iAnnotate – Superb annotation tools for PDF files

iAnnotate – Superb annotation tools for PDF files

Download iAnnotate for the iPad ($9.99)

Today’s app is the recently re-launched iAnnotate 4, now a universal app for both the iPad and iPhone at $9.99.

Any time I talk to lawyers about the iPad someone always asks about iAnnotate because the app has been around a LONG time, and was one of the very first apps for organizing and managing files on the iPad, and of course, annotating PDF files.

The developers of iAnnotate, Branch Fire, recently released a brand new app which is effectively version 4 and now just called “iAnnotate” . The older version was called “iAnnotate PDF” and has been effectively retired.

If you have an older version of iAnnotate, this is NOT a free update – you must purchase iAnnotate all over again.

This isn’t the first time an app developer has done this. It’s a way to get new revenue rather than simply providing a free update. But if the app is worthy and useful (like iAnnotate), then this is a small price to pay to support the continued development of the app.

The new app now supports “Split View” in iOS 9, as well as the Apple Pencil. There’s also an improved signature tool.

One of my favorite NEW features is “Web Markup” which basically opens a web browser in a new tab, and lets you navigate to a web page. You can then convert the web page into a PDF and start annotating immediately. I’ve been doing this on the iPad for years, but first I would have to go Safari, copy the URL, use another app to convert the URL to PDF, then use the “Open In” menu to send GoodReader or PDF Expert. This feature in iAnnotate is seamless and I get to stay in the app!!

The one thing I have ALWAYS appreciated about iAnnotate is the ability to customize the annotation toolbars. You can have MULTIPLE annotation toolbars, and customize them with exactly the tools you want. Then you can quickly flip / toggle between them by swiping with your finger over the toolbar. I usually have a “Pen” toolbar with several different colored pens and highlighters – so I can switch between colors with a single tap.

The one thing I have NOT always liked about iAnnotate is their odd File Management screen. It’s just never been intuitive to me. This new app improves it a little but it takes extra brain-power for me to get comfortable with the layout.

Also the new app placed all the Settings for the App in the iOS Settings app. I know this is a strategic decision by developers to aggregate all App Settings in one location, but it’s still not the norm and I don’t like being jerked out of the iAnnoate app when I just want to make a quick settings change.

If you’re already an iAnnotate fan, (and there’s a lot of you out there) it is a no-brainer to throw down another $10 for the app. If you like the app, you need to support its further development.

Unfortunately, the new app does NOT automatically move or transfer your files from the old app. Branch Fire suggests moving documents one at a time using the “Open In” option. Fortunately both the old AND the new versions of iAnnotate can reside peacefully together on your iPad.

Download iAnnotate for the iPad ($9.99)


  1. Robin Meadow - May 28, 2016 12:50 pm

    iAnnotate is great in all respects but one: Its eraser function. Unlike every other program that allows handwritten annotations — e.g., Goodreader, Notability, PDF Expert, Noteshelf, Goodnotes — once you leave an annotation tool you can’t go back and use the eraser to change parts of it. Instead, you have to delete the whole thing and start over. If you use a tablet to edit a document like a brief (which as an appellate lawyer is what I spend a lot of time doing, beginning with the first iPad and now with the iPad Pro and pencil), you (at least I) need to have something that works just like a pencil eraser. iAnnotate’s approach is a deal-breaker for me. I confirmed with the company both how the app works and the fact that this function wasn’t changed in v.4. They’d like to do it, they say, but there are “technical limitations in the way our annotations are created that prevent part of them from being altered.” It’s a shame.

    My program of choice for editing is Notability, with PDF Expert as a close second now that it supports the Apple Pencil. Both have the distinct advantage over Goodreader that the vertical page scroll is smooth, instead of jumping page to page as Goodreader does.

    • Brett Burney - May 30, 2016 1:59 pm

      Thanks for the info Robin. I wasn’t aware of that limitation in iAnnotate but that’s unfortunate. And it doesn’t sound like it’s that difficult because as you stated, the eraser function works very well in other apps like PDF Expert, GoodReader, Notability, etc.

      And actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve run into a limitation with iAnnotate. They were one of the first to offer a “screen presentation” mode several years ago but then took it out in a subsequent release.

      I still like iAnnotate but honestly I open GoodReader or PDF Expert before iAnnotate (I already reviewed GoodReader and PDF Expert will be in near future). As I stated in my review of iAnnotate the biggest thing I’ve always appreciated is the ability to customize the annotation toolbars.

  2. Brett Burney - July 6, 2016 4:17 pm

    Branchfire announced an update to iAnnotate today that includes offline access for files and thumbnail browsing. You can download (or update) iAnnotate here: https://goo.gl/no0Bek

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