Frequently Asked Questions
How can I use for reviewing PDF documents?
Sign up for an account; create a workspace for storing documents; upload some PDF documents; highlight text to add a comment; share your workspace with other people to let them add their feedback. The screenshot tour has an overview, and the QuickStart section of the user guide should help you get started.
Is there a tutorial which I can use to learn
You can go through an animated guide which comes in a tutorial form. The QuickStart section of the user guide should help you get started. Click the 'full text/animated' toggle in the top left to see some animated screenshots.
What kinds of documents can I annotate with is mainly targetted at annotating PDF documents; you can also upload Office formats including MS Word (.docx, doc), Powerpoint (.ppt, .pptx), text files and images (jpg, png, tiff). These get converted to PDF on upload, and can then be annotated in the browser.
Do I need to download the PDFs before I can annotate them?
No, with you can do everything within the web browser. It displays PDFs in high quality using HTML5, and lets you highlight text to annotate. No plugins need to be installed.
Can I import multiple documents at once?
Yes - you can select multple files, or drag and drop documents into the uploader.
What are workspaces?
Workspaces are sets of documents and people who can access those. You can use workspaces to keep your projects separate e.g. you could have a workspace for documents related to a given client or project, and restrict access to the appropriate people.
Does depend on any browser plugins?
No, it only uses standard browser features. You do not have to install anything else.
What is the difference between a "manager" and a "user"?
A manager can create their own workspaces and add or remove users. A user can add comments on documents in the workspace and reply to comments; if the manager sets their role in the workspace to permit it, they can also upload new documents there. If you have your own account then the difference is essentially that users do not have access to the Admin tab. If a user is assigned an 'annotate only' role, they do not get the buttons on the documents page to add documents and create folders.
What about security and privacy?
All your documents and notes are stored in a workspace, and can only be accessed by people you invite. You can also set user roles, to grant some people view-only permission, and allow others to upload their documents to the workspace too. All documents and notes are served via HTTPS which ensures the data is encrypted over the internet. Regular off-site backups help keep your data safe.
We can also arrange for a private server for your company, and behind-the-firewall installations for particularly sensitive documents.
Where are my documents stored?
You can choose which of our data centers to use for your documents: USA, the UK, Asia (Singapore), Canada or Australia. When you first sign up, we pick the data center that is nearest your location for speed. You can change the default location for new workspaces on your settings page.
Can I try out the premium features without buying a subscription?
Yes, there is a restricted version for each of the premium features that you can try with a free subscription. They are normally limited by the number of notes or pages that will be displayed.
How does handle very large PDFs?
One of the frustrations of using PDFs on the web is that you have to wait for the whole document to download before you can see anything. This is not the case with When you want a particular page, we process it on the server and send just that page to the browser. Some of our clients routinely use PDFs that are hundreds of MB or 1000+ pages without problems.
Can I annotate Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, or documents in languages other than English?
Yes, we support unicode for both documents and annotations, so all languages should work fine. Occasionally there can be issues with uploading PDFs with some oriental character sets, contact us if you encounter problems with a specific document. If your documents are in MS Word format, it might be better to save as PDF then upload the pdf to to make sure the fonts are shown correctly.
Is the user interface available in other languages?
Not yet, but if you'd like it in a particular language, please get in touch. It supports documents and annotations written in any language. We may be able to offer a free subscription in return for translations of the language files.
Does it work on iPad and Android devices?
The basic document viewing functions work in iPad and Android, and there is basic annotation support on iPad too. We are working on an improved annotation interface which should make it smoother to make notes with a tablet.
If I buy a subscription, am I committed for a certain period?
No, you can cancel at any time and no more payments will be taken. At the end of the period you have paid for, your account will be downgraded to a free account.
If I invite people to join my workspace, do they have to have accounts too?
They will be asked to sign up and create a password before they can access your workspace, but they won't have any workspaces of their own. Like any one else, they can create a free account if they want to start their own workspaces.
Can I use to annotate web pages?
You can print the web page to a PDF file using your browser, and upload the PDF to We plan to have a smoother solution in future. On this site's predecessor,, you can snapshot a website and annotate the HTML directly.
Can I bring across my annotations from the older service?
Not at present, we recommend you start using the new workspace features on for new projects. We'll continue to run the service while we have customers using it.
Are the annotations I make with compatible with Acrobat comments?
Not natively, but you can export them as PDF comments. PDF comments are stored in the document itself. In annotate, we store them separately and filter them according to a user's privileges whenever they view a document. But you can export a document with the notes embedded as standard PDF comments. You can then add comments and replies independently (eg with Acrobat) and re-import them to
Why did you create
Back in 2005, the two founders were doing postdoctoral research in computational neuroscience, and were looking for ways to get structured access to experimental data. Almost everything is published as text, but there are far too many research papers for any individual to read. Rather than expecting scientists to change their behavior and create databases directly, they began investigating ways for authors to layer structured information on top of written text. After a number of iterations, this led to the first version of With the benefit of extensive feedback from users, the focus gradually shifted from complex structured annotations to collaborative discussion around the text, as seen in the present version of
The ease of building up a structured index of notes across large numbers of documents reflects the software's origins in annotating scientific data and papers, and now finds applications in a wide range of areas where in-depth discussion on a collection of documents is needed - from lawyers discussing thousands of evidence documents related to a court case, to medical experts analysing research papers and textbooks, to product marketing specialists and engineers checking technical details in marketing materials - as well as original target of students and researchers discussing papers.
I am a teacher. Can I use with my students?
Yes, please do. If you use Moodle, then our Moodle plugin may be of interest. It synchronizes accounts and learning materials from Moodle into annotate. We also have a Blackboard building block and an LTI endpoint for easy connection to many learning management systems including Canvas. If your requirements do not fit well within the current structure based on shared workspaces then we'd love to hear from you. Just let us know.
Can you set up a dedicated installation for my company?
Yes - see the Annotate Private Cloud page for details of how we can arrange a dedicated installation of on a private server for your company, with custom branding and logos. For larger enterprise customers we can also install in-house on company servers, and help integrate with company systems using our API.
Do you have an API?
Yes, see the Annotate API Documentation. The API can be used to connect an external document management system to a dedicated installation of It connects with a separate server running just for your or your company's use.
We want feedback on a document from a large number of users. Can do this?
The technology can do this - it scales to thousands of annotators on a single document - but it probably does not fit within the current subscription scheme on our public site. We've hosted textbooks and public consultations on public policy documents with thousands of annotators. Please get in touch and we can discuss options for large scale feedback; often the best is to set up a separate server running for your consultation using our Private Cloud service.