20 February 2008

Comment, markup and highlight PDF files with the free PDF-Xchange Viewer

As a researcher, you will collect and store an ever-increasing number of electronic journal articles (see my post on Managing a continuously growing journal article collection). Printing out hundreds of journal articles is time-consuming, costly, a waste of paper, and a storage nightmare. However, many researchers print out articles because they want to highlight important sections of an article, or scribble notes in the margins.

Adobe Acrobat allows the user to markup a PDF file in this fashion, however, it is quite expensive. Well, I'm happy to tell you that there is a free piece of software that allows the user to markup a PDF file in this fashion: PDF-Xchange Viewer.

PDF-Xchange Viewer allows you to highlight text, draw circles and other shapes, add sticky notes, strikeout and underline text.

PDF-Xchange Viewer is a free download.

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rin said...

Hey, thanks for the tips - I'm looking to be able to mark up pdfs... but it seems even the link you gave has the edits disabled unless you buy the pro version.

Mark said...

@rin. No that is not correct. PDF X-Change Viewer is free and allows you to highlight, annotate and comment on PDF files.

You can check out the features here:

and download it from the link in the article above.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,
Having ventured into grad school recently,I was fed up with the piling heap of journal papers -so much so that I almost gave up lit review ! However, in search of software for highlighting pdf files,I came across ur blog and found the link very useful ! Thanks to this s/w I have gotten back to reading scientific literature :)

Mark said...

Glad to hear it. A growing journal article collection can be very daunting.
I would also strongly recommend that you take a look at the excellent (and free) Firefox add-on Zotero.

Boing said...

Thanks, this is EXACTLY what I was looking for!!

shiyun(: said...

hello!! (:
thanks SO MUCH for this man!(:
like the rest.. i was also getting more and more distressed by the growing # of pdf files as i carry out my research...

really thanks so much!! :D

cs said...


I love PDF Xchange, too, but I can't seem to highlight text! I know its supposed to work in the free version. Am I missing something?


Mark Antoniou said...

Hi Camille,

Some PDF files may not allow you to select text because the text has not been recognised via OCR. In other words, each page is a picture. This is not a PDF-Xchange problem.

For example, when I scan a page from a book, I use a separate program to recognise the text, which then allows me to select and highlight the text.

So the good news is that you should be able to highlight text, just not in the document that you have already tried.

The bad news is that I cannot recommend a good (and free) OCR software package.

If you come across one, please post a link below.

Deepu said...

Hey Mark

Thanks a looot for the link. It really helped. Good work :-)

akash said...

Hi Mark,
Thanks a lot for this wonderful information .For almost a week i was looking for similar tools , i have evaluated Onenote and reference manager for managing my research, but as my need was to manage it at browser level i was not really happy with both the tools. Zotero is a really good tool. Also PDF xchange is a great help in annotating the PDF articles. Once again thanks for the wonderful Blog of yours.

Akash patil

Srikanth said...

First of all, thank you very much for the tips.
Actually, I found a way to highlight text in the scanned pdfs. It can be done by using the pencil tool itself, with a line thickness of 8 or 10 and an opacity of around 40%. This way, the pencil tool acts as a highlighter.

Rachel said...

thank you so much!!!! now i don't have to kill trees. this is the best thing ever!

A grad student who has to read an insane amount of pdfs!

Brian said...

no highlighting, etc. on secured PDF's though? :(

Anyway to make an unsecured copy?

Mark Antoniou said...

Ask and you shall receive :)


Retro Cycle Sport said...

Thanks for the tips :-) and if anyone wants to share their commerce and law stuff from their PDF library with me feel free. 4 units down and many more to go..



lauren said...

Its really informative blog about Comment Markup and highlight PDF file with the free PDF Xchange Viewer.we will collect and store an ever-increasing number of electronic journal articlesAdobe Acrobat allows the user to markup a PDF file in this fashion, however, it is quite expensive. Thanks its very easy.
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Leslie Lim said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often..

rachelle madrigal

Meesha Warmington said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meesha Warmington said...

Hi Mark, I read your blog dated 2007 (a while back) about using DMDX and counters. I'm constructing a stop signal reaction time task.

Essentially there are 80 trials - 60 go trials in which participants respond to a signal; and 20 (less frequent) stop trials.

On stop trials the presentation of the go signal is soon followed by a stop signal and on these trials participants are not to respond to the go signal. The duration of the go signal in relation to the presentation of the stop signal on the stop trials needs to be adjusted in increments of 50ms (baseline of 200 ms) - will go up and down in increments of 50ms depending on participants' accuracy on the stop trials. So will increase by 50ms if they withhold their response on stop trials (correct) and decrease by (50ms) if participants respond on stop trials (incorrect).

The stop and go trials are presented in a single block in a randomized order. I'm not really sure how to go about this and also ensure that all 80 trials are presented in a randomised order.

I know I need to use counters and increments, but not entirely sure where to start with constructing the script.

Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Mark Antoniou said...

Meesha, it sounds like you're just getting started and are only finding your feet in the world of DMDX. A useful resource for you will be the DMDX Mailing List, which you may search through and send questions to http://www.u.arizona.edu/~kforster/dmdx/list_serv.htm and you will receive answers.

It has been a long time since I coded in DMDX, so I don't have a perfect solution for you. What I will say is that your experimental blocks do not have to adhere to the block structure of DMDX. For instance, you could set block size to 2 and have a block consisting of two "go" trials, and another block consisting of one "no go" trial which would be made up of a "go" stimulus display followed by a "no go" stimulus display. You could then use branching to increment/decrement the lag by + or -50ms.

Now that I think about it, given the complex nature of you experimental design, you might be better served using a more powerful experimental software, such as E-Prime. That software would allow you to have all of your trials randomized in a single block, which is easier to conceptualise. Essentially, you would define a trial structure, which would involve at least two image objects. At baseline, the first image would display for 200ms, and then the second image would be displayed. For "go" trials, you would simply have the go signal displayed twice, effectively there would be no change as far as the subject is concerned. For "no go" trials, the second image would change to a stop signal.

Hope this helped. Good luck.

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lee woo said...

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