Can you add notes to a PDF?

In Evernote, I could import a PDF and then at the top or bottom write out my own notes. This is helpful for summarizing a research paper in my own words or making some summary conclusions. Is it possible to do this in DT? I’m not talking about annotations on the PDF. This is not as useful because you are constrained to a small part of the screen on the side of the PDF and more importantly, it appears the annotations are not searchable by DT anyhow.

You can add comments to each item, e.g. via the Info panel or via the optional Comments column (see menu View > Columns > …).

This is a major issue for me as well - currently I get around it by creating a new rich text note for the summary. Then I link the note to the PDF (highlight some text -bring up the contextual menu - click ‘Link To…’), and then link the PDF back to the note (using the Link button on the PDF toolbar).

It’s a bit of a hassle but seems to do everything I want. If you find a better way, be sure to post.

I understand your workaround, but I find that quite awkward. I certainly understand why you use it though—there currently seems to be no better solution!

Adding extensive commentary to the Spotlight Comments box is no solution at all for those of use who want “real” notes to be linked to a PDF document.

I agree it would be very helpful to have some fairly simple/automatic way to link a text note to a PDF.

Yes, it would indeed be handy to have this matter simplified.



Would appreciate a note-feature for pdf and like to second this as useful idea for my needs as well. Currently, I use self-propelled’s work-around.

My ideal scenario goes a little further: it would be something like Scriveners “Create Link”-feature: Working in a document and using the shortcut for “Create Link” (a) splits the screen in half, (b) creates a new text document linked back to my initial document with an internal link titled “Note {title of annotated doc, date,time}” © moves the cursor to the newly created note document. – After I’m done with my note I close the note-panel and am back in the full display of my inital document.

Could this be something that works not just with pdf files (where it would address the request from this thread) but also with other rtf docs in DT?

I open the document in PDFPen, then type a short note at the top of the first page in green text to make it stand out. Then save it again into its DTPO location. This text is searchable & prints out with the PDF document. Is this what you mean?

What about the new “Annotation” smart template that will be part of the next beta? As a preview, you can download it here:

Annotation Template (153 KB)
To add it to the application manually, you need to do the following:

  • Unpack the archive.
  • Add the file “Annotation.templatescriptd” to ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2/Templates.noindex.
  • Select the DEVONthink Pro (Office) application package, which should be located in /Applications or ~/Applications, right-click it and choose “Show Package Contents”.
  • Open the folder “Contents”.
  • Drop the file “Template Script Additions.scpt” into the sub-folder “Resources”, replacing the existing file. This installs a new version of the template script additions which is needed for the Annotation template.
  • Start DEVONthink Pro (Office) again.

Now, choose any document you want to annotate and select Data > New With Template > Annotation. A new note is created in a top-level group named “Annotations”, prepared with the annotated document’s name, the current date and time, the user’s (annotator’s) name (linked to her or his work email address if possible) and a back link to the document. In addition, if the URL field of the annotated document was empty, a link to the annotation rich text file is added so that forward and back links are maintained.

This sounds just fanatastic and too good to be true! (It’s hard not to believe that you guys keep these treats up your sleeve and wait until someone actually asks – just to produce them with a big grin!)

Installed the new tool as you described and tried it a few times always resulting in the following message (see pic below). Having the adressbook open or closed doesn’t seem to matter, restarted first DT and then my Mac – same result.

Still, the annotation feature and functionality promised do look sweet. May the glitch be sorted quickly!
kithaironAnnotation error message.jpg

The new annotation feature works perfectly for me! Thanks so much.

As a very minor addition I’d love to have a quick keyboard shortcut for this as I will use it a lot!

The “quirk” I’m noticing is that the Address Book app opens every time I create a new annotation. I’m using 10.6.1

That’s great! Highly appreciated new feature, it’s working well for me.
(Although like mitchelim if I try to assign a keyboard shortcut, it also opens up Address Book. Eh?)

A few suggestions:

It seems odd that a clickable link for the annotation only exists if there is no URL for the original document - there’s no way to tell if an annotation exists other than going back to the Annotations folder and searching for it there. For all documents, I’d say a link is needed, and one that is instantly identifiable as leading to an annotation (e.g. it has a different icon).

A command to open a document and it’s annotation(s) together would be great (either split-pane or separate windows, whichever), as would the ability to open just the annotation of a document from the database browser, so one can quickly scan summaries and notes rather than long documents.

Customisation of annotations would also be useful - particularly the option to annotate with a template of your choice (e.g. Cornell notes).

And (though less important in my mind), I’d also like to be able to modify the annotation’s filename so that the one generated is a bit shorter and easier to read than currently (e.g. instead of “Annotation: document_filename Date Time”, just put “NB:document_filename”)

I’ve just tried the annotation feature on my office computer (tested at home earlier). I can’t get it to work. Specifically I get an error message saying:

An error occured when adding the annotation.
Could not access the Address Book.

This may be a problem on my end, but I have no idea how to fix it and it makes the annotation feature useless on this computer. Is there a way for me to fix this situation? Alternatively, is there a way to create the annotation script without having “author” automatically placed into it? I’d be quite happy with manually inserting the annotator information especially if that meant having the script work on all my computers PLUS not open address book in the first place.

P.S. It’s becoming almost impossible to post replies in the forum any more. I always get taken to a login page (even though I’m already logged in). In general I need to try to post about 6 times before one of them will “stick.” This is true both on home and office computers.

Actually I just wrote this template this morning.

I guess you simply had not defined a personal address book card and thence the error.

Question: Is this feature, which I added just because it’s so nice :slight_smile:, important? If not I can easily strip it which would also keep Address Book opening every time.


Eric: this new script/addition is FANTASTIC!

I did fix the address book error by indicating which entry was “my card” within address book app.

However, of all the uber-cool things you’ve done with this addition, the only thing that seems “nice” but unneeded is the automatic placement of the author. For me at least this isn’t needed (or could be a manual option for others). Eliminating it would make for a sleeker experience of not needing address book to open every time.

Also, this script on your part with the very cool linking feature makes DT much more useful and user-friendly for me as I do a lot of academic work and thus a lot of annotations to original research.

I know it’s not possible now, but it would be fantastic to have a little icon one could place in the toolbar for annotations. It would certainly be one of my most used DT features and so having it always staring at me in the toolbar would be incredibly useful.

Many thanks again for your quick and wonderful work with this addition.

@Eric: your annotation feature now works beautifully after I defined “my entry” in the adressbook as you suggested. It’s simply great – and a very welcome tool for my reading and digesting workflow for texts. I’d probably be slightly in favour of the “author” line.
Thanks for this.

I’ve slightly modified the template:

Annotation Template Script (138 KB)
It now grabs the user name from system info so it does not longer open Address Book (but also does not longer link the user’s name to her email address). It adds the link to the annotation even if there’s already a URL set (it moves the original URL to the comments field in this case to make room for the new one). The created file does not add the date and time to the file name anymore. Finally, it comes with a keyboard shortcut now (Command-Option-Shift-A).


Eric: Wow, works perfectly! Thanks so much. This “little” addition makes DT much more powerful and user-friendly for me. The links back and forth between “original” and “annotation” work elegantly.

I like the new script a lot, except that it places the cursor before the “Annotator” label. Is there a way to script it so that the cursor highlights, and is on, “Type your note here.” so that one can immediately begin typing the note and overwriting “Type your note here.”? Otherwise, one has to mouse to that area, highlight the text and then begin typing. Thanks

This script is really useful and I use it alot.

But I detected, that all template-scripts give wrong creation dates (“Erstellt”) to new documents (notes, annotations etc.). Could this be adjusted?