Why cant I annotate PDF documents directly / natively?

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ISSUE: One of the hardest tasks in enhancing documents is attempting to
annotate / illustrate PDF / Acrobat documents directly (withing the PDF file itself). As we all know, the volume of PDF documents most of us deal with every day is huge and many need annotation for clarity.


PROBLEM:
(A) ALL PDF editors on the market I have tested and owned (Including Adobe’s Acrobat CC) are absolutely terrible for highlighting / annotating PDF documents natively. I am referring to annotating within the PDF document itself, as opposed to just working on a separate screenshot file.

(B) - SnagIt does not currently allow a user to open a native PDF file. Attempting to open and annotate a native PDF document using Acrobat DC, Illustrator CC and other "heavy" applications is a nightmare.

Has anyone on this board found a direct way to annotate PDF files using SnagIt?
Am I the only SnagIt user that would like to use the program to annotate PDF files directly?

Thanks!

Allan White

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allanwhite

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Posted 7 months ago

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Rick Stone

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Hi there

As the core function of SnagIt is to capture images, then annotate what you have captured, I would think an ability to open a PDF and make edits to the content is really outside the scope of SnagIt.

But that's just my own view from my own little rowboat floating in the vast ocean of the interwebz. ;) Only TechSmith themselves can say for certain whether they plan on adding this ability at some future point.

Cheers... Rick :)
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allanwhite

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Hi Rick:
I think your thoughts provide me with solid reasons why SnagIt is unlikely to ever become a NATIVE PDF editor.  Thank you for shedding light on this.
Allan
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Rick Grunwald

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I use Nitro which is a lot cheaper than Acrobat but it is just as difficult to do any serious editing. Even adding "X" to several check boxes is daunting (Not talking about a designed PDF for fill, just a scanned form)

We are all in the same boat with it  sorry to say
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Joe Morgan

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I was playing around with LibreOffice Draw. I downloaded it just for the purpose of seeing what I thought of it.
It was a little fiddly. Unpredictable at times. But I didn't know what I was doing either. Overall, there was more than enough annotation features to satisfy most users.
Curved lines and arrows, polygon lines and fills. Text callouts etc.
Plus LibreOffice has always been free. Not as good as Word, but free.

 

Regards,Joe
(Edited)
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Rick Grunwald

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Well aren't YOU just the genius this morning. That is a GREAT idea for editing PDFs directly!
I use Libre office but never thought to try Draw. Loading it into Writer (Word clone) usually makes a total mess but this idea works!  
I am going to play with this!
W
(Edited)
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dz17

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We do a lot of PDF annotation at our firm. 

While the concept sounds great, SnagIt currently works with single "page" bitmap images, and has their own proprietary format for layers containing the annotations added by SnagIt so you can reopen the file later and revise those annotations.

PDFs have layers, too, and can be rendered as bitmaps, but the ones that come straight out of Print to PDF contain Postscript data containing the actual text and locations instead of a bitmap that looks like text on a page. This represents a whole new universe that SnagIt doesn't currently handle.   For example, having to read and translate Adobe's annotation format which has a different appearance than SnagIt's similar annotation tools.  What would a comment/note in an Acrobat-annotated PDF look like if opened in SnagIt?  Would users also expect to be able to add/delete/rearrange PDF pages?

While annotation of a single-page PDF rendered as a bitmap may be something SnagIt could add to the Import File formats, how many pages would they show and how would you navigate?  Would users expect to get only the first page?  Also, would users expect to send the PDF to another person who has official Adobe products or other PDF manipulation software and be able to revise the annotations put there by SnagIt?  At best it would require TechSmith to somehow translate their annotations and effects to Adobe' more limited set, both on the export and import.  The user experience would be horrible in my opinion.

SnagIt already allows Save As PDF, but you get an unlayered "flattened" bitmap, and there is no expectation you can further edit or change the annotations in an Adobe or PDF-compatible product or even in SnagIt itself.  It's a one-way trip to a flat image.

As much as I'd enjoy handling PDFs in SnagIt, PDF manipulation software is a market full of low cost and sometimes freeware.  There is a lot of effort to adding PDF features in an editor focused on a single bitmap image, and not a lot of opportunity to realize a return on investment with other low-cost PDF-specific tools crowding the market.
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Rick Grunwald

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You are asking too much I think. Snaig is not a PDF editor nor is it really designed to move in that direction as the other Rick pointed out. PDF was a document format  so you could share a document to people on different platforms. It has improved so that you CAN edit text but I agree with you it is a bear to do, but that was not the original intent of the format.
Ideally someone would send out a PDF for markup and when the suggestions came back and were implemented, you would regenerate the document

Really Really it makes more sense to share files FOR EDITING in an editable format such as DOC XLS or whatever and to save the final out as a PDF for professional printing and archiving

I am not sure that any program other than Acrobat or one of it's clones is going to do any kind of job with the PDF format.. You may be fighting an uphill battle

I am not trying to be mean or unfeeling about your situation
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dz17

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FWIW, we're in the public records space, and a lot of files come as PDF to begin with.  I agree with what you're saying re: editing being done in a origination format like doc|x or xls|x, but sometimes you have to play the ball from where it landed and start with a PDF.

What would be really great is if someone figured out a way to put Snag-It annotations on ANY kind of document displayed as a background layer and let you mark it up while retaining the original file format untouched.  Mark up a TEXT file if you like. This would result either in two separate files like a file.DOCX or PDF original, and a file.DOCX.SNAG overlay file.  If you wanted them to travel together, it could make a ZIP format with a new extension like Microsoft did.  (If you rename a Word DOCX to ZIP, then open it,  you'll find the document is XML, but embedded images are really just a folder full of images in their original JPG, PNG formats) 

Storing the original file binary along with an open standard for overlay established by SnagIt with a free SnagIt "reader" could be one way to allow for markup to travel with a document while not having to figure out how to shoe-horn the SnagIt annotations into a PDF or other foreign file format.  To go full-on crazy, what if you could figure out Windows OS hooks to overlay the annotations over a window containing the original doc in its native app, and figure out how to have the host application tell you where in the document you are by watching the Windows screen redraw calls.  You might even be able to annotate a live application this way.  Challenging stuff.

To the original poster's (OP) point, doing annotations in Acrobat DC, Nitro PDF, or PDF Studio is nowhere near as smooth and easy as SnagIt is for bitmaps and screen captures.  SnagIt has set a high bar.
(Edited)
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allanwhite

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Hi dz17:
Your comments are indeed enlightening. Clearly, annotating native, multiple page PDF files is a non-trivial technical undertaking with postscript underneath. This point probably helps understand why almost every PDF editor in the market (Including Adobe's own Acrobat DC) are so very poor at native PDF annotation.
Thus, I will simply have to accept technical reality as it is today.
Thanks for your thoughtful response and thoughts!
Allan
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Rick Grunwald

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Check out Joe's idea with DRAW
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Gary Coyne

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As someone who's only used Acrobat Pro for more years than I can remember, I was curious as to why Acrobat disappointed you so much. So I then thought that you might be using Adobe Reader so I downloaded that. My biggest complain of Reader is that you need to learn what you can do in Reader without being shown the cash register for getting Acrobat Pro.

That notwithstanding, if all you need is to highlight text and make notes, it's all there and is there very easy to access and use so I'm at a loss as to what's happening to disappoint you.

But otherwise I very much agree with the comments from dz17. Having Snagit adapted to mark up PDFs is like expecting Word to edit movies. 
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allanwhite

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Hi Gary:
My frustration with Adobe Acrobat and third party editing tools  is their visually limited mark up capabilities. While I have also used Adobe Acrobat (full editions) for over 14 years, I find its editing capabilities visually poor. In the case of multi-page files, these limitations only weigh heavier on the the level of user work needed to annotate long structured documents such as mortgage contracts among many others.
My hope is that Adobe might eventually overhaul their editor and address this issue. At $299.00 license per "seat" they should have enough margin $'s to fund the engineering work required.
Alas, I will simply have to wait patiently and stop whining.
Thanks again!
Allan
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Gary Coyne

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Well, rather than be patient and/or whine, why not tell the folks at Adobe what you want (and why) here:

https://acrobat.uservoice.com/forums/590923-acrobat-for-windows-and-mac

I can tell you that the engineers at Adobe do read these suggestions (I do not work for Adobe but some of my best friends...)

Here are some tips: be polite. Your original message blasted Acrobat and did not supply any additional comments to support your claim. If Acrobat has (in your opinion) poor commenting capabilities, state that and provide examples of where it fails and what could be improved and how that improvement would help all users of Acrobat. Provide examples. However, the more specific you are the (potentially) less helpful you are. By that I mean that if you tell them exactly how something should work, be prepared that that specific suggestion may require 1500 hours of work to create while something very similar and essentially the same thing may only require 150 hours of work to create. 

As I'm sure you know, new features within any application are a tradeoff of time, money, and wishes. And always not everyone wins. But if you do not ask, than nothing may happen. 

Let me know when you post and provide a link, I'd be very interested in seeing what you say and very well may do a "+1"
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dz17

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I totally agree.   Not only is it more difficult to use, the markup looks like a 1980s DOS "graphics" program. We converted to PDF Studio Pro and our staff all like it better.  It's $110/seat in small quantities.