How to annotate an Acrobat PDF file

If you would like to write on an Adobe Acrobat PDF files using a Tablet PC pen and save the result back as a PDF, read on. Although you can also add text, this will not enable you to edit existing text.

Using Adobe Reader X

As of Adobe Reader X (aka version 10), which was released in 2010, you can use the free Reader X software to highlight and add typed sticky notes to any PDF then save those annotations to the PDF file. Prior versions of Reader did not have these annotation features so the only product from Adobe that could do that was Adobe Acrobat (aka "writer"), which is not free. More information on how to use Reader X annotation features is available in Adobe Reader X help. Note that writing annotations (other than just highlighting) with the tablet pen is not permitted in most PDFs. To add writing to any PDFs, you can follow the Using Journal steps below.

Using Journal

This method uses the Windows Journal software (and printer) that is included on all Windows Tablet PCs. Software for viewing a PDF such as the free Adobe Reader software is also required.

    1. Open the PDF file in a PDF reader such as Adobe reader. (Just double-clicking on the file should do this.)
    2. Print the file selecting the printer mentioned in the next step. In Adobe Reader, you do this using the menu option File > Print.
    3. Select the printer named "Journal Note Writer" and click OK to print. This will "print" the document to file in "Windows Journal Note" format that you will save to your computer.
      • Journal Note Writer printer is included in Windows XP Tablet edition, Vista, and Windows 7. In Windows 7, you are prompted to install it the first time you run Windows Journal.
    4. When the "Save As" dialog window appears, select a name and location for the new Journal file to be created. The default is usually the "My Notes" or "Notes" folder under "My Documents" or "Documents". (Vista omits the "My".)
    5. If "View Note" at the bottom of the Save As dialog is not already checked, click on it then click the Save button. This will Save the file in Journal format and will open Windows Journal allowing you to annotate it with the tablet pen.
    6. Annotate the file as you see fit and save your changes.
      • The pen tool, highlighter, and eraser on the toolbar will allow you to work with digital ink (using the pen).
      • To add typewritten text, use the menu option Insert > Text Box
    7. To "convert" this back to a PDF, print it to the printer named "PrimoPDF". Here are the step-by-step directions for that:
      1. In Journal, select the menu option File > Print.
      2. Select the printer named "PrimoPDF", and click the Print button.
        • PrimoPDF is software allowing you to print to a PDF file. It is installed by default on all D-E computers. You can download it for free from and install it yourself on other computers.
      3. After the PrimoPDF window appears do the following:
        • Click on Screen or Print to select the quality. If you will not be printing the document to paper, Screen is fine.
        • Click on the ".." or select "Ask when creating PDF" to the right of "Save As" in order to select the drive, folder, and file name for your new PDF file. Make sure to note the folder and location so you can find the file later.
        • After doing both of the above, click on the Create PDF button. (In some versions, you won't be asked for the Save As location until after you click the Create button.)
      4. Your PDF file is now created. It may automatically open up in Adobe Reader so you can see what it looks like. If not, navigate to the folder where you saved the file and open it up to take a look. Close the file (Adobe Reader) before trying to email it as an attachment.

Using PDF Annotator

PDF Annotator is an excellent commercial product for writing on a PDF using a Tablet PC pen. It may also be used to add, remove, or rearrange the page order in a PDF file. PDF Annotator is not free and not installed on D-E Tablet PCs. A free 30-day trial of the product and pricing is available from GRAHL software design. Students are eligible for an educational discount.