Notes in PDF searchable


I couldn’t find the answer to this on the forum. If you open a PDF in Devonthink (using Devonthink’s viewer), and proceed to take notes on the PDF using the “note” button at the top of the viewer, it puts a note next to the PDF. I really like this feature as the notes are easy to read and also show up in Skim. However it does not seem like these notes are searchable. For example if I do an all search for a particular term that only shows up in one of these notes, the search feature will not find it. Am I missing something here?

I think it is very important to be able to search not only the PDF, but the reader generated notes also.

Thank you,

Notes created by an annotation tool, whether in DEVONthink, Preview, Acrobat, Skim, etc. are not part of the PDF’s “text layer” and are not searchable by DEVONthink or Spotlight.

I work with a variety of filetypes in my databases, and need to associate notes about them that are searchable. Moreover, I was never satisfied with notes in PDFs, as they are plain text. I want my annotation notes to be capable of holding formatting (including lists and tables), images and links.

Take a look at Data > New with Template > Annotation. Select the document that you wish to create note(s)about and invoke the Annotation template (there’s a keyboard shortcut). A new rich text note will be created that’s already linked to the referenced document.


Thanks, you have been an excellent guide as I continue using Devonthink for my studies.
I am familiar with the Annotation template. I feel it is limited by the fact that you can only use one annotation per document. Therefore I use this feature to write my initial summary and reactions to an article I read. This might include the author's arguments, sources, my critique, etc. The annotation template works very well for this. For very detailed quick notes or points however, I've started using the note feature in the Devonthink PDF reader. I like how the notes are visibly presented. For "regular" notes I might take on the article, I will use a Cornell style document and link it to the original PDF with a link, then title it using the same name as the PDF and adding notes as a suffix, thus notes, annotation, and PDF should all stick together. I learned this from you in an earlier post.
Oh well, not a big deal that the PDF notes aren't searchable. I'll deal with it.

Thanks again,

Looking forward to the day when DT responds with, “Hey you want to search for the notes that you added using DT? Okay!”

As Bill has pointed out, the notes don’t become a part of the text layer. But I don’t understand why DEVON can’t choose to index the notes separately in order to make them searchable.

I second that.
This can be very useful for me when I scan my handwritten notes from a meeting and just add some quick keywords over the document. (I will not have time to retype it).

I third that


I fourth to that if it needs more votes for this feature to be added sooner.

I also find PDF note being searchable is important. Is there a way to work around it? Maybe add a markdown note file with exactly the same name under the PDF file and link it to the PDF? It seems cumbersome. I wonder what’s the best practice of doing research on PDF with Devonthink? Maybe using the Highlight app is better?

Note annotations in PDFs are searchable. You are responding to something from 8 years ago.

Also, the Annotation file feature in the Tools > Reminders & Annotations inspector allows you to make notes in a linked external file.

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