The 3 Best iPad PDF Markup Apps

If you have an iPad or an iPad 2 and you want to use it for business or personal use to mark up PDF’s then there are a few great must have iPad apps which can help you do just that.  Here are 3 of those apps you can take a look at to help you mark up PDF’s.

4 Ways To Mark Up PDF Documents Using Your iPad

So you have your iPad and you want to get to work.  Whether you have an iPad 1 or an iPad 2, the ability to mark up PDF’s is a question that gets asked a lot.  Fortunately, there are some ways to do that.  Each of these iPad apps have their own set of pros and cons as well as features.

PDF Expert ($9.99)

PDF Expert

PDF Expert is the ultimate solution for all your PDF needs. It is easily one of the best iPad PDF markup apps.  It lets you read and annotate PDF documents, highlight text, make notes, draw with your finger and save these changes being compatible with Preview and Adobe Acrobat. Moreover, PDF Expert is the only iPad application that can fill PDF forms.

PDF Expert can get documents from any place you may need. PDF files from desktop computers, email attachments, documents on the Dropbox, MobileMe iDisk, GoogleDocs and even in other iPad applications could be accessed with PDF Expert.

Annotations made with PDF Expert are saved within the document in accordance with PDF format specification. Thus PDF Expert can edit highlights, text notes and other annotations created in Apple Preview or Adobe Acrobat Reader and vise versa. At the same time this lets you share annotated files with friends and co-workers.

PDF forms made with Adobe Acrobat are supported in PDF Expert. Text fields, check boxes, radio buttons and other form elements work as you expect and all information you entered is saved inside the form. Please note that Dynamic XML PDF Forms made with Adobe LifeCycle should be converted to Static PDF Forms format before using with PDF Expert.

Here’s a bulleted list of features you get with PDF Expert:

  • Ability to highlight text
  • Fill in forms
  • Create notes (add comments to the text)
  • Draw with your fingers to make handwritten notes
  • Save Bookmarks
  • Underline and Strike-through Words

There are even more features that you get with this great iPad PDF Markup app and they are actively updating it on a regular basis.

PDF Expert - Fill forms, annotate PDFs - Readdle

iAnnotate ($9.99)

iAnnotate For iPad

Another great iPad PDF markup app that does more than just the standard markups.  iAnnotate is an elegant PDF reader and a powerful annotation tool — and consistently one of the best-selling apps for the iPad. You can open documents from email, fill out forms, sign and send out contracts, enter notes for edits, sketch diagrams, copy text, and add highlights or underline with the drag of a finger.

Unlike other apps that only let you draw on top of a PDF, iAnnotate fully integrates its annotations directly into the PDF such that you will be available to use any standard PDF readers like Adobe Reader or Preview. You can transfer PDFs via email, Safari, iTunes sync, and Dropbox. Marking up and emailing it right back out couldn’t be easier.

Here are some of the features you get with iAnnotate:

  • Complete annotation system
  • Graphical file manager
  • Fully customizable toolbars
  • Tabbed PDF Reading
  • Convert Webpages, PPT and .Doc to PDF
  • VGA Output
  • Flatten support

Both iAnnotate and PDF Expert are great iPad PDF markup apps and they both are priced the same so the choice really comes down to the feature set.  With iAnnotate the markups fully integrate directly into the PDF so that you can use all of the standard PDF readers.

iAnnotate PDF - Aji, LLC

GoodReader ($4.99)

GoodReader For iPad

Yet another best iPad PDF markup app.  GoodReader pretty much does it all and has been the standard way to read PDF’s on the iPad since it came out.  There are a ton of new features with GoodReader and one of those is markups, or annotations.

GoodReader has earned its accolades by the way it handles huge PDF and TXT files, manuals, large books, magazines, and renderings of 100 mb and more with great speed. The ability to mark-up PDFs opens up new doors to GoodReader users who can now use typewriter text boxes, sticky notes, lines, arrows, and freehand drawings on top of a PDF file.

The latest version of GoodReader adds the ability for you to sync your files with remote servers! Now you can:

  • sync with iDisk, Dropbox, SugarSync and any WebDAV, FTP or SFTP server
  • sync entire folders or individual files separately

Other than being a great PDF management app, here are some of the newest features of GoodReader:

  • Annotate.  Annotation is a feature long sought after by users who want to add their own mark-ups to PDFs, especially those collaborating as a team on shared documents. The types of annotations that can be created and edited in GoodReader include typewriter text boxes, popup comments (“sticky notes”), text highlights, freehand drawings, lines, arrows, rectangles, ovals, cloudy shapes, text underlines, strikeouts, text insertion marks.
  • Manage Files. GoodReader lets you create folders, move, copy and rename your files; zip, email and unzip them; plus send your files to other apps.
  • Transfer Files. Within moments of downloading GoodReader, you’ll be transferring files in a number of ways: directly from your computer over a USB cable or WiFi connection, from the Internet or from email attachments. It also easily integrates with iDisk, Google Docs, Dropbox, SugarSync, and other WebDAV, FTP and SFTP servers.
  • Sync your files and folders.  The amazing new Auto Sync feature will work with MobileMe iDisk, Dropbox, SugarSync,, and any other WebDAV, FTP or SFTP server.

GoodReader for iPad - Good.iWare Ltd.

So there are three of the best iPad PDF markup apps.  All of them give you the ability to do markups, sync with various services, fill out forms (some are better than others), and create PDF’s.  If you are looking for the perfect business tool any one of these iPad PDF markup apps will work perfect.  Look over the features and see which one best fits your needs.

What is your preferred PDF app?


  1. sfk says:

    Does any of the pdf reader mentioned in this article displays pdf in a “bookshelf” like in ibooks?

    1. Shane says:

      Hi there…
      Well these ones don’t necessarily have that view, but you can keep them stored in iBooks which has the shelf view. I think the reason is that these are more for marking them up and doing forms…..

      1. Steve says:

        “Fast PDF” has that capability. And works well with large format drawings. For viewing.

        1. Shane says:

          Thanks Steve!!! I’m gonna look at that too.

  2. Turt99 says:

    If your using one of these Apps but you want to read the document in iBooks would you have to have the PDF on your iPad twice? Since you sync the PDF’s to an application?

    Or since goodreader (which I’ve heard great things about all over the place) uses SugarSync (great article tie in BTW) can SugarSync push PDF’s to iBooks as well as GoodReader?

    1. Shane says:

      I think with all of these apps, the PDF’s have to be stand alone in order to open and save in iBooks….I have not seen where these will let you just pop them into iBooks but rather you would mark it up or make a form and then use dropbox or sugarsync and then save it into iBooks…I wish iBooks would just integrate with GoodReader!

  3. Fred says:

    Good reader is great, but in the last 3 months has gone from Aud2.49 to Aud5.99. They are also incredibly slow at responding to support requests these days.

    1. Shane says:

      Hi Fred,
      This is good to know….so it sounds like the price is increasing while the support is going down – - that’s really too bad because they started off really good :)

  4. sfk says:

    I already have pdfs stored into ibooks but its too slow at rendering a page, especially when its a large file.

  5. Mike says:

    Earlier I used GoodReader. I liked it. The only one bad thing was their support department. I waited for more than 2 weeks for replying on my request.

    Nevertheless, I switched to PDF Expert because its ability to fil in PDF forms is an important option for me. Unfortunately GoodReader doesn’t support it.

    As for PDF Expert, I like this application – it is not buggy at all and I am very happy. Waiting for future updates.

    1. Shane says:

      Hi mike. Thanks for the comment. Oddly enough, you are not the first person to say that the goodreader support is terrible. That’s really too bad because supporting your apps are what keeps people buying them :)

  6. Bob says:

    I just bought an iPad. I love it and enjoy all the tips I’m learning at TC Geeks.

    One of the thongs I don’t like though is having to pay for an app that lets me fill in a PDF form I can do on my PC for free, such as all of the forms the Internal Service makes available to tax payers over the Internet.

    1. Shane says:

      Thanks a ton bob!!! Yeah, I’m with you on that. I really need to do more free app articles but for tasks that you can do for free on a Mac or PC will cost a bit on the iPad.

      Which markup app were you liking?

      1. Bob says:

        PDF Expert would best meet my needs.

        1. Shane says:

          Great. How about tcgeeks get that app for you bob since you are a new reader and you took the time to comment!

          1. James says:

            Blimey – what a kind offer, and not so much as a thank you from Bob!
            I just found this article ‘cos I’m looking for a free pdf comment adder for iPad. Do you know of anything good that’s available at the moment?
            I use Notability for importing pdfs and added notes to them in classes, but would really like a more simple pdf comment system for “normal” pdf docs.
            All these best, and great post

  7. Sarah says:

    I use iAnnotate. I especially like how multiple open files are tabbed for easy reference and retrieval.

    1. Shane says:

      Hi Sarah. Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I have tried iAnnotate and found it to be extremely useful…although I have been testing out PDF expert’s beta version and it’s actually really nice…

  8. David says:

    Hi there

    I’ve only tried iAnnotate which works fine.
    Only problem is, that I use it for school where I can download text e.g. from Jstor. But these texts are not texts but photos – this means that I cannot highlight the text, which is hugely frustrating..!!

    But again, other than that I am happy with it :)

    1. Shane says:

      Hi there David…thanks for the comment and for stopping by. Yeah – that would be frustrating. So basically all you have is a static photo with no way to really deal with the text on it.

      1. David says:

        And of course, a lot of our PDF files are not texts but photos…also from other sites than Jstor.

        I wonder if they save the files in this way on purpose.
        Anyway, it seems as if it’s the OCR that doesn’t work – apparently you need a program that can “read” the text on an image (like Evernote). But I’m not sure that a program could “convert” a whole PDF document, or even store the OCR for use in another program.

        Btw, thanks for a fast followup and a great site..! :)

        1. Shane says:

          You are more than welcome David. Come back anytime :)

          Yeah I imagine it’s for security reasons… And to protect the content. I’ll have to check out that feature of evernote as I was not aware you could do that!

  9. Janis says:

    I recommend Underscore Notify – great for note taking and for marking up PDFs. It has so many features, there is a bit of a learning curve. I found the in-app help pretty useful in getting me up to speed.

    I recently used Notify to edit a fairly long PDF – it let me rearrange, delete, and add pages, insert images, plus annotate and more. It’s really a powerful tool! Plus, it’s a bargain at $1.99.

    For note taking versatility, you can purchase an in-app version of Phatware’s handwriting recognition software.

  10. Don Aranda says:

    Wow! Thanks for the info (PDF Expert looks like the choice for me) this was exactly what I was looking for. Love your site and looking forward to reading/learning more!

  11. Chris says:

    I have 2 questions:

    1. Does PDF Expert have a good way to orgainze your PDFs in terms of folders and subfolders?

    2. Can you rename PDF files with iAnnotate?


    1. Yes, you can organize files in PDF Expert (not only PDFs) – it reads everything.
      And you can rename those easily.

  12. JStinson says:

    1. When a file is marked up in iAnnotate and saved, the name is a meaningless one: can that be changed?
    2. Is file saving different in PDF Expert?

  13. Chris Wemp says:

    Great reviews–I think iAnnotate would suit my needs best; the fact that it integrates hand written annotations is quite nice.

  14. petter says:

    Hi, I have alot of scanned documents in pdf format. However, the text is not recognised since the document is treated as an image. Is it possible to highlight and note in these kind of pdf’s? Thanks

  15. dmwsig says:

    First of all, this is an excellent site. I just bought my iPad 2 about a week ago, and have learned so much from this site. Thank you!!!

    Do any of these PDF applications allow you to search for terms within the PDF document and/or search your annotations, note, etc.? It would be nice to be able to quickly find notes I make while annotating a large document.

    Thank you.

  16. Ago says:

    This is Not Just Another Puzzle { I love it, so try it } !! :)

  17. Ellen says:

    I have Goodreader and I find it very frustrating when using a stylus as I can’t rest my hand on the screen without marking the page. I can’t find any comments about whether PDF expert or iAnnotate can accommodate a stylus in a way that actually lets you use it in a normal posture. Penultimate has a setting that lets you indicate how you hold the stylus and eliminates the resting wrist problem. Any help appreciated.

  18. Suzy E says:

    We currently host a monthly training class in which we print a 262 page book for each participant. I would like to stop doing this and handing out ipads to use during class. To do this, I need an app that will let me do the following:

    1. Mark up (just highlight and take notes) on a PDF
    2. Save the PDF with the notes with a new filename
    3. Email the marked up PDF to whomever used it.
    4. Then reset for the next person (hopefully just using the orginial file since the file was renamed.

    Best app for this use???? I will need to set this system up on 25 ipads…. any suggestions on the best way to do this?

  19. Elli says:

    Great article on the pdf apps. Do you know if any of these programs allow the user to create and edit text boxes that are compatible with adobe acrobat? thanks

  20. Michelle says:

    Great summary! I’m currently using Adobe Reader to markup a PDF on my iPad. Unfortunately when I email the marked up file the person receives the original PDF (none of my markups show). Sounds like I’ll need to purchase one of your 3 recommendations above. Before doing that, which apps will let me markup a PDF and then email the PDF where the person receiving my pad will be able to view my markups? Thank u in advance!

  21. Michelle says:

    Sorry I meant “PDF” not “pad”

  22. Stan says:


    Has any done a comparison chart for the three PDF annotations apps above to highlight the pros and cons? It would be usefully, especially if they could incorporate the comments for the actual users. I am looking for a good PDF apps and do not want to just select one and hope it is what I thought I needed.

    Thanks and great website

  23. Bill says:

    I am looking for an iPad app that can handle a Dynamic PDF form. I have created my forms with LiveCycle 8 ES and so far from the apps I have bought or were free, I cannot find one that supports a Dynamic PDF Form. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Veljko says:

      Try the new Adobe Reader.

  24. Deanne says:

    Thank you for this article, it’s exactly the information I need. I was laid off recently and have been borrowing a notebook but will soon be iPad only until I can afford a PC. So iAnnotate is the only app of the three that would let me create PDFs, PDF Expert is the only one that will let me complete fill able forms, but both would give me the capacity to sign PDF docs? If that is the case then I will likely get iAnnotate as I really need the ability to save files in PDF format. Incidentally, I’ve been using Screen Chomp to mark up files. Nothing fancy as its free but I can use it with Dropbox and I like that I can record instructions as well as write notes.

  25. Kimberly Kisch says:

    Hi, I’m a teacher and would like to use my iPad to take a picture of a text book, then project it on the board and allow the students to highlight or underline certain sentences. I work with first graders, so i need something user friendly. Would any of the above three apps work for what I need?

    1. Kimberly, we’ve had great feedback from students and teachers using PDF Expert. There were a couple of case studies on our blog. So I am more than happy to help and explain the benefits.

      Have a look at this

  26. Bigrhet says:

    Woo, i have tried the good reader and pdf expert. Per my experience, pdf expert is more useful for good reader on pdf documents especially for making notes or highlights.

  27. celo says:

    PDFExpert looks like the best solution, but I’m waiting for a drop in price. 9.99 is pricey.

    Great article. Great site. Didn’t know TCgeeks before.

  28. Carlos says:

    Hi, is there any way to synchronize PDF expert with skydrive?

  29. Karen says:

    hi! great job on the articles :) ive found them very helpful :D
    although im still looking for a free app that could read pdf files and i can write doodles on them or highlight them just for reviewing purposes. im currently using adobe reader and usb disk (but usb disk does not allow me to highlight on the files, but its extension to reaad zip files is very helpful :D)
    does anybody know of such an app?
    any suggestion would be very helpful, thank you very much! :)

    1. James says:

      At £0.69, Notability is ‘almost’ free, and I find it the best of the bunch.
      There’s also a good review on
      All the best

  30. Gunky says:

    Looking for PDF annotation capability for an “older” user (meaning simple solutions are needed) that can export the annotations only, without the complete document. I can’t tell from the info provided in the article or comments if these apps can do that, and if it’s easy. Note that DropBox or another intermediate app like that might just complicate the process enough that she uses good old paper and pen instead, to take her notes.

  31. PDF Max says:

    Great review! We are working on a full-features PDF Annotating which competing direct with three apps above. One of our advantage is to allow you to sync/merge your annotations across-devices via iCloud – You can annotate at home on your home-iPad, on the go with your iPhone, at coffee shop with another iPad, when all annotations will be synced (+merged) to all your devices – No joke! We even support rich text format for Typewriter annotations and much more… Please contact us for beta testers or you just want to take a look. Visit or send us email to to get access to the app.

    We also would like to invite TCGeeks to give our app some tries if possible!

    The PDF Max Team.

  32. Elly says:

    Sorry but my preffered app is writepdf which is just as good as these!

  33. Sarah says:

    Does any of the above apps or one not mentioned allow saving of a filled in PDF form to a local network share using a path such as \\myserver\share?

  34. The Metaphysical Crook says:

    Just thought i’d mention an App called Highlighter, by a very serious developper (very well thought, designed, and followed/updated) for those who need intergrated OCR functionality – as i have been spending quite some time reading pdf app reviews and comparative articles and was intrigued by the fact not one of them (and i have come about a number of decent, thourough, elaborate ones) seems aware of it: Highlighter offers everything one expects of a good PDF annotation app (annotation in all it’s forms, overlay of notes and annots/summary, powerful full-text search (with a very flexibly definable scope : on current article, on whole library, in annotations and/or notes of current or all articles with/without the text, in folder… etc…) and of course multi-level hierarchical folder organization.. Also customizable background and font colors.. In anycase, the object of this quick comment isn’t to praise or comprehensively list everything this App has to offer (and I have no relation to the developer) but to mention it’s integrated on-the-spot / real-time / local-action OCR capacity for scanned/image PDF – that it works well, and that the App itself isn’t expensive. 5,49 € – that’s in EURO. For those who would be interested, i’ll also mention his App ‘Pythonista’, in my opinion (and experience quite frankly) the best/most usable/elegant/powerful Python implementation for iOS – one that differs from the others not only in quality, but in function (One can create not just scripts, but actual Apps inside the app and run them – a la Codea, but for Python if you will) In fact it is after/because i was impressed with Pythonista’s performance and elegance that i discovered Highlighter, visiting the dev’s page on the Appstore. I downloaded it without much questioning as i had been convinced of the seriousness of this dev’s work.

    Ok.. What started out with me ‘ultimately yielding’ to some sort of feeling of duty towards my ‘world-wide-web citizenship’ ended up much longer than expected…so i’ll leave it there i guess; excuse any awkwardness / excessive convulsions in the language if you will: i rarely – if ever- leave comments on forums, and i have been living in Paris (and writing mostly in french – working on my thesis) for.. 6 years! And finally, thank you for a good article and a surprisingly welcoming/warm/friendly smart space you seem to maintain (it stands out in charming respects.. least of which’s the tone and color of user interaction / comment area) I got tempted to try iAnnotate – but i think i’ll wait/hope for a price drop for a while before purchasing (Paris is a goddam expensive place to live in – especially if one’s main income comes from one or another from of writing – ghost writing / freelance research ..etc!) Keep up the good reviews!

  35. Maz says:

    sorry but i agree with elly writepdf is def the pdf reader and editing app of my choice
    i don’t even have to mess around with dowloading and uploading etc, as any changes i make are done directly on the document
    such as shame didn’t make the list

  36. M says:

    no writepdf listed, just as a good a pdf editor and reader as i have it installed on my ipad

  37. article says:

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  38. Chris says:

    PDF annotator with powerful search in notes?

    I’m quite happy with goodreader. Got it on the cheap, and never had to contact their support. Esp. Dropbox integration and LAN import options are great
    I miss a feature there that would let me quickly create notes (typed or doodle) and bookmarks and then in one place search through or view a list of all such annotations for multiple/ all PDF files. The way I’ve seen it is that you first open a PDF and then can browse through it annotations. What I need is browse through annotations in order to find the right PDF (the one a given annotation was made for). I suppose that would mean annotations were not stored inside PDFs but in their separate database, but that’s ok with me.

    Can you perhaps recommend an app with this kind of functionality?

  39. Brett says:


    I stumbled across this site and am very happy with the way you present unbiased info.

    My gripe is that although you have reviewed them, there does not appear to be a way for me to test these apps before paying for them or a refund system if I am unhappy.

    I am desperate for a PDF app that allows me to write the answers on my pdf’s but with an ability to wipe it. And being a uni student means I can’t go paying ten bucks for every app only to find out it doesn’t work. Can you make a suggestion based on my need? You are very knowledgable in this area and I would be appreciative of your recommendation.


  40. Simon says:

    I am starting to study again and want to use my ipad to carry all the notes etc. I have all the course work on pdf and need to be able to highlight in different colours (i use that to seperate different thoughts)and to insert notes or comments using the buit in keyboard.
    I tried PDF Pen and it worked really well until right towards the end of the document it just crashed the app. The app still crashes as soon as I open the book. The support doesnt seem to be able to sort this out and now I have lost all of those things. I read on the web that this had happened to a few others so I am nervous to try again. The files are quite big but not over 5 to 10MB and I would not have thought that would be a problem.
    I found your article very helpful. I am not very computer literate so am really looking for an app where i can store PDF’s and work on them easily and quickly with the ipad. Which would you reccomend?


  41. ICG says:

    My company is interested in an app that would allow us to add colored lines to construction drawings for use in presentations. We’re not sure which app would be most useful for this type of application. Any ideas?

  42. bobby says:

    Im looking for an app that can annotate on PDF’s while adding blank pages to said PDF

    as I am taking a caculus class where the instructor works through problems on Onenote (tablet PC) and I would rather copy everything via IPAD than on paper, as I am very un organized when it comes to papers.

  43. Greg N. says:

    I am looking for an app that will allow me to highlight within the course material and will make a note page with the highlighted text. I don’t want to have to read back through the material just to see the highlighted information. Does anyone know of such an app.

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  47. Bmitch says:

    Hi Shane have you reviewed bluebeam for ipad? What were your thoughts on it?

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  49. BECKI PR says:

    I am a 6th grade math teacher. I present my lessons through powerpoints where I snapshot the book’s pages. I would like to mark on my powerpoints to model my thinking, circle key terms, and to solve equations as if I were writing in the book with them (their books are consumable). Do any of the above aps allow me to mark on my powerpoints?

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