As a Mac OS user, I’m very happy to use the Preview software to read and annotate my PDFs. I read a lot of PDF because I’m in an academic field. Preview does exactly what I need: Highlight following the lines and keeping the text clear (not just an alpha layer), comments, add figures. Furthermost, when I’m editing a PDFs with Preview, I don’t have to save it to an other format. But Preview have a major drawback: it’s not open source and don’t exist on Linux.

I’m trying to switch to Linux then I need to find something close to Preview.

After a small research, I found a list on the site of pdfreaders.org. The candidates are the following.

Specification

The software I need have to meet the following specifications:

  • Open standard PDFs, as one could find in scientific papers
  • Annotate PDF with the following tools:
    • Highlight the text by selecting the text (not free forms) without affecting the readability (not only an alpha layer)
    • Underline
    • Write comments
    • Draw rectangles, and maybe free forms
  • Save these annotations directly in the PDF. They must be readable with others PDFs readers, including Acrobat Reader and Preview. I need to share my annotations to colleagues.
  • An Open Source software should be better but not essential. My priority is to be productive on my new Linux platform.

I don’t need:

  • Open strange PDF format, as forms or interactive one. For these very rare cases, I could use time to time a virtualized version of Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • “cloud” features
  • Conversion features
  • Another coffee machine

The challengers

Acrobat Reader

Acrobat Reader is the default choice to read PDF. On my PC at work, it does the job pretty well. But I can’t achieve my goal with it because beyond the fact it’s a proprietary software, there is no recent Linux version. The last release, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, exists only for Mac OS and Windows.

I searched a lot in their website, and I have the feeling they discontinue supporting all Linux versions.

Okular

Okular seems to be a good candidate.

Highlight work perfectly, I could save my annotation in the PDF.

The only thing a little bit annoying is that one have to do save as to save the annotation. Can’t use compulsively ctrl-s (by boss hate when I’m doing that).

Evince

Evince is just a PDF viewer; then it doesn’t do the job.

xournal

Xournal is a nice software to take notes with features to open PDFs, but it use his own format to save annotation. Furthermost, the highlight tool make the text difficult to read.

Conclusion

Okular is the way to go!