Let’s talk about the human interface of the PDF viewer of DEVONthink 3. In my view it is far from optimal and sometimes irritating. – What’s wrong with it? You may ask me, so let me talk about it by comparing to the mainstream PDF viewer, PDF Expert. If i am wrong, please do correct me!
First, about highlighting. Ah, yeah, the very basic functionality of any PDF viewer. In PDF Expert you highlight by these processes:
- Select some text by mouse.
- Click the Highlight button on the toolbar.
Nice and simple. And in DT3 you can also highlight by exactly the same processes.
However, when you want to edit the color of the highlighting, or removing them, things can be cumbersome. In PDF Expert, you do:
- Click the highlight. Then an alternative toolbar containing colors pop up.
- Click on the color in the toolbar.
Two steps, alright.
In DT3, however, you have to achieve this by three steps:
- Right click on the highlight. A menu will pop up.
- Go through all the menu items until you find the “Highlight” button.
- Go to the submenu of “Highlight” and select the color you want.
You see the difference: There is no direct way to change the color. You have to open the menu and find the “Hightlight” button. This can be definitely frustrating if you do a lot of highlighting a day.
So, my recommendation/feature request: add some color palette directly on the toolbar:
When you want to remove a highlighting, in PDF Expert, it’s simple:
- Double click the highlighting.
- Press “delete” button on your keyboard.
In DT3, you can also achieve this by two steps, but not that intuitive:
- Select part of the highlight.
- Press the “highlight” button on the toolbar:
For many cases this is just Okay, but things can still be optimized.
I always take notes when reading PDFs. For the most time I use the text notes instead of the pop-up iconized notes. Let’s split this topic into two parts: taking notes and modifying&moving notes.
In PDF Expert this is simply fast:
- Click the “Text” button on the toolbar.
- Click on where you want to take notes and grind your keyboard.
- Press Esc when you are finish. That’s it.
However, in DT3, some irritating things happens:
- Click the “Text” button on the toolbar. Okay, simple.
- Instead of clicking the place you want to take notes, you have to drag your mouse to create a text box.
- After the text box is created an inspector menu pops up. In this moment, you cannot type directly on the keyboard, instead you have to click on the text area of that box to make sure the cursor appears in the text area:
- Type your note.
- Click the red dot to close the pop-up menu.
- At this time you are still at “Text Note mode”. You have to go back to the original text select mode by clicking again on the toolbar:
So to make a text note and go back to the original state you have to follow those 6 steps. What a cumbersome process! Can’t things be simplified? Why cannot we write texts directly on the PDF pages instead of typing in the pop-up menu?
Modifying & Moving notes
Okay, if you want to modify your text notes, in PDF Expert, you do:
- Double-click the text you’ve written.
- Modify as you want.
However, in DT3:
- If you are in text-selecting mode, you have to go back to the “Text Note mode” by clicking the toolbar:
- Double-click the text you’ve written.
- Instead of modifying the text on the pdf page, you again have to meet the pop-up menu! There, you click on the text area to make sure cursor is in it…
- And finally, modify your notes.
- After you finish, click the red dot to close the pop-up menu.
- Go back to the original “Text-selecting mode” by pressing again on the toolbar:
Again, six steps. And when you just want to move the text to another place, instead of simply dragging the note, you have to:
- Select the “Text” button …
- Drag your note to the place you want …
- Go back to the original Text-selecting mode, by pressing again on the toolbar.
Three steps. Why not make things easier?
When I have to write some long notes, I take some pop-up notes. In PDF Expert, you do:
- Click the button on the toolbar: Then a pop-up note will appear.
- Type on your keyboard.
- Press esc when you finish.
In DT3, you do as similar steps as in the Text Notes. Well, what I want to talk about in this place is viewing the notes. In PDF Expert, if you want to view the content of that note, you simply click on the icon:
You can achieve this in anytime, whenever you are making highlights, selecting texts, making another notes or simply drinking coffee. But in DT3, things are different.
In DT3, if you are in the default state – The Text-selecting mode, clicking on the note icon does not work.
What you have to is first go to the Note-taking mode, by clicking on the toolbar:
And then you are able to click on the note icon, to see the content:
Why do I have to go in the Note-taking mode first? Why can’t I simply click on the icon when in text-selecting mode?
What makes a good PDF Viewer
A good PDF Viewer is, in my view, made up of three things:
- Easy-to-use human interface. PDF Expert is good at this, but DT3 is far from good.
- Polished interface. in my view both PDF Expert and DT3 are good.
- Rendering and overall speed. DT3 is much more lightweight than PDF Expert so it has faster rendering speed, which I really like.
So please, ease the human interface and make DT3 do better on PDF viewing!