highlight/underline/strikethrough text. Custom bookmarks can be added. Many of the extra features are focused on document navigation.

iAnnotate uses minimal screen real estate and is very easy to use. Otherwise functionality is similar to Adobe Reader and Foxit PDF.

Pros

  • Light weight and simple

Cons

  • No advanced features

qPDF Notes Summary

qPDF Notes is not heavy on features, but it has all the common annotation and drawing tools found in any annotation app. If your requirement is basic annotation without the ‘clutter’ of extra features that you may not be likely to use, then this app will function well.

This app has a simple interface which is highly customisable so you can set up the layout and default options to suit your particular work flow. You can choose from the size of the tool buttons; make them small to retain as much screen real estate as possible for a document, or make them large so they are easier to select. You can remove unwanted tools you don’t use from the interface altogether. You can choose on which edge of the screen your toolbar resides, with different options available for both landscape and portrait views. Finally, you can configure the default settings for each tool, such colours, line thickness and transparency.

If you’re after more complex features then this app will not suit your needs. As strong as its basic annotation and menu customisation is, the functionality ends at this point.

Pros

  • Fully featured annotation suite
  • Simple and fully customisable UI

Cons

  • No advanced features

RepliGo Reader Summary

RepliGo Reader is another basic annotation app which offers slightly more annotation

functionality than the likes of Adobe Reader, Foxit PDF and iAnnotate PDF.

The annotation tools on offer include the usual highlight, underline and strike-through, notes and text boxes, freehand drawing and several shapes. Search/navigation tools include basic bookmarks, annotation and keyword search.

This app is good for those who want annotation features which are just above the bare bones, but it doesn’t offer anything significant compared to the free apps above.

Pros

  • Light weight and simple
  • Reasonable amount of annotation tools

Cons

  • No advanced features

Conclusion

Adobe Reader – For those who want very basic functionality for free.

ezPDF PDF Reader Pro – For users who want a fully functional annotation program with many extra features; who want maximum features for minimal cost.

Foxit PDF – For those who want very basic functionality for free.

iAnnotate PDF – For those who want very basic functionality for free.

qPDF Notes – For users who want a decent selection of annotation tools; who wish to customise their UI and screen real estate to their personal taste/work flow.

RepliGo Reader – For those who want something above the very base-line annotation tools but is otherwise uncomplicated.

I’m the Innovation Technology Officer here at CSU where I make, think, help, support, train and advise on technology in Education.

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