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Just your average bearded geek

Finally, real PDF annotating under Linux! (with help from Wine)

Finally, a way to annotate PDF files under Linux (provided you can run Wine)

I have been looking for years for a solution to annotate PDF files from my Linux box. I usually do a lot of proof-reading, and these highlight and post-it features are just gold when you have to transmit your comments using the internet.

On the other hand, there is as far as I know NO software that can add annotations to PDF files in a clean way. Here are the ones I tried:

  • PDFEdit did some horrible glitch on my screen when I tried to change the document. Anyway, it looks good at modifying PDF files, but could not even figure out whether it supports annotations. Looks pretty complicated to use.
  • Foxit Reader has a Linux binary available. Of course, it segfaulted as soon as I tried to open a PDF file.
  • Xournal and its derivates are often claimed to support that feature. However, all they do is turning the PDF file into an image that you can annotate. Not exactly the same thing.
  • Okular is the only tool that actually has a real annotation tool for PDFs. It just looked like the holy grail, until I realized the annotations were not saved withing the PDF, but written separately... Which makes them unusable for any other reader.

One of the reason why PDF annotation support is so poor is no Linux PDF library supports it. As a consequence, software that uses them cannot neither. So we will probably we stuck with this situation until GNU PDF gets mature (which may take a while).

The solution came from the controversial Wine. I resigned myself to try a couple of Windows software under it. This is where I realized that the Windows software world is very different - Foxit requires to try some shit before you can download it freely, other software is paying, and so on. Moments like that remind me why I'm not part of this world.

But, finally, I found an assle-free, doing-the-job software that just installs and works flawlessly under Wine. It is called PDF-XChange Viewer and did not ask me to waste my time of my money before I can use it. Just needed to download the installation binary, gave it to wine, then run the software through wine without any particular twiddling. It just worked.

Sure, this is not free (as in free speech) software, nor is it native Linux, but waiting for a real free solution this is still a better compromise than dual-booting or buying software that doesn't work.

PDF editor

Inkscape can import beautifully a pdf while preserving fonts and look. Unfortunately, Inkscape can only import one page at the time... But you can use pdftk to concatenate the different pages together.

Inkscape permits whatever you want : add text, edit existing text, add an image, a shape, anything solid or with transparency. When your work is done, you simply print from Inkscape in a pdf using your pdf printer (you've already added cups-pdf) and your original text is preserved and the differents annotations are added. Beautiful !

Right, but the problem here

Right, but the problem here is that your annotations are not using the PDF annotation markup, which makes it non-convenient to share with other users. Actually this solution is close to Xournal and co. We really need a good, native tool to add annotations in PDFs that are recognized as such by all tools (i.e. you can show or hide them, etc)

Thank you


I have been looking for something to annotate pdfs in linux and had faced the same frustrations as you with Xournal, foxit, pdfedit, and okular. I tried PDF-Xchange Viewer and it works flawlessly. The only missing features are that I cannot instert text as comments (I can instert text, but it is not  a pop-up  like replace text), and print with comments (print to pdf gives a blank pdf).

Adobe reader on linux also cannot print annotations. So, although PDF-Xchange allows me to create a pdf with annotations, I cannot print these annotations :-(

Printing with PDF Xchange Viewer

I have deployed this tool universally in my organization. I've even upgraded it to the Pro version (some benefits). It's been great for a few years now. Your problem with printing the PDF... blank... It's the print driver... I can print my PDF's successfully with annotations. BTW, the pro version allows your to "Flatten Comments" (which are the annotations) and makes tham part of the PDF. Other wonderful tools in it are, Stamps, Text boxes without bordes (essentially allowing you to "white out" areas on the PDF), Sticky notes, Text Cross out and more. AND... it uses a ton less resources than adobe. and at 14MB is a ton smaller. :-)

How to set up printing?

I am running version 2.0 build 40 under Wine and it loads and annotates wonderfully.  Printing, however, causes the application to lock up and crash.  Any ideas on how to fix this?

Thank you, and a question

Thanks for blogging this. It helped confirm my suspicions. I reviewed a document in Okular fully expecting it supported annotations compatible with Adobe Reader! This was nice to know before I reviewed a few more!

I noticed your comment about Xournal, what are other derivatives of it ?


Basically, applications using

Basically, applications using the same engine with a different GUI. Gournal comes to mind, but there are a couple others.

best solution for annotating PDFs "in" linux

I wanted to thank you very much, because I tried so long and so hard to find a solution that lets me annotate pdfs within linux.

In addition to xournal and PDFedit I also tried Jarnal, a cool java tool that I would rate second-best because it saves the annotations correctly but it "highlights" text by putting color on top of it (like xournal).
Another windows tool I tried via wine is "PDF Annotator" by Grahl (I used it for a year within windows, its very good) but I needs additional ink-able software which can not be installed via wine ...

To sum it up: I recommend every body using linux to quickly install wine and PDF-Xchange-Viewer beacuse it works perfectly (Ubuntu 8.04) and it is the only possiblity to realy highlight and save PDFs for free in linux.

Thank You!

I was looking for some way to do this. I rely on annotations and highlighting heavily during my research. It worked flawlessly on Fedora 10 and Wine. Many thanks..

Foxit works too

I use Foxit Reader and Wine flawlessly too. It's adware and the unlimited trial version restricts how many edits you can make to a document (to like 3 or something). But if you have (paid or somehow otherwise acquired) a license key Foxit is probably the best Linux solution. Also, I have Foxit installed on my Windows partition and I simply clicked THAT executable in a file browser in Ubuntu (8.10) and Wine automatically ran it.

What Linux really needs is a native pdf reader that does simple things like basic annotation markup (comments, highlighting, etc.), and ideally graphical page cropping. The awful state of pdf on Linux is what makes it nearly unusuable for serious academics (since essentially every electronic journal format is pdf).

this is also my choice. but i

this is also my choice. but i don't understand why foxit doesn't make normal linux version of its viewer.


For serious academics works, you should use LaTeX. It produces pdf files and works great on Linux.

Missed the point

LaTeX is a great tool for producing academic documents indeed. But the subject of this post is tools that allow readers of such PDF documents to annotate them efficiently.


thank you, it works for me too!




Thanks a lot. I have been searching for such a solution from so long and have tried all the things which you have mentioned but none worked. FInally read this page. Thanks Smile


I've had the same Problem for ages, and after trying out PDFedit and even OpenOffice 3.0, I always resorted to printing PDFs and adding comments on the paper :-(

But now, thanks to your hint, I can finally work completely digitally :-)

BTW: I tried out FoxitReader for Linux 10 minutes ago and it worked - but it does not (yet) have an "Add comment" feature, so to date, PDF-XChange Viewer is still the best solution.

very useful post, using your

very useful post, using your solution myself right now!

A native application for gnu/linux which allowed us to fully edit pdf files is much needed though. Right now you need at least 3 programs to do so, or at least I do.

The best application running natively in gnu/linux I found is PDF Studio. Not open source but at least sells at a reasonable price, seems to bee multiplatform too (java).

Kudos! :)

Thanks a lot!

I just tested it. PDF-XChange Viewer works fairly well in CrossOverLinux.

Finally a cheap and easy "PDF editor" that I can offer the Linux users at work! :)



Thank you! I was searching for a well-performanced pdf-markup solution, and I've found it in your post.


Update FF file associations so pdf docs open in pdf-xchange?

Great blog, thanks! I've actually been using pdf-xchange in Windows for a while (and really love it), and have recently installed Ubuntu onto my laptop making for a dual-boot system. I've installed pdf-xchange under Wine in Ubuntu with no problems - but what I'm at a bit of a loss with is how to change the file associations in FireFox so that pdf links I click on in FF open in pdf-xchange (whether inside the browser or separately). You wouldn't have any tips on this by any chance?

In Firefox, go to

In Firefox, go to Edit->Preferences->Applications. There you can change any file association and I guess it is not a problem to change it for wine or a script that calls it for you.


A great way! thanks!

Adobe Reader (Linux Version) Works Too

Hi there,

In terms of markup and annotation, Adobe Reader (Linux version) works flawless on Ubuntu and other linux platforms. The only trouble is that you need an Acrobat Pro to grant user right so that the pdf file becomes markable within Adobe Reader. Acrobat Pro costs hundreds of dollars. But if you are with a corporation, usually you don't have to pay a penny out of your own pocket.

On the other hand, there is not linux version of Acrobat Pro at the moment. So it is a pain-in-the-ass to go back to Windows to do the user right thing.

In this regard, PDF-XChange Viewer+Wine seems to be a neat solution.

sad but true

I've just gone to try latest PDFEdit to see if it would now solve the problem, but despite being a nice app, it is not fit for purpose of annotating and commenting a PDF. Like the original poster, I am resorting to PDF-XChange Viewer under wine . A really sad state of affairs for the Open Source community...

Thanks for the tip !

Thanks for the tip !

Ever tried PDFStudio?

PDFStudio is java based and works fine under linux. But it's commercial software. You can download a testing version for free.

great tool

i was looking for a tool to add comments and annotations to pdfs (in native way) under linux. Tried pdfedit, but it is about editing layout and adding/editing text, not about reviewing.

the only solution for reviewing seems to be wine + PDF-XChange Viewer. Played around with it a little and so far it works flawlessly (kubuntu 9.10)

thanks for letting know about this tool

Thanx so much!

That's what I've been searching for, at least until there is an applicable solution based on Linux.

Thanks! Finally something

Thanks! Finally something that works!


Thanks for this nice hint!

Many thanks for all the

Many thanks for all the contributors.

If you just need to add post-it-like short annotations to a PDF (native, of course) may be can use PDFEdit, from Linux repos. Here's the trick:

1) Install PDFEdir, an then open your PDF file.

2) Select the "add text" tool (Page menu, or icon near [A]). Add your text line. Intro.

3) Clic on the document and type your comment.

4) Finally, change Background color to yellow (icon near [A]), activate the [A] higlight tool and clic on the text you've just typed.

It works fine for me in Ubuntu 8.04

May do the trick in some

May do the trick in some cases, but this is not an actual PDF comment, just some text that is arbitrarily added to the document. PDF comments have the advantage of being hideable and parsed from an index.

thanks! this may save me paper, hours, struggle...

I just tried PDF X-change Viewer after I read your comment and after hours browsing the Web for information on tools for highlighting and annotating PDFs. I am doing a PhD research and I needed a tool like this like air for breathing.


I went through the same issues as you, and then came across your blog entry. PDF-XChange Viewer works stunningly well. I did find that kpdf does not read the annotations, but the default viewer in Ubuntu does. Okular and Acrobat Reader have no problems with the annotations.

new finding

You could possibly merge this with my previous comment.  With the default PDF viewer in Ubuntu (evince), the text under highlighted entries is hidden. Highlighted text is legible in kpdf.

Page navigation toolbar not working

PDF Xchange works but what troubles me is that page navigation toolbar is not showing the page number properly. This is important to me since i read pdf containin g thousands of pages and i have to go to a page quickly.

Is it working flawlessly in other users too? Please reply.

does any one know to correct it? I am using foxit reader under wine due to that problem.


I've just realized that Xournal is doing the job of PDF annotating just fine. Files are first imported into the software's proprietary format, where you can add text and drawings as you like. Exporting the file back to a PDF works seamlessly: text is preserved as text, so you don't loose anything, which was my initial concern. It's GTK and looks sleek and simple.

Unfortunately the inline

Unfortunately the inline editing capabilities of Xournal will still be way behind what it is possible to do with real PDF annotations (highlighting, movable post-its, etc). As far as annotating PDFs is concerned, this is but a hack. It is useful in many other cases though.

pdf annotations under linux

I've been through all the pain described here in order to do some decent annotation of a heavy pdf file... plus two more alternatives not mentioned here :

1) openoffice with Sun's 1.0.1 import pdf extension. It just wouldn't install at all.

2) I installed Mendely (a free database app for keeping track of references) which includes minimal support for native pdf editing. You can highlight and add text notes, that's it. I wouldn't recommend installing it just for pdf editing, however. In my case, the database came in very handy.

Thanks for all the hints!

Mendeley is a nice native solution

I think Mendeley is the best solution for those needing native solutions for PDF notes and highlighting. It can export the PDF with the annotations, and acroread opens it just fine. Moreover, Mendeley is very well supported on Linux; for exp, they provide a .deb repo.

Mendely does the work and more

Thank you for share information about Mendeley, it's helping me with the pdf annotations issue, and, so far, is much more than a pdf viewer-annotation software, a great social app for academic work.

okular and annotated pdf

Want to annotate pdf under linux and share with somebody, also under linux ?

Perhaps, the most natural thing is to use okular (from kde world).

You can annotate easily a pdf file. Then export as document archive (you will see a just pdf file, but it contains the required metadata to handle the annotations).

Send the file to a firend with Okular: he/she can read the annotated pdf. Don't expect acrobar reader to do so, however.



Thank you!! It works great. I

Thank you!! It works great. I almost wanted to give up looking for a good PDF editor with annotation function. Then BANG! I read your article. Thanks loads.


thank you. this eased my workload


Works like a charm. Thank you very much for the tip. I've been looking for such a long time for a PDF reader with comment functionality. THANK YOU!


Here's a little helper script

Here's a little helper script that lets you integrate it in Nautilus via the "Open with ..."-menu. It basically transforms the Windows path in a Linux path and open the application via Wine:


EXE="C:\Program Files\Tracker Software\PDF Viewer\PDFXCview.exe"
ROOTDRIVE="Z" # Z:\home\yourname\...

if [ ! -z "$1" ]; then
# Make Windows path
file=$(echo "$ROOTDRIVE:$1" | sed 's!/!\\!g')
env WINEPREFIX="$HOME/.wine" wine "$EXE" "$file"
env WINEPREFIX="$HOME/.wine" wine "$EXE"



Super, thanks for the script!

Super, thanks for the script!

Your advice works on OpenSuse 11.1

Thank you very much. It just worked perfectly so far in OpenSuse 11.1.


Thanks, works perfect for me!

Thanks, works perfect for me!

xournal can now export pdfs

xournal can now export pdfs with annotations included. It's pretty nice.

Yeah, but is it still the

Yeah, but is it still the image-to-pdf feature it had at the time of writing this article? If so, this is of little value.

I have just tested Xournal

I have just tested Xournal and Jarnal on my Linux box.

Both of them do what we need: they annotate a pdf, and can export to another pdf without rastering it. So no need of closed source things.

On xournal you have "File/Annotate Pdf" to open a pdf, then you have Export to pdf when you are finished. (you can highlight, annotate, handwrite and erase).

On jarnal you have the script "" which launches the gui for modifying your pdf. Then you can highlight, annotate, handwrite or erase. When finished you choose export to pdf.

I stress the fact that if you feed a vector pdf, the exported one is still a vector pdf, judging by size and fonts quality, ie no conversion to raster image is done, which would be indeed a bad thing.

I would also like to try Tomboy and Gnote, anybody has experiences with those?


wine + pdf-xchange crashes when saving

Hi just tried this: great!! However: the application under wine (PDF-Xchange) crashes every time I try to "save" the file. I am using Opensuse 11.3, wine installed from the repository and downloaded from the web (2.057) any input is welcome (since this is the best solution I found so far, thanks for the tip...)


me too:( it's FINALS WEEK and i need my PDF-XCHANGE. it was working like a charm in ubuntu for quite some time... until today. is it murphy's law or could it have something to with some recent updates i just applied? i hope not, everything was in perfect order. ouch!


Thank you very much for your post. I am receiving numerous annotated PDFs - reading them gos fine - but also people expect from me annotated PDFs back and I always returned text comments of the type "page XXX, section YYY, line ZZZ from top: do this or this" ... quite a pain. New worlds just opened :)

xournal works great for pdf

xournal works great for pdf annotation: to change pdf use File - export to pdf the image file is optional, for later edit!

As explained in the

As explained in the article, Xournal PDF export has very little to do with *real* PDF notes.

And as explained three

And as explained three comments above you Xournal NOW has very much to do with *REAL* PDF notes. I just verified it, you can add text and draw onto the PDF however you like, and its keeping the vector things in the PDF. Just don't know if you also get this closable/hidable text boxes you have with PDF Xchange Viewer.

Well, not quite, sorry. PDF

Well, not quite, sorry. PDF notes are additional, disposable data that allow someone to comment non-intrusively on a document. They can be hidden, moved, listed in a nice fashion, and eventually cleanly deleted. Xournal only allows you to add non-revertable elements to the PDF. If you want to annotate a document, you have to find some empty space to do so, just like you would do on a real paper document. This seriously limits your possibilities to annotate.

So no, Xournal is nowhere near *REAL* PDF notes right now. It is definitely useful as a PDF editor now that it can export clean PDF, but not for annotating.

We are the same people

I was looking around the same year at the same problem and explore just as you the xjournal,pdfedit,..,finally settle with foxitreader under Wine. I did not understand why Linux don't come up with a better pdf reader. Anyway, Foxireader is the best.

Highlighting still a problem

I had tried Foxit reader under Wine, but highlighting text also greyed out the text. However using the rectangle tool in PDF-Xchange is an acceptable substitute, sometimes better than highlighting for text up to one line long.

Xournal useful for many of us

Xournal is indeed not quite like "real" annotation app., but for many of us that makes little difference. As an academic, most of the time I annotate homework, thesis, paper draft, etc. For that purpose, Xournal is fine since I do it once, and no one else needs to annotate that document version later on. So, unless you need to further annotate/edit annotated PDFs, I find Xournal is a good alternative to a wine based solution. The only drawback is that if you want to add a long comment, you have to add a new page to write it on. I do not have a tablet to try Xournal's "pressure sensitivity" feature, so if anyone has experience with it I am curious to know if it is useful?

PDF editor

Check this PDF editor for Linux ubuntu

xournal usage

I could do everything that I wanted including creating a PDF with my comments / highlights etc. I have install a gs printer driver and that helps me create the PDF. The Export to PDF option does not work (well it works but it is as good as not working :). The issue is that the PDF created using printer driver option is 5 times the original PDF (5 MB as opposed to 1.1 MB of original) .. but the Export option for me created a .. 52 MB file. Not sure if there is some trick I missed which could have compressed the files. Anyhow, great post - found all the answers / views to this issue at one go. Thanks to all.

Check out Mendeley:

Check out Mendeley: It's available for linux, has basic annotation functionality and it's great for organizing your pdf files.

FoxIt is slightly better

In addition to the information above, it seems that Foxit is slightly better than PDF-XChange Viewer for the following (clearly incomplete list of) reasons: Foxit Reader Free Version Advantages: Editing bookmarks supported (create, rename, delete, etc.) The windows version (Foxit 2.4 --currently the latest version -- works fine as of 2-14-2011 on Wine on Ubuntu Highlighting, underlining, drawing, commenting are all supported Can disable the advertisements (right-click a gray area in the toolbar and de-select advertisements) Foxit Reader Free Version Disadvantages: Can't copy highlighted text into the highlight Requires Wine on Linux Can't split window like in Adobe Acrobat Reader No indexing support via PDX files. Their indexing product is slow and confusing. ................ VS ...................... PFD-XChange Viewer Free Version Advantages: (Probably) Easier to install on Linux than Foxit (Probably) Better keyboard shortcuts (compare Single-Key accelerators in Adobe Acrobat Reader) than Foxit Highlighting, underlining, drawing, commenting are all supported PFD-XChange Viewer Free Version Disadvantages: You must pay to edit Bookmarks (create, rename, delete, etc.) Can't split window like in Adobe Acrobat Reader No indexing support (including PDX files)


Thanks very much for this - after installing pdf-xchange viewer I can finally simply double-click on a pdf file that I stored in Evernote 4 running in Ubuntu 10.10, and it just opens.

Working very well.

Thanks very much for this! I myself have struggled with finding a good annotation program. Okular and Mendeley were not cutting it at all. (The export feature in Mendeley doesn't seem to work, at least under Karmic.) Anyway, this works really well. One thing I noticed is that the latest version of PDF XChange Viewer was crashing a lot under Wine 1.0.1, but I switched to wine 1.1.31 (which confusingly is the "wine1.2" package in the repository) and it's been rock-solid. Hopefully there will be a native Linux option in the future, but in the meantime, this is a very nice solution.

It works!

Thanks it just works fine! I'm reviewing a pdf right now without printing it, from Linux :)

Almost 3 years from the

Almost 3 years from the original post and nothing changed... incredible. However, thank you for the tip!

Thank you for this

Thank you for this tip. PDF-XChange Viewer 2.5.197 seems to be running flawlessly under wine on Ubuntu 11.04. Printing markups is working too. Cheers, Friedrich.


Thanks for the tip, and for creating a place for other people to keep updating the state of affairs with pdf annotations in Linux :)


It looks like eventually, there will be proper PDF annotation through GNUpdf ( "The GNU PDF Library provides functions to read and write PDF documents conforming to the PDF 1.7 specification. This includes visualization (retrieving of bitmaps with rasterized page contents) and interactive features such as annotations and interactive forms. The library also support the generation of specific subsets of PDF conforming to the ISO standards PDF/A, PDF/X and ISO 32000." But... "Right now the library is under heavy development and we have not released a version yet."


I did some googling. And when I realised that evince supports annotations by default nowdays. I realised I had to search no more! just read the descriptive help page for evince!

I've just tested this feature

I've just tested this feature on evince. It does support annotations, sort of. It displays annotation made in another tools (like that pdf-xchange thing) and lets you edit the note-type annotation and save the changes. As of version 2.32 Evince has no tool to create new annotation though. BTW, on fedora 14 the pdf-xchange under wine is crashing like crazy, about 5 times the last 10 minutes I've played with it. Not usable.

Looks like we are one step closer

Working on linux mint 12 and wine 1.3

Excelent solution. I just installed it on linux mint 12 and it works like a charm. Greatly surprised with wine's evolution, completly integrated with nautilus to open pdf files by default.

Thank you so much! I am SO

Thank you so much! I am SO glad you took the time to find a .pdf editor, your time was not wasted. This tool is so invaluable to me, and now I don't have to give up my linux OS just to go back to Windows and use Foxit Reader.

Thanks a ton!

This worked beautifully for me. Thanks!

Works! Thanx! Had a

Works! Thanx! Had a frustrating time until I found your blog! Ronny

Thanks a lot! Works great :D

Thanks a lot! Works great :D

Works great on Mac OS X too...

PDF-XChange Viewer works flawless on my wine 1.2 installation via macports on my Macbook running Mac OS X 10.6... Even though I have to start it from the command line I'll probably end up using this over Preview's annotation capabilities because they're just so much more powerful (and I know my ubuntu and windows colleagues can use it too). Thanks for this post, it saved me a lot of time.

Try "Skim" on sourceforge.

Try "Skim" on sourceforge. (Only for OSX).


Thanks a lot, I love Okular but it is not compatible with other users, so, even if it means resorting to Windows, it is a great solution.

Wow thanks this works great.

Wow thanks this works great. Solved a big limitation of my linux box :)

Thank you! I was very

Thank you! I was very skeptical about using wine for this, but it works flawlessly, I am very impressed!

Thanks for the post. Yeah,

Thanks for the post. Yeah, the software was up to the task.

Another possibility is to

Another possibility is to convert the pdf to djvu, then use djvusmooth ( to add the annotations and then convert back to pdf using djview4 export to pdf.

just a note: Many people

just a note: Many people experience a crash of pdfxchangeviewer under wine when saving a document. This can be resolved by using the portable rather than the installer version.