iPad at Work: How to Annotate Documents with PDF Expert

By Galen Gruman

If you are in need of a simple iPad application that does most of what you’ll likely need to do with PDFs for work purposes, consider the $9.99 PDF Expert.

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To work with a document in the PDF Expert app, tap the document to reveal the annotation toolbar at top, and tap the Annotation button to keep it there. Its options are, from left to right:

  • Undo (the left-facing curved-arrow icon): Undoes the last operation.

  • Select (the dashed-square icon): This is supposed to let you select graphics in the PDF, but it doesn’t do anything.

  • Highlight (the icon of a black T on a white background): Highlights in yellow any text you drag your finger over. You can change the color, add a note, or clear the highlight by tapping the highlighted text and choosing the appropriate option from the contextual menu that appears.

  • Underline (the underlined-T icon): Adds a red underline to the text you drag your finger across. Its contextual menu lets you change the color, add a note, or clear the underline.

  • Strikethrough (the T with a line through it): Draws a red line through the text that you drag your finger across. Its contextual menu lets you change the color, add a note, or clear the strikethrough.

  • Add a Comment (the speech-bubble icon): Adds a sticky-note-like note to wherever you tap. To delete a note, tap it to open it; then tap the trash can icon at its lower left. To reposition a note, drag it to its new location; then tap Done in the contextual menu that appears.

  • Stamp (the stamp icon): Adds a stamp graphic to the location you tap. You get a menu of choices or you can use the Custom tab to create your own stamp using your own text and images. After you insert a stamp, you can move it by dragging it and resize it by using its control handles. Tap the Done button when you’ve placed the stamp and sized it as desired.

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  • Signature (the pen icon): Lets you create and add a signature to use as a stamp. Tap the Signature button and then draw your signature in the My Signature screen that appears; tap Save to save it as a graphic. Now tap and hold where you want to insert the signature graphic, tap Signature in the contextual menu that appears, reposition and resize the signature as desired, and tap Done.

    If a signature already exists, it’ll appear when you tap the Signature button. Tap Save to use it, or tap the Signature button in the My Signature Screen to open a menu where you select the desired other signature; or tap New Signature to add a new one.

  • Shapes (the icon of a circle and square): Tap this to get a menu of four shapes — rectangle, oval, line, and arrow — and buttons for the color, pen size, and opacity. Select the shape and its desired formats; then tap the screen to insert the shape, which you can reposition and resize as desired. Tap Done for that shape and then draw more shapes if desired. Tap the ✔ icon to close the Shapes menu.

  • Text (the T icon): Lets you add text into the PDF file as independent objects. In the menu that appears, you can choose the font, size, and color and then tap the document to insert text at that point. Tap the ✔ icon to close the text menu. You can’t edit text in the PDF this way, just add your own text notes.

  • Freeform (the icon of two pens): Opens a menu of pen styles. Select the desired pen, color, pen size, and opacity; then draw the desired freeform shape with your finger. If you want to erase part of what you’ve drawn, tap the Eraser icon and trace over what you want to delete. Tap the ✔ icon when done drawing.

    If you tend to rest your wrist on the screen while drawing, tap the Wrist button to tell PDF Expert to ignore your wrist so that it continues to draw lines normally.

  • Close (the X icon): Hides the annotation toolbar.

PDF Expert also has the following buttons at the top of the screen, from left to right:

  • Documents: Shows the available documents in PDF Expert, as well as those in iCloud and on network file servers and cloud storage services that you make available by tapping Network in the left pane and then the Add button in the right pane.

  • Recents (the clock icon): Shows recently opened documents for easy access to them.

  • Pages (the icon of four rectangles): Shows thumbnails of all the pages in the current PDF file. Tap a page to jump to it. Tap Add to add a blank page. Or tap Edit to get the following controls for the pages you select: Copy, Paste, Delete, Mail, Rotate, and Extract. Tap Done to apply your changes to the PDF file.

  • Annotation (the pencil icon): Enables annotations.

  • Search: Searches for text in the document.

  • Bookmark (the open-book icon): Opens a pop-over with tabs to show bookmarks, outlines, and annotations in the current document. Tap Clear to remove all the items in the current tab.

  • Tools (the icon showing an arrow emerging from a rectangle): Opens a menu with controls for going to a specific page, changing the brightness, cropping pages, emailing the PDF file, saving a copy of the PDF file, printing the PDF file, and opening the PDF file in another app.

  • New Bookmark (the + icon): Adds a bookmark with the text of your choice on the current page. Tap Done to save it and Cancel to reject it.