Reading & Annotating PDFs on iPad

I recently purchased an iPad Pro, and I’m increasingly moving work to the device from my Mac.

I have a ton of PDFs that are on my Mac that I would like to read & annotate on the iPad with Apple Pencil. Then, I’d like to archive these PDFs with their annotations in DEVONthink.

I’m using iCloud Documents, so I can access the PDFs from my iPad, even though they were initially saved on my Mac.

Just wondering if any of you perform this kind of a task - reading, annotating and archiving PDFs.

Can you recommend any apps or workflows?


Personally I put those PDFs straight into DevonThink, and use it as a document provider so I can open the PDFs in PDF Expert to annotate. I’d prefer to use Notability but it doesn’t support open in place as far as I remember.


Thanks, @RosemaryOrchard!

So, just to clarify… After I store and then open the PDF in DEVONthink. how do I open in place with PDF Expert?

I see the option to “Copy to PDF Expert”, but not to edit in place.

Go to PDF Expert and open the file from there. It doesn’t work from inside devonthink. Devonthink has a pretty acceptable PDF annotation tool set too.


I have used PDF Expert extensively on both macOS and iOS. However, on iOS I’ve recently been using PDF Viewer by PSPDF. PDF Viewer is far faster in terms of locating and opening files since other than displaying PDFs, the only other interface is the Document Provider (e.g., the Files app). I find I can get to my desired PDF far quicker. PDF Expert makes you do the “iCloud>iCloud Drive>[location]” dance that gets tiresome when jumping around a lot of files.

I find there are only a few times I am jumping back to PDF Expert because PDF Viewer offers most of my day-to-day essentials I had relied on PDF Expert for, such as exporting annotations.

I too keep most of my PDFs in DEVONthink, so it’s fairly effortless to just navigate to it from within PDF Viewer. You may also notice that the PDF viewer and tools in DEVONthink look a lot like PDF Viewer, and that’s because DEVONthink is using PSPDF’s PSPDFKit software!


The PDF annotation tools in DEVONthink To Go are not quite as robust as PDF a expert or others , but I am finding it handles a lot of my needs on the iPad and I am staying “inside” DTP.

Yes DTTG’s PDF tools are definitely a bit stripped down compared to other offerings!

You may find this discussion of help to you.


I love PDF Expert for working with PDFs - especially reviewing and marking up with the Apple Pencil. I use iCloud Drive to manage my PDFs in a folder structure and just open them in the app.


Rosemary, this belongs over in the workflow area, but we’re talking about DEVONthink here. What I would like is a workflow that would allow me to save a pdf from safari reader view and then “clip to DEVONthink.” Here’s the trick, I would like for it to also copy the url of the page in safari and add that to the url field in DEVONthink.

As I reasearch, I want to add these things to DEVONthink on the fly. But then, I have to go back and manually re-title the file (on iOS it saves it as “safari - date time” instead of the name of the article) and copy and paste the url. That is tedious. Is there a workflow that could be made that would do this for me?

Thanks so much for all you do! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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This is super helpful. Thank you!

It’s a toss-up for me between PDF Expert and Notability. I like Exprt for the sheer amount of tools to annotate, filing system and ability to share these PDFs. I like Notability for the ease of just dropping a PDF into it quickly and can start reading and making notes, within seconds, if I’m in a lecture or headed to the lab.

Both have their positives, but if I were choosing only one I’d probably stick with PDF Expert for for sheer power-user abilities.

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I use PDF Expert and Notability. I use PDF Expert when researching or reviewing a PDF, in the same way I would highlight or comment in a text book.

I use Notability when discussing or reviewing a PDF for a meeting or negotiation. With Notability, you can insert pages within the PDF for notes and comments. For example, the agenda and notes for a meeting are usually distributed in PDF, copied to Notability and then annotated before the meeting, I then use Notability to record comments from others, actions arising, and other issues. Far better than lugging a huge file into a meeting.

Agree with all above that PDF Expert is great. Would also suggest that you take a look at Liquid Text for annotation, especially if you have to review long documents - it has a unique approach, and I think it works very well with the Pencil.

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I can’t say anything about DevonThink. However, I LOVE Documents by Reedle which has PDF Expert integrated in the app. You file, access and annotate. PDFs right in Dcoments. There is also access to iCloud.

I use Notability for taking notes with Apple Pencil and text notes mixed in but not for annotating PDFs.

Good Luck!


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I’ve been really liking Notability a lot lately, especially since the text recognition was implemented. The nice thing is you can automatically back up Notability to Dropbox and get at those documents via Documents later.

Do you have your Notability files saved/backed-up as PDFs, as opposed to Notability’s .notes(?) format?

I can’t speak for Notability, but I use the GoodNotes backups for this all the time. Backups are in PDF, and I have a Hazel rule that watches for the particular folders of notebooks that I care to operate on.

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Yes, that’s exactly how I do it — works great through dropbox.

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Yea because I didn’t buy the Mac companion app. I figure the initial experience is worth the iPad app and then can work as PDFs any other way.