PDF highlights made in DTTG are altered when synced with Devonthink Pro

I am seeing DevonThink for Mac alter PDFs that have been highlighted in DTTG, potentially causing a loss of information:

  1. I start off with a PDF added to DevonThink Pro for Mac, latest version (3.7.2) running on Big Sur 11.4.
  2. I sync this PDF via CloudKit to DevonThink To Go, latest version (3.1.2).
  3. I make some highlights in the PDF in DTTG. For the highlights, I change the opacity (tap the highlight, tap “opacity”, tap to make it say 25% opaque). (This is pretty important to me: it makes for a much less intrusive, easier to read highlight.)
  4. I wait for the PDF, with annotations, to sync back to the Mac. (Sometimes this takes a while, I’m not sure why.)
  5. I open the highlighted PDF in DevonThink for Mac, and see the highlights (again, this might take a while, but the highlights eventually show up).
  6. The highlights do not have reduced opacity; they are full saturation (e.g., a bright yellow instead of a very light yellow).
  7. I make some change to the PDF in DevonThink for Mac (for instance, change the file slightly). [EDIT: upon trying this with several PDFS, I think that making an additional highlight in the PDF in DT for Mac may be required at this step to cause the change.]
  8. Wait for this change to sync back to DTTG. Once it does, all the highlights originally made in DTTG change from being reduced saturation to being full saturation.

I don’t want to be too dramatic about this, this might be a fairly minor use case. And maybe this will sound cosmetic to some. But I have come to depend on the sophisticated annotation tools available in DTTG. If you use varying levels of saturation to convey information when highlighting (e.g., something really important gets full saturation to really pop, while everything else gets light highlighting), then this will cause some loss of annotation data. Beyond that, it causes the nicely subtly highlighted PDFs I’ve made to become garish and difficult to read.

Hope this is useful, I do truly love the PDF reading and annotation experience on DTTG.

Hope this is useful, I do truly love the PDF reading and annotation experience on DTTG.

Thanks for the kind words. They’re appreciated!

In DEVONthink To Go, select Help > Contact Us to start a support ticket. Thanks!

DT uses the crappy macOS native PDF support. When I have to annotate in macOS, I use PDF Expert, as I’ve configured it as default viewer for PDF in macOS. A double click in a PDF inside DT opens PDF Expert. However, I only change the annotation color, not saturation and don’t know if PDF Expert deals with it well or not.

And I understand that PDF Expert is expensive. However you could use PDF Viewer from PSPDFkit, that uses the exact same SDK that is being used in DTTG. And it is free.

(For example, I use to scan old books and use them as reference. I OCR them with Abbyy under Windows 10 using MRC and generating relatively very thin PDF files… Until macOS native framework touches it, making it 3 or 4 times bigger for only making an annotation. I try to avoid Preview for PDF).