Alternative (PDF) reading & note-taking tools to Marginnote?

There was an interesting discussion before:

My needs can be summarized as: a stabler and robuster (and maybe cheaper) alternative to Marginnote (MN), focusing on note-taking, without mindmaps and study cards. I feel many others would share my needs, but strangely, I cannot find a single app alike.

I like the note-taking features in MN so much. In more details:

  • The notes can be associated to an excerpt of the original texts.
  • The notes/excerpts can be collected/selected by color and user-defined tags.
  • The notes/excerpts can be searched, and moreover in the collections defined above.
  • Global search in all notes.
  • The notes can be batched edited (e.g. change color).

I also like the reading experience in MN:

  • In-PDF bookmark support.
  • Forward/Backward function.
  • Double page reading.
  • Cut/Enlarge margin space.
    Although I also want:
  • Multiple tabs (for multiple documents.)

Other things I care about:

  • It supports iOS and Mac, with basically the same function.
  • It saves notes separately, without changing the original PDF file. I also hope the notes can be exported in readable (and, better, open) format, but this is not very important for me.
  • It supports epub, although I can give up this if the alternative works very well on other things.
  • I hoped MN could be more optimized for Mac, but seems this is not their focus. For example, it easily takes more than 5GB memory with a handful of open files. And it does not look like a Mac app.

Even only considering the bold features (which I really want), I cannot find an alternative. Apps I have tried: Liquid text, PDF Expert, Hightlights, Foxit Reader, PDFelement, PDF reader, Flexcil, Goodnote, notability. For last three, I don’t that into hand writing when reading, so…

The closest is Liquid text. But it is very unstable and basically unusable on Mac (at least when I tried it several months ago), and it requires subscription for sync between iOS and Mac, which I feel unacceptable.


I just tried Polar in addition. I seems to have the greatest potential, but still not satisfactory at this time.

If you find this magic app, post here. As you say, many others have the same desires as you.

I too would wish that MarginNote would split its app to two pieces: note-taking and study. Doing so, and bringing the exporting part of the note-taking app on par with PDF standards, would give exactly what is needed.



Polar is testing its new, 3.0 version. And I would say it has good official and community supports, and the team also seems professional.

One of the team member told me: “I think 3.0 will add a lot of what you’re looking for (esp if you’re coming from MarginNote)”, which makes me very exited.

To be clear, you mean Polar as the note-taking, study app.


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I believe MarginNote is expecting to release a 4.0 later this year, for what it’s worth.

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Welcome to the forum!

Despite its warts, it sounds like MarginNote is doing the job for you. It would be hard to find something else that matches that closely (as you’ve seen).


Sure! Thanks, I should have post a link.

Yeah, hope they would re-design and re-engineer the new version.

I started using Scrintal which is in early access mode. They have a built in pdf reader and you make pdf annotations very flexibly.

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