I Just Want to Annotate a PDF

Seriously, I just want to annotate a PDF with my Apple pencil on my iPad. I refuse to print out paper to sign and scan anymore. It is 2017 for crying out loud. It seems like a simple enough task but I’ve tried every free app I could find and every one has a deal breaker problem, like only having one text color (not black by the way) or not being able to undo. Yeah, lots of apps promise PDF annotation but they all have some nonsense reason it is unusable. Or, even better, they want to charge you to get your PDF off the device. It is infuriating.

I thought I solved this a while ago when I noticed the Microsoft OneDrive app had native support for PDF annotation. This was great because I can easily open, edit, and save back to OneDrive. The deal breaker? When you write, it mysteriously hides stuff behind your writing with some kind of mysterious white overlay. So, if you’re trying to sign on a line that has your name printed under it, that will probably disappear. So, discovering this, I went back to try 20 more misleading PDF annotation apps. None work. I wasted hours on this.

Solution: Finally, I realize OneDrive actually *CAN* do what I want without the stupid white background. For some reason they defaulted the annotation’s stroke to have a white “fill.” Why you’d ever want a fill on your annotations I surely don’t know. And it is a very weird fill. If you draw a circle it gets a bounding square of white background fill, effectively erasing anything in that square. Anyway, to fix it, just select the ink circle thingy at the top right of the screen and either change the “Fill Color” to transparent or select one of the “Color Presets” with a transparent background. Voila! The mystery white is gone. You can now annotate away with ease.

I’m almost happy, but one problem does remain… their line smoothing (or something) isn’t very good so when you open your annotated PDF in another reader the lines are a little choppy. Still, it is the best solution I’ve found for free. I’d pay for something if I knew it worked but so many of them don’t I don’t want to risk it. Why is it that App store apps almost never have trials?

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