Saturday, 29 April 2017

LiquidText: Powerful PDF Annotation

PDFs are one of the most used file types, and they often come with limitations. They are difficult to annotate, to change and to highlight, and generally to work on. However, LiquidText solves those problems.

LiquidText is an iOS app that allows you to annotate and work on a PDF alongside a 'workspace', a dedicated area where you can drag in excerpts, comment on them, and much more. You can also comment directly on the PDF itself, highlight it, link between pages and many more features.

If you find yourself working with PDFs a lot, LiquidText may be the app for you.

With LiquidText, you aren't limited to just static comments on the PDF, like you are in many desktop and mobile apps. You can move over excerpts to the side to go into more detail and comment on them, or you can comment on the page. Using the pen tool, you can link across pages or to something in your workspace.

Before we go into LiquidText in more detail, I'll talk about the workspace that I have been mentioning a little. The workspace is an area to the left of your document (or below if you are using the app in portrait mode) in which you can drag out excerpts of the document by highlighting the text you want and dragging it out to the workspace, comment on that excerpt and also write with a pen on it. You can also make blank text boxes where you can write on, or type in. If you want, you can also write directly onto the workspace.

The workspace
ne thing many people may like about LiquidText is the ability to write on anything you see - this includes both on the PDF and on the workspace. For example, you can underline a line on the PDF, and you can also cross out things or write over things in the workspace. This allows people that like working on paper to still get that handwriting feeling, and also allows the app to be more flexible.

LiquidText offers standard commenting features, and also offers highlighting capabilities. You can change the comment and highlight color, as well as selecting two selections of text that you want to comment on. Comments in LiquidText link back to the excerpt of text that you selected, and if you use the 'Select More' button, it allows you to link a single comment back to two or more areas of text.

The select more feature allows you to select separate bits of text, and have a comment link to both of them
Apple Pencil is also supported by LiquidText, meaning you can use it to take full advantage of the pen and highlighting tools that are offered at the bottom of the screen.

The pen tool also has another cool and handy feature - you can draw a circle or box around anything you want to excerpt, whether that is an image or text, and pull it out as an excerpt. 

Circling some text, and then pulling it out as an excerpt
A feature of LiquidText that certainly impressed me is the feature that allows you to link between pages and between the workspace. For example, if you were annotating a book and you found a reference to something that occurred much earlier in the book, you may want to link it. LiquidText allows you to compress the pages in between by pinching above the quote you found, and compressing the document until you get to the other quote. Then, the pen tool can be used to create a link between those two places, across the page. When you expand the compressed section again, the link stays, and you can tap on it to compress the section quicker and see the other quote. This can also be done with linking the document and the workspace.

Linking across the workspace, and then across compressed pages
I was also impressed by the highlighting merge option. Here, you select 'Highlight View', and you pinch on the screen as if you where compressing pages. However, it compresses but continues to show the highlights. This view is great if you want to see just the important bits you have highlighted.

Using the Highlight View
Documents can be searched in LiquidText. Whilst the search isn't particularly different or more powerful than other apps, it does have a handy feature that is similar to the Highlight View. You can compress the document so only words that match your search term show up. If found this really useful as it let me quickly see all places where the term came up, and it was easier to find what I was looking for.


If you are working on multiple PDF documents, LiquidText also comes in handy. You can have a document manager, that allows you to select various documents that you want to work with. Then, you can use the Document Panel that appears to the left of the screen to drag in pages into the document you are working on, and you can link between those documents and compare and contrast them.

LiquidText has multiple cloud storage services, including Dropbox and Box, so you can back up your documents in case your device gets damaged. LiquidText also offers lots of exporting features, such as exporting it as a LiquidText file that you can share with other LiquidText users, or exporting it as a standard PDF document. Note that only comments and highlights will show here, not linking between pages.

I've found LiquidText to be extremely useful in highlighting the book I have been studying in English, and adding more comments to it. The features LiquidText provides for document annotation is by far the best out there, and I really recommend you check it out if you find yourself handling PDFs often. 


Thanks for reading!

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