Help with Idiot’s attempt to develop efficient .pdf workflow for research

I know that “it is a bad workman that always blames his tools.”

So I won’t do that.

And my tools are pretty good I think - 12.9” iPad Pro, DEVONthink 3, DEVONthink to Go, GoodNotes and Adobe.

I need help with what should be a simple workflow to use in connection with my thesis research for a Masters that begins in September.

Here’s what I need to be able to efficiently do …

  1. After locating a relevant article on the web, I want to save it to DT and then either immediately or later (when I have time) proceed to read and annotate it (using Adobe currently - but open to suggestions if there’s a more efficient product), with the resulting annotated copy replacing the clean copy that was originally saved to DT.

  2. I’d like to be able to do this entirely from my iPad.

Sounds simple, right?

But I am really struggling with how to manage the relation between DTTG and Adobe. For instance:

  • when I finish annotating in Adobe using its Comment tools I want the result to be reflected in DTTG instead of the original clean version. Annotations are not’ automatically reflected in DTTG so I try to send the annotated version to DT via the Share icon in Adobe … but that takes me to Adobe’s interface to send the annotated version via email - which would mean a lot of additional steps to achieve objective.

I am more than sure that others have solved this workflow and are efficiently reading, commenting and saving their research assets in DT.

Do I need to do all of my annotating with the native DT3 pdf editor? I don’t really want to do that as Adobe’s is more feature rich.

Do I need to do all of my .pdf annotating outside of DT … and then save to DT only after all annotating has been completed?

How do I ensure that ongoing revisions to a .pdf saved in DT are reflected in DT?

I’m totally confused and frustrated - but I AM NOT BLAMING MY TOOLS.

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Sorry for your frustration but there’s actually no friction here.

Using the Document Provider in Acrobat, e.g., the part that looks like’s browser, you can access PDFs in DEVONthink To Go. After you close the document in Acrobat, the changes are reflected in DEVONthink To Go.

Why aren’t you just annotating in DEVONthink To Go?

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Thanks Jim. I was expecting an easy solve and you’ve suggested one. I was not aware of the direct access to Devonthink files from the Adobe app.

I’ll try the Dttg editor again as you suggest - I recall it being less flexible than the Adobe equivalent but perhaps I’m misremembering.

Thanks very much.

You’re welcome.
I personally prefer the framework we use in DEVONthink To Go versus mobile Acrobat’s tools. That’s just my comfort level though.

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The fully featured ‘pro’ apps always look better and seem to offer more shiny options.

But in truth, marking up a PDF for study purposes doesn’t need many bells and whistles. I annotate all my PDFs in DT2G (I am an academic in the Humanities and so burn through quite a lot of it!), using a variety of coloured pens, and highlighters. Every now and then, an arrow or a typed text box. I can’t think what else I would need. Your mileage may vary depending on your discipline (e.g. maybe you are a mathematician and need to enter equations or something…). But DT2G’s annotation tool set is simple and exactly what you need.

Jim’s work around through the ‘Files’ app works, of course, but keeping things in house in DT2G is just more efficient.

I do occasionally need to use Acrobat exclusively (some publishers insist on it for marking up proofs), but in that case I always use the Macbook Pro anyway.

Good luck with your MA thesis!


Appreciate your thoughts. For the life of me I haven’t found a way to draw a straight highlight across a line of text in the dttg editor. My tremors are perhaps the problem but what do you do to keep things tidy?

The text highlighting tool acts on selected text. Freeform highlighter does not. You’re just drawing at that point. There’s also a straight line tool.

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Any time :slight_smile:

Your highlighting should be straight in any PDF editor really (not just DTTG) - you’re not actually drawing a line - as Jim says you’re selecting text and the app is colouring it. So do make sure you’re selecting the right tool (the highlighting one). If your highlighting is not straight (and assuming the text is!), it’s giving you a hint that the PDF editor isn’t treating your markups as standard annotations (which means they’re not cross-compatible with other apps, and you may not be able to extract those annotations from another app in future).

I agree with @SebMacV though - do you actually need all the bells and whistles that some PDF editors provide if you’re just reading papers (I’m a scientist and also reading a lot). I’ve been testing PDFExpert (I’m trying to fix a different issue) and I’ve ended up removing the menu for most things that offers because all I need to do is highlight, add text boxes and occasionally draw something. All the other menu options are just noise. DTTG’s PDF editor can handle all of that, as well as occasional handy extras like deleting pages, merging, etc.