Skip to main content

Using annotation tools and symbols to annotate PDF text is a valuable skill to learn for many reasons.

Annotating texts helps with memory, comprehension, productivity, and improved workflow, and collaboration. There are a variety of benefits for learning how to annotate a PDF.

This article will provide all you need to know regarding annotating a PDF on macOS devices, Windows devices, and Google Docs.

It will also provide additional notes and things to consider when using text annotation tools, symbols, and signs.

What Does Annotate Mean?

You may be thinking, “what is text annotation anyway?” Annotating texts means marking up text to edit, comment about, or draw attention to a specific phrase, sentence, idea, or point.

Text annotation symbols include underlines, strike-throughs, arrows, circles, and other shapes, flags, comment boxes, text boxes, thought bubbles, and more.

There are different ways to annotate your text depending on which platform, device, or text annotation software you would like to use.

In this article, we will specifically focus on how to annotate PDFs through different devices.

Why Annotating Texts Is Helpful

It is helpful to use text annotation tools on PDFs for various reasons. Here’s why annotating texts is beneficial in both business and personal life.

  1. Annotating text improves comprehension and understanding of the text.
  2. Marking up a PDF can help people remember essential points or recalling information in the future.
  3. Text annotation helps people reference specific ideas during group discussions or personal studies.
  4. Using text annotation tools and symbols draws attention to areas you want collaborators to take a look at.
  5. Learning how to annotate an article can support you in making connections between the article and your thoughts, ideas, and questions.
  6. Annotating texts helps suggest changes to a document.
  7. You can respond to suggested changes from your peers or colleagues who have annotated a shared PDF.

How to Annotate on a PDF

PDFs are the most popular file format online due to their versatility, so it is crucial to know how to annotate specifically on a PDF.

How you will annotate on a PDF will depend on which text annotation software you are using.

How to Annotate a PDF on Mac

You will use the Preview app to annotate on your macOS. Preview is easy to use and completely free. It is also pre-installed on your macOS device, so it is a great initial option for learning how to annotate.

  1. Go to the Preview App on your Mac. You can find the annotation tool in your Dock.
  2. Right-click the Preview app to access PDFs you’ve recently opened. Otherwise, if you can search for the PDF directly in your files, it will automatically open through Preview.
  3. Notice the Markup Menu, which allows you to access several text annotation symbols, shapes, and tools.
  4. If you do not see the Markup Menu upon opening Preview, you can access it in two ways:
    1. Select View > Show Markup Toolbar or
    2. Select the sketch pen icon on the upper right-hand corner
  5. To highlight text, select the text you wish to highlight. Right-click the text to select which color you would like your text highlighted in.
    • See Know How To Select Text at the bottom of this article for more info on selecting text on your device.
  6. You can add a note to that section of text by right-clicking as well.
  7. Right-clicking will also give you the option to strike or underline the selected text.
  8. If you want to add a note separate from highlighted text, you can add a note by going back to Annotate and selecting Note.
    • Then, you will have a block of color that you can write on, and you can move that block of colored text—the note—anywhere you would like on a PDF. It is like digitally placing a sticky note on your document.
  9. Here are a few other annotation tools you can use on Preview if you have a macOS device:
    • Notes and Speech bubbles – You can manipulate your notes and speech bubbles by color coordinating them, dragging them to a different location on the page, and changing their sizes.
    • Shapes – You can include squares, circles, and rectangles to highlight different sections of texts for different reasons. You can also change the shape’s line style and thickness, border color, and fill color.
    • Add additional text – You can add plain text, which would be separate from a comment box, speech bubble, or other types of notes.
    • Magnifier – If you are having trouble reading the text you wish to potentially annotate, or you want a closer look at smaller texts, you can select the magnifier and scroll over the text of your choice. The magnifier tool automatically will enlarge this text to make reading much easier.

How to Annotate a PDF on Windows 10

You can easily annotate a PDF on Windows 10 through Microsoft Edge. Like Preview for macOS devices, Microsoft Edge is a free, easy-to-use, pre-installed app for Windows devices.

Here is how you can annotate a PDF through Microsoft Edge on your Windows device:

  1. Open Microsoft Edge on your Windows 10 device. You can do this by typing the word “edge” in the taskbar or the search field at the bottom of your screen. Once you see Microsoft Edge, select it to open the program.
  2. You can also open the PDF directly with Microsoft Edge. First, search for the PDF that you would like to annotate within your files. Then, double click to open it. Microsoft Edge is the default program to view PDFs. If you have changed this, right-click and select Open with Microsoft Edge.
  3. Select the text you wish to annotate.
    • See Know How To Select Text at the bottom of this article for more info on selecting text on your device.
  4. There will be two main annotation tools to choose from by right-clicking the selected text; You can highlight the text or make a note.
  5. There is also an Inking feature you can use, which provides more annotation tool options. These options include Ballpoint Pen, Eraser, Touch Wiring, and Text Highlighter.
    • To access the Inking feature, select the Add Notes button.

How to Annotate a PDF on Adobe Acrobat DC

For professional use, Adobe Acrobat DC is a common alternative to Preview and Microsoft Edge. Through Adobe Acrobat, you can create more detailed annotations and collaborate more easily with others.

Here’s How to use Adobe Acrobat DC

  1. Open the Comment toolbar. To do so, you will go to the Menu and select Tools, and then Comment.
  2. Once you select the specific text, the Comment toolbar will provide you with different ways to create comments, add text, and make sticky notes.
    • See Know How To Select Text at the bottom of this article for more info on selecting text on your device.
  3. You can also underline text, strike through content, and highlight text through the Comment toolbar.
  4. Finally, if you click the Polygon icon, you have even more annotation options at your disposal. You can create arrows, squares, and circles to emphasize specific text and categorize different parts of the PDF.
  5. Use the Share With Others feature to share your annotations with your collaborators.

How to Annotate a PDF in Google Docs

Google Docs is a useful platform for collaborating with others, especially due to its Suggest Changes option.

If you want to annotate for yourself, click the pen icon on the top right and select Editing. This is the default selection, so it might already be selected. If so, leave this option as is.

Alternatively, if you would like to annotate to suggest changes for somebody else, click the pen icon on the top right and select Suggesting. This option will ensure that your edits become suggestions, making it easier for someone else to navigate through and “accept” or “reject” your suggestions.

After your preferred option is selected, here is how you can annotate a PDF in Google Docs:

  1. Select the text you wish to annotate. You will immediately see the option to add a comment. This tool is a common and useful way of annotating on Google Docs.
  2. You can also highlight selected text by clicking the highlight icon in the toolbar and choosing your preferred color. Google Docs gives you many more color options for highlighting, including a custom color option.
  3. Finally, if you have selected the Suggest Changes option, Google Doc will automatically markup all edits you make to the document.
    • More specifically, it will strike out the text that you wish to delete, highlight the text you wish to add, and ultimately make it very clear what your suggestions and annotations are throughout the document.

Additional Notes for How to Annotate a PDF

Now that you know how to annotate on a PDF for various text annotation software, here are some additional pro tips for annotating texts:

Do Not Annotate Too Much

It is crucial not to over-annotate. Overusing annotation tools can become distracting and defeat the purpose of drawing attention to specific areas in the text. Only annotate what is necessary to annotate.

Have a System for Your Annotation

Having an organized, pre-planned system for using specific connotation tools can make a huge difference.

It is useful to have specific purposes for each type of annotation tool that you use. For example, you can color-code your highlighting based on which type of information (i.e., blue for quotes, yellow for facts, red for potential edits, and so on).

Or, you can select different shapes to indicate different priority levels of ideas you need to address (i.e., square for highly important, circle for less important).

There are many ways to get creative with annotation tools to make them work more effectively for you and your team.

Pin Tools You Are Using Repeatedly

Some annotation software includes a Pin or Paint option that allows you to use a specific annotation tool without repeatedly reselecting it.

This pin tool is a useful feature in Adobe Acrobat DC and other annotation platforms.

Do Not Be Afraid to Erase

Don’t fear eraser tools. All of this annotation software includes an Eraser option, which allows you to redo or erase your highlighting, drawing, or other forms of marking if you no longer need it.

This feature is especially important so that you do not clog your PDF document with annotations that are no longer useful to you, and you can then focus on the ones that serve a purpose.

On physical paper, you do not get the option to erase these colorful annotation tools, so be sure to take advantage of this feature!

Know How to Select Text

Knowing how to select text is a crucial element of all forms of text annotation, regardless of which platform you use.

If you don’t know how to select the desired text, here are three simple ways how to do it:

  1. Click the beginning of the text so that the cursor is in front of the text you wish to highlight. Hold down the cursor and drag it across the text in mind. You have now selected the text.
  2. On a touch screen device (such as an iPad), you can use your finger or a stylus pen to select the text by dragging your finger or pen across the text in mind.
  3. You can also click the screen so that the cursor is in front of the text and hold the Shift button on your keyboard down while tapping the right arrow button on your keyboard. Some people prefer this text selection option if they do not have access to a mouse.


As we have seen, annotating text in a PDF is helpful in various ways.

You can annotate articles, brochures, and other PDF documents to refer back to points within the document, share comments with people you are collaborating with, mark areas you wish to edit, highlight your favorite parts of the text, and much more.

Whether you have a macOS or a Windows 10 device, you can use this guide to learn how to annotate a PDF effectively.

Jeremy from

We write regular document sharing tutorials, tips to help you be more productive.