Notes are a way to annotate a PDF

How to Annotate a PDF on Mac Using PDFpen

Want to take advantage of PDFpen’s annotation and markup features, but don’t know where to begin? In this post, we’ll introduce you to PDFpen’s Markup tools and teach you how to annotate a PDF on Mac using PDFpen.

How to Annotate a PDF

Sometimes, you want to do more than just highlight passages in a PDF document. Maybe you want to engage with an article by adding notes as you read; maybe you want to put a big X over a paragraph you want removed.

Whichever the case, PDFpen has the markup tools you need to interact with PDF documents easily. Let’s explore them!

Text Tool

Use the Text tool to annotate a PDF

Ever ask yourself, How do I add text to a PDF?

The answer is, you use the Text tool. The Text tool is the first in the sequence of Markup Tools in the Editing Bar, as shown below.

When you choose the Text tool, then click anywhere on your document, a text box appears with the word “Text” in it. You can type or paste words you copied from somewhere else over it. 

Add as much text as you’d like: the text box expands to make your content fit. 
Add any type of text you’d like: PDFpen does not discriminate against emojis or symbols. 

Want to add a heart emoji to paragraph two of “Nonsynchronous spatial overlap of lizards in patchy habitats”? Go for it! We won’t judge you.

Note: Chances are, you’ll have to adjust the text box size so it looks the way you want it to. To do that, choose the Edit tool – arrow two in the Editing Bar –, then click and drag the text box handles to the desired size. To wrap the text within the box you created, choose Edit > Wrap Text.

Pro tips:

  • Need to add a series of text boxes? Double-click the Text tool so it stays selected. This is useful when you’re creating text fields in a PDF form.
  • Need to add the same exact text box – same style, even the same content – throughout a PDF document? Use Copy + Paste or Option-Drag to make copies.

    This is useful, for example, if you want to stand-out remarks – in black font on an orange background, for example – to several passages of a PDF document, as shown below:
Text tools being used to annotate a PDF

To learn more about the Option-Drag technique, check out Christian Boyce’s Mac Option Key tip #06.

For help formatting text, check out this How can I adjust font type, size or color in PDFpen?

Scribble Tool

Use the Scribble tool to annotate a PDF

The next markup tool in the Editing Bar is the Scribble tool, appropriately represented by a pencil icon.

Just as the name implies, Scribble lets you draw or write freeform when you’re going for a more authentic, less perfect look.

That said, PDFpen does smooth out your scribble when you’re done so it looks more “presentable.” If you don’t care for having your scribbles conform to conventional standards of beauty, you can hold the command key when releasing your mouse so your scribble stays true to itself.

Scribble tool being used to annotate a PDF by marking an X on it

In addition to scribbling, you can also add shapes, lines and arrows to your document using the Polygon, Rectangle, Ellipse, Line, Rounded Rectangle and Callout tools.

As these are drawing tools, not markup tools, we won’t discuss them in this post. Go ahead and explore them by selecting, then clicking and dragging them on your document.

Notes Tool

Use the Notes tool to annotate a PDF

Next up is the Notes tool, represented by a chat balloon. Use Notes to add comments and edit suggestions to a PDF.

Unlike text boxes, which become a part of the document once you add them, Notes operate on the sidelines. You can think of text boxes as bold interventions and notes as helpful sticky notes.

To add a note, click the Note icon, then choose the place on your document where you want the note to appear. If you place it in the wrong position, click on it using the Edit tool and drag it to the right spot.

Notes appear with the word “Note” written on them. You can enter your comment by typing over it.

By default, notes show the name of the PDFpen user who added them and when. This is useful when you have more than one person commenting on a PDF.

To make changes – including setting Notes to omit this information – choose Preferences > Editing > Name.

Open and closed notes on a PDF document are a form of annotation

Notes can appear open or closed. Double-click to open them and leave them open if you want them to appear this way next time you or someone else accesses the PDF. To close a note, press the Escape key.

When printing out your document, you can choose whether or not you want to include your notes. You can set your preferences in File > Print.

Print options for PDF annotations

Comments Tool

Use the Comments tool to annotate a PDF

Comments are useful for adding brief commentary to a document.

To add a comment, click the Comment icon, then choose the place on your document where you want the comment to appear. 

As with the text box, a comment appears as a box with the word “Text” on it. You can type over it and format the text and box as you like.

Unlike text boxes, printing comments, similar to printing notes, is optional. This means that they don’t appear in the printed version of your document unless you specifically choose to include them.

Cloud Tool

Use the Cloud tool to annotate a PDF

The Cloud tool provides an alternate shape for comments. You can use both in the same document to differentiate between types of comments.

The Cloud tool being used to annotate a PDF

As with the text and comment boxes, clouds appear as boxes with the word “Text” on them. You can type over it and format the text and the cloud as you wish.

Linking Tool

Use the Linking tool to annotate a PDF

The Linking Tool allows you to link to websites, email addresses, pages within your PDF and other PDF files.

Clicking the Link icon will make the window below appear. Here, you can choose to link to a Page, a URL or a File.

How to annotate a PDF by adding links

Select Page and you’ll be prompted to enter a page within your PDF. Select URL and you’ll need to add a web address – or enter mailto:[email], if you’re linking to an email address. If you select File, you’ll be asked to click Browse to select the file you want to link to from your computer.

Attachment Tool (PDFpenPro Feature)

Use the Attachment tool to annotate a PDF

With PDFpenPro, you can also add one or more file attachments to a PDF document. That’s useful for adding complementary resources such as photos and related documents. 

To add a file attachment, click the paper clip icon, then choose where in the PDF document you want to add the attachment. A paper clip will appear. You’ll be prompted to select a file. Most formats are welcome.

To delete your attachment, click the paper clip and press Delete.

To view your attachment, choose View > Attachments.

Image shows attachments to a PDF. Attachments can be considered a way to annotate a PDF

To add a file attachment without calling attention to it in the document, choose Edit > Attachments > Add Attachment, and then select the file.

Audio Annotation Tool (PDFpenPro Feature)

Use the Audio Annotation tool to annotate a PDF

The Audio Annotation tool enables you to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of creating talking PDF documents.

To add an audio annotation to a PDF, click the megaphone icon, then click the area on the PDF document where you want to add your recording. The window below will appear:

Annotate a PDF with sound annotations. Image shows the Record Sound Annotation window

From here, you can choose to add an audio file from your computer or record a brand-new one within PDFpen.

To record a new audio annotation, click the Record button. When you’re done, click Stop. Click OK to save the annotation to the document.

A saved audio annotation looks like this. You open it up by clicking the megaphone icon, then click the Play button and, miraculously, the PDF document starts talking to you!

Image shows the Play Sound Annotation window.

And these are all of PDFpen’s markup tools.