I want I had Highlights for iOS and iPadOS after I was a lawyer. Again then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to evaluation PDFs of authorized paperwork that had been lots of of pages lengthy. Sadly, the digital instruments I had for annotating these paperwork had been primitive. So as an alternative, I sometimes fell again on marking up onerous copies with highlighters and including notes within the margins.

Highlights is a PDF annotation app that’s been accessible on the Mac for a very long time however is model new on iOS and iPadOS. The app interprets the analog technique of marking up a PDF to the digital world very effectively by offering instruments that exhibit an understanding of the wants of scholars, researchers, and anybody who spends lots of time with PDFs.

I don’t have the identical PDF wants I as soon as did, however as I’ve used Highlights the previous couple of weeks, I’ve appreciated its flexibility and energy, and I count on that anybody who works with numerous PDFs will too.

At its coronary heart, Highlights is a PDF viewer with an emphasis on annotation. The app makes use of the iOS and iPadOS doc browser to handle PDFs. As soon as opened, annotations and navigation are dealt with by a toolbar on the prime of the display, web page thumbnails on the backside, and an Annotation Bar that may be anchored to the left or proper aspect of the display.

On the iPad, the toolbar is split neatly into three sections. The toolbar is extra cramped on an iPhone, the place some instruments are hidden behind an ellipsis button, however the app performs equally effectively on an iPhone and iPad. Nonetheless, Highlights is the sort of app that works significantly better on the larger display of the iPad and with an Apple Pencil at any time when attainable.

I'm glad Highlights is available on the iPhone, but the experience is far better on an iPad with the Apple Pencil.

The iPad’s greater display permits all three of Highlights’ PDF view modes: the PDF by itself, the Notes part – which collects the contents of the PDF that you just’ve annotated – by itself, or the 2 views side-by-side. On the iPhone, you possibly can solely view a PDF by itself or your collected annotations by themselves, until you’re viewing them on a large-model iPhone in panorama mode, which remains to be too cramped to make use of recurrently.

The PDF-only view is what you’d count on and shares options which can be frequent to most PDF apps. I’ll get to the markup instruments in a second, however you possibly can zoom out and in of a PDF utilizing a pinch gesture, single-tap to cover the toolbar and thumbnails, double-tap to zoom, and double-tap once more to suit the PDF to the display. Mixed with the web page thumbnails on the backside of the display, Highlights makes it straightforward to maneuver round a doc.

The Notes view requires just a little extra clarification. Highlights permits you to annotate parts of a PDF utilizing strikethrough, underlining, highlighting, textual content feedback, and picture seize. As you mark up a PDF, the annotated components of the doc are robotically added to the Notes part of the app. You’ll be able to view the Notes part by itself, which is a properly compacted model of simply what you assume is essential from a doc, or view the annotations side-by-side with the PDF.

Annotations are highly customizable.

Every annotation may be color-coded in one in every of eight colours, and default colours may be set for every sort of annotation. Highlighting a PDF’s textual content together with your finger shows a popover for selecting the kind of annotation. Nonetheless, if you do the identical with an Apple Pencil, the colour palette can be proven, making it a extra versatile solution to annotate paperwork, which I choose. Displaying the Annotation Bar, which may be anchored to the left or proper aspect of the display, is one more solution to swap between annotation instruments and colours.

An example of several types of annotations used in a single PDF.

Marking up a PDF by putting by means of passages, underlining them, or including highlighting works as you’d count on. Feedback added to a PDF are depicted by a small color-coded doc icon added to the PDF, which expands when tapped to let you add textual content and make different edits. Lastly, the picture annotation instrument lets you choose a picture or passage of textual content that’s copied as a picture within the Notes view of the app.

All 5 forms of annotations can have feedback related to them. Merely faucet the annotation to pick out it, and a popover permits you to change the annotation’s coloration, add a remark, copy it, and even change the kind of annotation. The identify of the annotation’s creator and the time it was created are additionally recorded with the annotation.

All annotations can include a comment and record the author and time of each annotation.

Strikethrough, underlining, and highlighting additionally let you search for a quotation for the annotated passage, a helpful instrument for lecturers. The identical possibility isn’t accessible for notes, which don’t must be tied to a selected passage of textual content in a doc. Picture annotations embrace the added choice to be saved as a plain picture, an OCR’d picture, or a Markdown desk extracted from the picture.

By default, your annotations are saved within the Notes part of Highlights and arranged by web page quantity. Tapping on a web page quantity takes you to the corresponding web page the place the annotation seems within the PDF, although the function may be turned off. Alternatively, you possibly can set up notes by annotation coloration, through which case you lose the helpful navigation function of the default view. Notes may also be separated from one another with a line, and the annotation colours may be renamed and rearranged to fit your wants.

The Notes part is an especially helpful solution to view a condensed model of crucial components of a PDF. The hyperlinks again to the pages the place the annotations seem add context to the annotation, which is effective when navigating lengthy paperwork.

Highlights can open links in your PDF locally, but annotations strip the links.

Nonetheless, I used to be shocked to find that saved annotations are text-only and that the app’s search performance solely returns outcomes discovered within the PDF view. Any embedded hyperlinks are misplaced, which is problematic for analysis functions. The copy function related to every annotation within the PDF view strips hyperlinks too. Together with the dearth of integration with the search performance, the utility of the annotations you gather within the Notes part of Highlights is extra restricted than I’d hoped and one thing that must be addressed in a subsequent replace.

While you’re completed annotating a PDF, Highlights contains a number of export choices. You’ll be able to share annotated PDFs through the share sheet as a flattened PDF that doesn’t embrace a separate checklist of annotations. Annotations may be shared individually as HTML, a TextBundle file, Markdown, or a PDF. Lastly, every thing within the Notes part may be despatched to Evernote, DEVONthink, Ulysses, Bear, and Preserve It.

Highlights can export annotations to a variety of apps, although images point to file system URLs that aren't accessible by other apps.

Highlights adopts many, although not all, of the newest iOS and iPadOS options. Multiwindowing, Cut up View, Slide Over, and darkish mode are all supported. The app additionally contains an in depth checklist of keyboard shortcuts for performing each main perform, and Handoff between the iOS/iPadOS model of the app and its Mac counterpart is supported.

Drag and drop is restricted to textual content in PDFs and pictures within the Notes part. Textual content within the Notes part is static and can’t be dragged to a vacation spot app. Nor does Highlights assist Shortcuts, which is a disgrace, although the beta notes discuss with a URL scheme, for which I’ve not been capable of finding documentation but.

Maybe the factor I miss most when utilizing Highlights in comparison with the best way I used to annotate PDFs within the analog world is the flexibility to take handwritten notes. Highlights originated on the Mac, the place fewer apps assist pen enter, however on the iPad, limiting note-taking to text-based notes looks like a missed alternative. Even when handwriting recognition wasn’t accessible, I’d like the choice to take margin notes on a PDF and have them seem as photos within the Notes part of the app. Hopefully, that’s a function the developer will take into account sooner or later.

Nonetheless, I’ve been impressed by Highlights. The instruments work effectively in a UI that retains the PDF you’re viewing entrance and middle alongside together with your notes, which makes for a wonderful studying expertise. I don’t spend lengthy hours pouring over PDFs like I as soon as did, however they continue to be the inspiration of lots of academia and different professions. The mix of the distinctive and versatile manner Highlights permits customers to view and annotate a PDF, together with the numerous ways in which info may be exported through the share sheet or on to sure apps, makes this an app that college students, lecturers, and anybody who does substantial quantities of PDF-based analysis ought to attempt.

Highlights is out there on the App Retailer as a free obtain with sure options restricted to a Professional model subscription that prices $2.99 per 30 days or $24.99 per yr, which incorporates entry to the Mac app too.