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#1 2013-06-04 15:29:52

shadeless
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Registered: 2013-05-26
Posts: 58

What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Hey guys,
I'm an academic that frequently needs to annotate pdfs. So far, the best solutions have been to install Wine and Foxit or PDF-exchange. However, I really want to have something that doesn't require me to install Wine or a bunch of 32-bit libraries.

So what will it take to have decent PDF annotation running natively in Linux. What needs to get added in evince/okular? Is there any sort of gameplan? I can't find any so far, but if there is, please point me to it so that I can contribute. If there are no efforts, please give me ideas to get started. I'm quite fed up now.

It's a cause worth getting behind. Students and other academics will highly appreciate such a feature.

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#2 2013-06-04 16:03:33

drcouzelis
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From: Connecticut, USA
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

I'm confused. Doesn't Okular have annotations right here?

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#3 2013-06-04 17:21:44

carukia
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From: ~/United_Kingdom/Liverpool
Registered: 2011-05-15
Posts: 162

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

I used Okular when I was at university. It did the job very well.

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#4 2013-06-04 18:46:30

ball
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From: Germany
Registered: 2011-12-23
Posts: 164

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

The last time I checked okular, it was not capable of storing the annotations in the pdf itself -- this makes annotating pdf documents quite useless because one wants to share these annotations so that others can add their thoughts.

I don't know if this has changed. The documentation linked by drcouzelis states, that this should be possible now. But still a non-KDE program would be nice :-D

Last edited by ball (2013-06-04 18:51:05)

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#5 2013-06-04 19:10:46

Inxsible
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

shadeless wrote:

What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Apparently, only some basic research on your part. roll


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#6 2013-06-04 19:19:04

drcouzelis
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

I really can't tell about Okular.

As has been noted, it can totally save any anotation separately from the PDF, which can then be easily sent to another person who uses Okular.

As for saving annotations with the PDF, some threads on the KDE forums say that this functionality has been implemented, but I haven't really read anything concrete.

I guess it's time to just try it. smile

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#7 2013-06-04 20:31:06

illnerb
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Registered: 2013-04-05
Posts: 1

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

There also is a GSoC project to improve annotations in evince:
https://live.gnome.org/SummerOfCode2013 … hancements

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#8 2013-06-04 21:01:19

mike_r
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Registered: 2009-01-22
Posts: 112

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

This may not be quite what you want, but you can annotate the PDF with xournal, then "print" it out to a new PDF. You can also save the xournal file - this looks roughly like the okular behavior, but the output PDF is real PDF.

Mike


Linux User #353 - SLS -> Slackware -> Red Hat -> Mandrake -> Fedora -> Arch

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#9 2013-06-04 21:55:57

Box0
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From: Italy
Registered: 2011-09-21
Posts: 218

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Okular does save annotations in the original PDF. It's just a matter of doing "Save as" and overwriting the original file. I've been exchanging commented pdf files with Windows-acrobat users for some time now and I have not had any problem.  If I remember correctly the feature is there since KDE 4.9 or .8

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#10 2013-06-04 23:28:33

cfr
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From: Cymru
Registered: 2011-11-27
Posts: 5,661

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

It is extremely annoying to use though. As far as I can tell, you cannot change the default colours. So if you want text in blue, say, rather than yellow or whatever you have to change it for every single annotation.

Moreover, it is not as simple as "since KDE x". That is Arch-specific. It depends on Okular being configured to use poppler (which renders horribly) and using a particular version or later. (E.g. I can't do this on Fedora 17 as poppler is too old.)

In addition, one cannot fill out a pdf form or annotate a pdf in presentation mode for no discernible reason I can discover - it just disables it when you switch to presentation mode.

Annotations for PDF suck on all OS but they such more on Linux. We need a GIMP or InkScape for PDF and not just more and more pdf viewers.

On the bright side, I believe some improvements are coming in Okular but haven't hit Arch yet. I think this should at least improve rendering.


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#11 2013-06-05 02:06:01

drcouzelis
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

The Wikipedia has an interesting section on annotations and application support: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pdf#Annotation

cfr wrote:

Annotations for PDF suck on all OS but they such more on Linux. We need a GIMP or InkScape for PDF and not just more and more pdf viewers.

I think we need a file format that was designed to have annotations built into it in an open and standard way, instead of shoehorning it into a file format that was designed to be read-only. hmm

Last edited by drcouzelis (2013-06-05 02:06:40)

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#12 2013-06-05 02:11:53

Trilby
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

The poppler libs are quite easy to use.  I may see if I can whip up an annotation creator as I've already been playing with extracting annotations or "flattening" the pdf so all annotations are visible.

EDIT: poppler is great for reading annotations, but apparently it is very limited in creating annotations.  Text annotations are easy, but anything else, I'm not so sure.

Last edited by Trilby (2013-06-07 14:56:23)


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#13 2013-06-06 00:18:37

cfr
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From: Cymru
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

drcouzelis wrote:

The Wikipedia has an interesting section on annotations and application support: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pdf#Annotation

cfr wrote:

Annotations for PDF suck on all OS but they such more on Linux. We need a GIMP or InkScape for PDF and not just more and more pdf viewers.

I think we need a file format that was designed to have annotations built into it in an open and standard way, instead of shoehorning it into a file format that was designed to be read-only. hmm

In a way, I agree. But in another way, I disagree. In a sane world, you'd be right. In this world, you're wrong. If you have any contact with academia, at least, pdf and word documents are *the* file formats and if you can't work with them, you can't do anything except howl at the moon.

I don't think the situation with pdf is getting worse (and Trilby gives me hope smile) but the situation with word documents is. I'm semi-seriously wondering if I should give up LaTeX and try to get hold of a copy of Office (and Windows) to dual boot. Conversion from LaTeX source used to be reasonably good. Now it is simply horrible and I have people telling me they cannot work with my files at all. That's pretty bad. I checked the file in a current version of Word and they were right. The conversion to .odt left a great deal to be desired (why does it turn every quotation into a separate section for goodness sake?) but the export from LibreOffice was simply horrendous. It just stuck endnotes in the middle of pages, included weird and almost-impossible-to-remove formatting etc. etc.

I'm not saying this is LO's fault. Office formats are a moving target and the target is deliberately moved in especially difficult to discern ways. But if publishers and editors insist on Word documents (and they do), it doesn't really matter whose fault it is.

sad

Last edited by cfr (2013-06-06 00:19:59)


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#14 2013-06-06 00:23:56

Trilby
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

cfr wrote:

But if publishers and editors insist on Word documents (and they do)

Have you contacted editors directly?  I know several journals that say nothing of LaTeX in any of their websites nor instructions to authors, but upon contacting a handling editor I've yet to have LaTeX not be accepted.


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#15 2013-06-06 03:06:09

cfr
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From: Cymru
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

I offered LaTeX source and I sent them ODF as well as Word but they would only work with Word and they would only pass Word onto their typesetters.

I don't really understand why it is like this when the same publisher works with LaTeX files for other journals. Maybe they have Word-only typesetting divisions or something.

It is also mad: the source code produced pdf which they admitted was fine. The ODF was messier but at least had most things in the right places. The Word was Hell. They were right about that. I now have to go through the proofs with a fine toothcomb...

Last edited by cfr (2013-06-06 03:07:09)


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#16 2013-06-06 18:30:47

shadeless
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Registered: 2013-05-26
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

I gave okular another try. The annotation mechanisms are annoying to deal with, but I guess livable. Using Save As to save the annotations in the pdf document almost worked. Sadly, the pop up notes just save as a picture of a pop up note symbol, but it doesn't save the content.

I'm trying out Mendeley Desktop now. It's much more than a pdf-reader, but it might be what I need.

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#17 2013-06-06 18:55:17

shadeless
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Mendeley works kind of ok for annotations. You can only highlight or add pop-up notes. And the highlighting looks ugly and makes the text less readable.

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#18 2013-06-07 14:34:36

shadeless
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Registered: 2013-05-26
Posts: 58

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Well what do you know. The pop-up notes in okular can be read with Adobe Reader. I think that solves my problems.

Annotating with okular is a bit of a pain in the butt though. Oh well.

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#19 2013-06-08 16:44:04

Box0
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From: Italy
Registered: 2011-09-21
Posts: 218

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

cfr wrote:

It is extremely annoying to use though. As far as I can tell, you cannot change the default colours. So if you want text in blue, say, rather than yellow or whatever you have to change it for every single annotation.

This feature (saving custom tools) has been already implmented (http://theoldreader.com/posts/search/okular). I think it will be released in kde 4.11 but I'm not sure since I run a self-compiled and self-modified version of okular

cfr wrote:

In addition, one cannot fill out a pdf form or annotate a pdf in presentation mode for no discernible reason I can discover - it just disables it when you switch to presentation mode.

In presentation mode you can use a pencil but yeah, I agree its a pretty limited set of tools smile

cfr wrote:

Annotations for PDF suck on all OS but they such more on Linux. We need a GIMP or InkScape for PDF and not just more and more pdf viewers.

Out of curiosity, what do you consider to be the best annotating system already available?

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#20 2013-06-08 17:57:45

ball
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From: Germany
Registered: 2011-12-23
Posts: 164

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Box0 wrote:

Out of curiosity, what do you consider to be the best annotating system already available?

Adobe Acrobat is quite good. I use pdfexchange via wine. It kinda works.

Last edited by ball (2013-06-08 17:57:57)

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#21 2013-06-08 20:58:00

cfr
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From: Cymru
Registered: 2011-11-27
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

@Box0,
Thanks for the info about Okular - small steps but progress, nonetheless.

If I have a PDF which has been "enabled", acroread's tools beat Okular's by a long, long way although they can be extremely slow and laggy. Acrobat Professional 7 (which is the last version of Acrobat I used) are not terrible and beat anything I've found on Linux by several miles.

This is not to say those annotation tools are good - I don't know of any really nice ones - but that they are the best I've used. I would be happy to have tools equally good in Linux (without the need for specially enabled files) but something better would make me even happier smile.

The key tools I really miss from Acrobat are: filling form boxes in presentation mode with the ability to save the result; the typewriter tool; adding form boxes. I can't use a pencil to type multiple lines of text during a presentation.

The most annoying thing is the disabling of theses tools in presentation mode since I am assuming that this would be very simple to fix but there is no sign that it is at all likely to get fixed in part because I seem to be the only person who wants that functionality sad. This is just frustrating - to know the functionality is there already and just gets disabled for no good reason I can see drives me nuts. At least in the other cases I can see that work is required to get things working and so I understand that my priorities might not be widely shared by others, including others capable of actually doing the work. But disabling what you've developed... aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhh!

Last edited by cfr (2013-06-08 21:00:18)


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#22 2013-06-08 21:05:36

Trilby
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

cfr wrote:

... the typewriter tool ...

What's this?

As an aside, I have found a much better way to do form filling in Slider than what I was trying to do last time (which lead me to give up).


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#23 2013-08-02 18:02:38

mtballday
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Registered: 2013-08-02
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Shadeless -
PDF Studio isn't free or open source, but I've looked long and hard, and it is the only 'real' native PDF solution for linux. This was one of my biggest hangups with Linux in general was that I needed highlighting, other markups, etc. and wanted the annotations saved to the document so that if I opened it on other computers they would be there. PDF Studio does that, and, as far as I can tell, pretty much everything Acrobat does, but it is MUCH cheaper, and it runs great in Linux since it is native.

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#24 2013-08-02 21:41:39

cfr
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From: Cymru
Registered: 2011-11-27
Posts: 5,661

Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

Trilby wrote:
cfr wrote:

... the typewriter tool ...

What's this?

As an aside, I have found a much better way to do form filling in Slider than what I was trying to do last time (which lead me to give up).

Apologies for not answering this - must have missed it. Slider is looking really great!

The typewriter tool lets you add "typewritten" text anywhere on a pdf without having to add form boxes or whatever. So you can take a printable form which is not set up to be filled out electronically and fill it out without needing to add fillable boxes and stuff first. It does not do much formatting - like a typewriter, you insert line breaks yourself. You can change the size of text and the line spacing but not much more than that. It is great for non-fillable forms you wish to fill electronically.

mtballday wrote:

Shadeless -
PDF Studio isn't free or open source, but I've looked long and hard, and it is the only 'real' native PDF solution for linux. This was one of my biggest hangups with Linux in general was that I needed highlighting, other markups, etc. and wanted the annotations saved to the document so that if I opened it on other computers they would be there. PDF Studio does that, and, as far as I can tell, pretty much everything Acrobat does, but it is MUCH cheaper, and it runs great in Linux since it is native.

I think Okular may do some of this, at least, soon. Actually, it already does most of that but it is rather annoying to use (even more annoying than Acrobat) but I believe that is supposed to be improving very soon i.e. improvements are already in the pipeline rather than just things people are currently trying to implement.

Last edited by cfr (2013-08-02 21:45:08)


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#25 2014-02-17 06:10:53

orschiro
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Re: What will it take to have decent native PDF annotation?

I followed someone mentioning Mendeley here for text highlighting. After installing and testing it with a sample PDF, I can say that text highlighting support is definitely sufficient.

To give you an example: http://i.imgur.com/z3MDOAa.png

One finished with annotating, you can export the PDF including the text annotations.

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