15 Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

Download these apps to highlight text or annotate PDF documents.

Apple Markup

Technology has made tonnes of manufactured things obsolete. Think of alarm clocks, timers, etc. It is now in our smartphones and smartwatches.

One such leap in technology was the introduction of the iPad back in 2010. Today, several tablets are to choose from, but Apple’s line-up is not yet dethroned.

Last year, Mom added an 11″ M1 iPad Pro in her tech arsenal.

She is an author and a poet. Apart from hosting a regional show and attending several zoom meetings, she also translates books, which is why an iPad Pro made sense.

Currently, she’s been asked to submit a few changes to her upcoming book. Usually, she prints the pages and corrects them with a red pen, but the process is cumbersome and tedious.

I advised her to edit the PDF with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, and she was astonished knowing it could do that.

Soon enough, she adapted to this change and is now tweaking her book on her iPad with the help of a Pencil.

Moral of the story: an iPad, Pencil, and an app will change the way you work.

Her workflow includes only circling a few words to add or deduct, so I looked no further than Apple’s built-in Markup feature.

However, many of you would want to dig deeper into the PDF files and get the most out of them.

Highlighting research papers, marking up with notes, adding annotations, etc., are a few cases where PDF (Portable Document Format) comes in handy.

I assume that the Markup feature didn’t satiate your desire to annotate PDFs, or you haven’t tried it yet.

Regardless, I have listed the 15 best iPad apps for annotating PDFs to help you be more productive.

iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

The digital age has us embracing changes that aren’t subtle.

Reading and editing a printed file differs from editing a PDF on a device. Both have pros and cons, but if the former is a go-to method, you can continually adapt.

There are many apps on the App Store, but choosing the one that matches your needs will take longer than a day.

I took up the arduous task and shortlisted the following apps to help you enjoy annotating PDFs.

1. Apple Markup

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

When you open any PDF file on an iPad, it will open in the default app, known as Preview but often referred to as ‘Markup.’

Its tools are pretty superb – annotating documents has never been easier.

If you wish to open any PDF in Markup, press the ‘Share’ button, which looks like a pen tip with a circle. It will also be activated when you take a screenshot.

The built-in function lets you select between a pen, pencil notation, highlighter, and shapes such as arrows, circles, squares, and even quote bubbles.

You can also add a signature or magnify documents or images.

The best part about this “app” is that it’s built-in; no fuss about downloading an extra app.

It is an essential feature, so you’ll have to scroll below if you are looking for a robust application.

Main features

  • Built-in
  • Pen support
  • Edit PDFs along with images


  • Not feature-rich
  • Limited pen strokes

Pricing: Completely free

Download Apple Markup

2. PDF Expert: PDF Editor, Reader

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

PDF Expert is the best iPad app for annotating PDFs.

It’s the expert in everything PDF.

The essential tools are enough for most people – annotating files, viewing and reading them, adding digital signatures, etc.

PDF Expert shines in the premium version that enables all the advanced tools.

This all-purpose app lets users create customizable ‘stamps’ for those who often use annotations.

Other features include iCloud synchronization, editing the PDF structure, zipping various documents, protecting files with passwords, etc.

Get ready to edit spelling errors in the print form if you get the premium subscription, so you don’t have to jump into professional-grade applications.

This is a complex yet feature-rich PDF annotating app and editor, which might have a use case for everyone.

Main features

  • Option for a single page or continuous scroll mode
  • Highlight, underline, strikethrough, and other tools
  • Pre-approved stems (Approved, Not Approved, Confidential, etc.)


  • Exorbitant subscription cost
  • Frequent crashes when converting PDFs

Pricing: Free; $6.99-$49.99

App Store rating: 4.7

Download PDF Expert: PDF Editor, Reader

3. GoodReader PDF Editor & Viewer

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

Goodreader is a great tool to mark up and annotate PDF files.

When you open the app, the first thing you will compliment is the design, and it’s freaking amazing.

The app supports Apple Pencil (and other similar peripherals), making editing PDF files and annotating them a breeze.

When I tested this app, I got the best handwriting on it, and I have used Samsung’s S-Pen on its Note device for almost a decade!

Beware, though, the chemistry between GoodReader and Pencil is too strong, or rather too sensitive, as I often encountered unwanted triggers such as the extra taps which led to undo or delete.

Moreover, the app depends on icons and glyphs for actionable buttons, making it difficult to discern what each button does.

Its flaws aside, GoodReader is genuinely a good app for annotating PDFs that go beyond reading.

The file management system is commendable! You’ll wish this for your default system for a machine.

Main features

  • Add notes + drawings, highlighting text, etc.
  • Annotated files can be shared.
  • Great file management


  • Multiple SMB downloads bug
  • Confusion subscription pricing

Pricing: $5.99

App Store rating: 4.7

Download GoodReader PDF Editor & Viewer

4. Smallpdf: PDF Scanner & Editor

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

They say the best things come in small packages.

Smallpdf is a living embodiment of this phrase. It’s an all-in-one PDF editing tool that not only annotates it but you can also read, edit, scan, compress, convert, and so on.

Let’s talk a bit about the features that excite me.

As I already mentioned, Smallpdf can convert to a bevy of formats. They include Word to PDF, PDF to Word, PPT to PDF, PDF to PPT, JPG to PDF, PDF to JPG, Excel to PDF, and PDF to Excel).

Compression is your friend if you want to send multiple PDF files in a mail, and Smallpdf includes it. You can compress a PDF within minutes by option for two types of compressions: basic or 40%, strong or 75%.

You can also merge PDF files without much hassle.

Now, when it comes to annotating PDF files, you will quickly sign with the design tool to add your signature.

When you select the ‘Edit PDF tool,’ you’ll be able to highlight the text, draw on it, or even add text.

This super handy app is free, but you’ll need to shell more money for advanced features.

Main features

  • All in one tool to manage everything about PDFs
  • Highlight, draw or add text
  • Merge or delete pages from PDFs


  • Known syncing issues

Pricing: Free; $11.99 monthly

App Store rating: 4.9

Download Smallpdf: PDF Scanner & Editor

5. iAnnotate 4 — PDFs & more

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

As the alphabet in front of Annotate suggests, this app is made for Apple devices.

iAnnotate is a feature-rich app that is an expert at annotating documents.

Open a PDF in this app, and the amount of tools you get are pretty overwhelming but warranted. I am talking about highlighting, drawing, underlining, striking the text, etc.

Pair this app with an Apple Pencil, and your work will know no bounds.

Many people would take the help of the multitasking view, but a feature called ‘tabbed browsing’ lets you switch back and forth between files without closing either.

I also like the continuous scroll view, which doesn’t let you wait to go through the various pages.

Main features

  • One-time payment
  • Variety of tools (highlighter, typewriter, stamp, straight-line, etc.)
  • Robust search functions
  • Share PDFs, Microsoft Office files, images, and web pages


  • Bad backup options

Pricing: $9.99

App Store rating: 4.7

Download iAnnotate 4 — PDFs & more

6. Adobe Acrobat Reader: Edit PDF

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

Any list related to PDF would be incomplete without including Adobe’s bevy of PDF tools.

If you want everything related to a PDF – read, edit, convert, etc., look no further than Adobe Acrobat Reader.

This works smoothly, which was evident from all the ebooks I read.

The inclusion of DRM and password-protected PDFs, form-filling, and various modes for viewing make this app a complete package.

When it comes to editing PDFs, it will let you add electronic signatures, highlight existing text, take notes, and more.

Other brilliant features that make Adobe Acrobat Reader a must-have tool include contextual search, text reflow, and hyperlink support.

All these features don’t sound extraordinary, but they are here should you need them.

If your workflow depends on anything PDF-related, consider buying the subscription to unlock advanced features.

Main features

  • The best-in-class
  • Add: notes, comments, sticky notes, and highlights to PDFs
  • Add adding text or drawings


  • Pricey annual plans
  • Abysmal search functionality

Pricing: Free; $9.99 monthly, $69.99 annually

App Store rating: 4.6

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader: Edit PDF

7. iLovePDF – PDF Editor & Scan

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

An “i” and “Love” before PDF means the app is ready to take on PDF files.

This app can do everything – read, edit, convert, and all that jazz. But it wants you to focus on scanning and editing PDFs.

This app is a consolidated version of all the best PDF annotation apps under one rough.

I like that iLovePDF sets every task as a separate tool rather than mixing all the complex tools, which makes you focus on the task at hand.

Document management is neat and rare, making you want to go paperless.

Within a few seconds, you’ll sign your lease, scan documents, and edit them. This process won’t take much of your time.

If you collaborate with other people, they can leave comments to add notes to the documents you just edited. Isn’t it nifty?

PDF files can also be modified in the iCloud or even offline files.

iLovePDF is synonymous with flexibility due to its various features that many other apps charge a bomb for.

Main features

  • Fluid user interface
  • Unlimited document processing
  • Export to different formats


  • Subscription needed to use basic tools
  • Can’t save custom stamps for multiple uses

Pricing: Free; $5.49 monthly, $44.99 annually

App Store rating: 4.6

Download iLovePDF – PDF Editor & Scan

8. WPS Office

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

If you can’t afford MS Office or are just fed up with it and want a decent alternative, you are at the right place.

This app will be one of the best PDF toolkits on your iPad.

WPS Office is cross-platform, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility if you have an iPad and an Android phone.

Since the app is optimized for iPad, it supports dragging and dropping the app in split-screen view.

The main point is that you can annotate and note in the PDF files.

Other welcome features include OCR, Night mode, document compression, text to speech, merging, and splitting PDF files.

The app now supports over 13 languages, including Hindi, English, Japanese, and Indonesian.

This app is done right.

Main features

  • All-in-one complete free office suite
  • Superb annotations viewing
  • Amazing cloud service


  • Lack of powerful annotating options

Pricing: Free; $3.99 monthly, $9.99 quarterly, $29.99 annually

App Store rating: 4.6

Download WPS Office

9. PDF Hero – PDF Editor & Reader

Best iPad Apps for Annotating PDFs

PDF Hero lives up to its weird name. This app is easy to navigate and is based on text buttons and not glyphs.

The sidebar in this app is located on the left side, which is an easy process for those right-handed workers.

If you want to access the premium features, you’ll end up being disappointed as the in-app purchases cost a bomb.

You can go for this app as the basic is right and the variety of costly tools seem to give PDF Hero the right impression.

But keep in mind that this is relatively limited. Try it out before buying a subscription.

Main features

  • Write, annotate, and sign on PDFs
  • Easy PDF management
  • Organizing pages is helpful


  • Finicky auto-save
  • Reported slowdowns

Pricing: Free; $9.99-$39.99

App Store rating: 4.6

Download PDF Hero – PDF Editor & Reader

10. Foxit PDF Editor

Foxit PDF Editor

Fox PDF Editor is a well-known PDF reader that is super cross-platform and is easy to use.

You can read and create password-protected PDF files if you deem them worthy.

Sticky note is a part of this app, which extends to freehand drawing and annotating documents.

This is where the app shines – signing documents. It is infused with a technology known as PSI or Pressures Sensitive Ink that enables on-point pen bleeds, making pressure sensitivity a great thing.

Fox PDF also supports Word docs, Powerpoint, Excel, and image files. All these can be backed up to the cloud that ensures a safe backup of your data.

Main features

  • View and manage PDF files
  • Insert audios, videos, text, images, hyperlinks
  • Edit and optimize PDFs


  • Lack of other cloud services
  • Feels buggy

Pricing: Free; $10.99 annually

App Store rating: 4.4

Download Foxit PDF Editor

11. PDF Reader & Annotator by Xodo

PDF Reader Annotator by Xodo

Xodo’s PDF Reader and Annotator combines three different elements to manage PDF files – read, edit, and annotate.

It excels at all three qualities.

Add to the fact that it supports various cloud storage, including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.

Xodo’s file organizer lets you quickly view any files, which means that navigating through the OS is intuitive.

If you want to ‘edit’ PDF files, you can add text into PDFs, highlights, sign PDF, etc.

A recent update ensured that Xodo supports MS Doc files. Better late than never, isn’t it?

You can also convert them to PDF files.

Main features

  • Supports Apple Pencil
  • Annotate, sign, and comment
  • Access to cloud documents


  • Too much lag in handling documents
  • Bogged by technical errors

Pricing: Completely free

App Store rating: 4.4

Download PDF Reader & Annotator by Xodo

12. PDF Viewer – Annotation Expert

PDF Viewer Annotation

PDF Viewer – Annotation Expert lets you read and edit PDFs expertly.

The essential annotating tools include scribbling, singing forms, editing any document, and highlighting the text.

These are basic – meaning they are available on the free version, but if you want more features, consider subscribing to the premium model.

Overall, the app is worth it if you’d want to interpolate pages, combine documents, annotate images, customize the interface, etc.

Main features

  • Annotate, markup, Highlight PDFs
  • PDF form filling tools
  • Combine PDFs


  • Lacks OCR functionality

Pricing: Free; $6.99 3 monthly, $19.99 annually

App Store rating: 4.2

Download PDF Viewer – Annotation Expert

13. PDFpen 6 – PDF Editor

PDFpen 6 – PDF Editor

PDFpen 6 is a great app that lets you edit PDFs.

This app was a staple for PDF users a long time ago, but the iPad version performs in an eerily similar fashion.

The app provides strong file management to organize, find, manage, and share files. I guess this is an added benefit, but I digress.

Users can add comments, draw arrows, text, shapes such as lines, and more. This is a solid app that can win both ‘beauty with brains’ battles if put to the test.

There is a feature for everything our there!

Main features

  • View two documents simultaneously with multiple windows
  • Draw shapes, add highlights and freehand scribbles
  • Note and comment annotations


  • Form recognition works only one page at a time
  • Word-conversion service requires Internet access

Pricing: $6.99

App Store rating: 4.4

Download PDFpen 6 – PDF Editor

14. PDF Reader – PDFelement

PDF Reader – PDFelement

PDF Reader – PDFelement will boost your productivity, whether read, annotate, edit, convert, or even sign PDF files.

To use the app without any restrictions, you’ll have to register with a Wondershare. Oh yes, you can go ahead with any in-app purchase!

You can edit PDF with the help of Font recognitions, changing size, color, etc.

You can add a text box, stamps, and freehand drawing to markup.

The embedded file system will help you manage your tonnes of PDF files.

Main features

  • Add text box, freehand drawing, sign forms, Highlight, underline, etc.
  • PDF File Management
  • Easy PDF edits


  • Stability issues

Pricing: Completely free

App Store rating: 4.4

Download PDF Reader – PDFelement

15. LiquidText

LiquidText is the best (from last) PDF annotating app with a few tricks. You can view two-paned PDF files simultaneously, which means not switching the tab.

Take notes, synthesize them, and process these notes in this app.

The developer of this app believes the premise of “active reading” basically means annotating, adding outlines, notes, taking highlights, etc.

You can jump between different documents, an ode to a beautifully-designed app. If you have general needs, then PDF Expert should be your choice.

Main features

  • Includes animations, chats, and dialogs
  • Easy navigation
  • Superb import and export functionality


  • Moving excerpts and ink are a headache
  • Switching between pen width/colors and straight/freestyle mode is cumbersome

Pricing: Free; $9.99-$119.99

App Store rating: 3.8

Download LiquidText


What is the best PDF annotation app for iPad?

PDF Expert is the best PDF annotation software for iPad, and it’s an expert in handling everything related to PDFs.

Can I write on PDF with Apple Pencil?

Yes, you can write, sign, annotate PDFs using the Apple Pencil or even Logitech Crayon.

What iPad app can write on PDF?

All the apps on this list enable writing on PDFs with an Apple Pencil. If you just want to sign or annotate PDF files, use Apple’s built-in ‘Markup’ feature, free and get the job done.

How do I annotate a PDF on an iPad?

If you have an Apple Pencil, use it to make your workflow simple. If not, you can use your fingers.

Is Apple Pencil a must-have to annotate PDFs?

If you are a professional or want the document to look like it’s been professionally edited, then I suggest using the Apple Pencil.


These are the 15 best iPad Apps for annotating PDFs.

Hundreds of worthy apps let you scribble, sign, annotate, or write on PDF files, but downloading even a few and testing them is a sheer waste of time.

Pair your Apple Pencil, and marking up and annotating PDFs will become easier.

If you don’t have an Apple Pencil and are in a pinch, some of these apps will also work on your iPhone and Mac.

Nowadays, we depend on our devices to get things done, so try any of the apps mentioned above instead of wasting this time on an abysmal app.

These apps will do whatever you have in mind, so go ahead and smash the download button to try them.

iPad Apps

I am an ambivert, an avid reader, a movie buff, a tea connoisseur, and a staunch fan of Priyanka Chopra Jonas. I like to give my insights through words, which come naturally to me. They also help me to express the myriads of emotions I go through. When not working, I'm either watching the latest tech videos or flipping through pages.