Software for PDF markup

UPDATE July 4, 2014: Prices (all), removed one that is no longer available, and added two options (*) that have contacted me but that no editors have reported back on.

Adobe Acrobat is the 747 of PDF tools, capable of doing things to a document that you have not dreamed of. But why should proofreaders shell out $449 USD for a 747 transport when they just want to go to the store and back?

There are several alternatives to the full Acrobat program for marking up a PDF. Programs such as Preview let you add notes and highlight words, but do not allow for pencil-type mark-up or the placement of stamps. Acrobat Reader XI (the free one) now has the commenting and text editing tools (including drawing objects) that most editors of words need to use. (See the original posts for instruction on how to mark up proofreader’s corrections on PDFs.)

Tweet this post.These programs allow electronic mark up of PDFs for one-tenth the cost of Acrobat Pro, or less:


The low-cost Foxit includes the ability to add callouts, text boxes, and commenting balloons. It also includes tools such as a typewriter, highlighter, and pencil. Since I first reviewed these for the now-defunct Copyediting, Foxit seems to have gobbled the ritePen product (which I thus removed in this update), moving customers to the Foxit software, and Acrobat Reader includes all the commenting and text edit tools FOR FREE.

The free PDF-XChange Viewer for PCs is the program that proofreader Elizabeth Macfie uses.


“It has stamps as well as a palette of comment and mark-up tools that look just like the ones in Acrobat,” Macfie says. “I use my tablet and stylus (Wacom Bamboo, size small) simply because it stands in for the mouse.”


Steve Hammat says that the Viewer version now adds a watermark but that the Editor version is quite reasonably priced. Elizabeth’s comment was made on earlier versions, back in 2012.

When I tried iAnnotate on the iPad, my finger successfully rendered the proofreader’s marks and I was able to create custom stamps and apply them. A $2 stylus made the process more accurate and pencil-like. Notes and highlighting were simple and effective. As iPads grow in popularity, I predict many editors will snap up this tool. (Acrobat Reader now has an iOS version so you can use it on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone.)


For tips on marking up a PDF, see my key mark-up techniques post. You might also be interested in my most popular post of basic techniques, and the new demo video of making and importing custom proofreader stamps.



Many thanks to T. Shakirah Dawud @ShakirahDawud for editing the original post. Her suggestions made it stronger.

Thanks to Steve Hammatt for the updated info re PDF-XChange (Sept ’14).

One thought on “Software for PDF markup

  1. Great post, Adrienne! I got stymied by this problem when I tried to help a client with their mission/vision statement last year. Wound up doing a “work around” with the local copy shop since I did not want to fork over $500. I appreciate the price list too.

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