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Electronic note taking on a PDF workbook

Explains how you can use Adobe Reader to type or hand write on electronic notes that are in a PDF format.

Site: eCampus
Course: Student Help
Book: Electronic note taking on a PDF workbook
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Sunday, 25 February 2018, 3:51 PM

1 Electronic Note taking

Adobe PDF ReaderMany of your resources on eCampus will be provided to you in PDF format. This is because Portable Document Format (PDF) is widely supported by all operating systems. It can be read on standard desktop computers as well as mobile devices.It is the best way for your lecturer to make sure everyone can read the information they have uploaded.

PDF is so widely accessible because Adobe maintain a product called Adobe Reader, which is FREE for anyone to download. They produce a software application and an app. PDFs are also a non-editable format, so documents saved as PDF are not able to be altered by anyone that reads them (generally speaking).

However, we all want to be able to add our own notes on documents. If it is a workbook we may need to fill in answers or complete activities. We may just want to jot down some notes to help remember something related - or highlight parts of the document to help us remember and be able to easily locate them. If you are printing out PDFs to do this, you:

  • waste your time, paper and print resources
  • prevent yourself being able to electronically search the document
  • may lose your notes
  • won't be able to refer to them if you have left them at home/work/etc.

The solution is to learn how to electronically note take! The easiest way to do this is to use the Adobe Reader. See the following pages on Adobe Reader for how to use this free tool. You can either download it onto a desktop PC or you can get the free App for use on mobile devices.

2 Adobe Reader®

Using Adobe® Reader®

Adobe Reader may already be installed on your computer or mobile device. If you can't open a PDF document though, go to the appropriate place to download it. It is a FREE product.

Once Adobe Reader has been installed on your system it will be the default program/app used to open PDF documents.

Adding annotations

Adobe Reader allows you to:

  • Add typed text to a document
  • Add a 'comment' or 'sticky note' box
  • Highlight text
  • Freehand 'scribble' or draw on the document
  • Fill in predefined fields with text

The method used, and the options available, vary slightly depending on whether you are using the Adobe Reader program or App. Please see the appropriate sub-chapter for instructions on how to do this.

2.1 Using the App (iPhone, iPad or Android)

Using the Adobe Reader® mobile App

Once you have downloaded the App any PDF document you view should open in Adobe Reader automatically.The Adobe Reader toolbar will appear along the top of your document, looking like:

Adobe App Menu Bar

The icons allow you to:

  • Export from PDF (you have to pay for this service)
  • Editing Tools (see below for explanations)
  • Bookmark - pick to bookmark the current PDF page you are viewing
  • Search (allows you to enter a text string to search whole document for)
  • Settings (alter viewing mode, sharing, printing via the cloud)


Click on the Editing Tools icon and a new Toolbar will appear, as shown below.

Adobe Reader Editing Tools Toolbar

To use simply click on the appropriate tool and then select the text or place on page where you want to annotate. In the below example the following tools have been used:

  • Sticky note: Select the icon and then click on the page where you want the sticky note to be placed.A 'text box' opens for you to write your comment in. To display a comment when the sticky note is closed just double click on the yellow balloon, and the text box will reappear.
  • Highlighter: Click the icon and then pick and drag over the text on the page you want highlighted.
  • Freehand: The red tick has been added by clicking the Freehand icon and then drawing on the page. You can control the styling of the line work when you are drawing it from options that appear.
  • Type Text: The red text has been added to the page by selecting the Type Text icon and clicking on the page where you want to add text. Size and styling options appear when you are typing so you can control the text's format.

Example of annotated PDF

NOTE: The purple bar along the top of the PDF indicates that the current document has fields in it that you can fill out. If you see this read the section below.

PDF Forms and fields

Your lecturer may have set up fields for you to enter information into. These fields can be check-boxes, dates, or text areas where you can write one or multiple lines of text.

To use the fields make sure you keep the "Highlight Existing Fields" button depressed (as shown in the image above).

Scroll through the document looking for shaded areas. Below is an example of a text field waiting to be typed into.

Adobe example of a highlighted field.

To use simply click once in the shaded area. A text cursor will appear.

Type in your response.

2.2 Using Reader on a PC/Laptop

Using the Adobe Reader® software program

When you open a document in Adobe Reader there should be a Menu and Toolbar displayed along the top of the screen similar to the image below.

Default Adobe Reader Menu and Toolbar

To add annotations to your document you need to turn on the Comments pane. To do this pick the [Comment] button at the far right of the Adobe Reader Toolbar. Adobe Reader Comment Pane

A pane (as shown) will open along the right hand side that allows you to use Annotation, Drawing Markup and Comments List tools.

Sticky Notes are similar to Microsoft Word comments - only the yellow balloon remains visible on the document, but clicking it displays the comment you added.

The highlighter tool lets you 'pick and drag' over any text you want highlighted.

Type Text lets you type onto the page to add information, such as the answer to an activity. The Text box tool actually draws a box with a solid background and allows you to type into it, so good for putting notes over the top of existing content.

The Eraser only 'runs out' annotations you have added to the PDF - it won't rub out original content.

Below are some examples.

Sticky Note

When you create a Sticky Note it places a yellow icon on the page, of a speech balloon. Clicking the yellow 'speech balloon' makes the comment box appear, where you can add and edit text. There are other options on the drop-down arrow at the top-left of the box.

Adobe Reader Sticky-note


Clicking on the pencil will allow you to freehand draw anywhere on the PDF document, as shown below in red. If you draw something you don't mean to either Undo or use the Eraser tool to 'rub out' the part you don't want.

Freehand tool

Text box & add text

Using the Text box tool allows you to draw a box of any size and then type inside it. The ordinary text tool simply lets you click on the page and type. See below an example of both.

Adobe example of text box and add text

ImportantNOTE: Remember to press the Save icon (or File>Save) to save your annotations.

You will have to have a locally saved copy to be able to do this - you can't save edits made to a PDF that is still in eCampus.

Using fields to fill in a Workbook or form

Your lecturer may have set up fields in a workbook for you to type answers into. If there are fields in the document an "Alert" will appear along the top of the PDF document when you open it, as shown below.

Adobe Form with fields to fill in.

As long as you have the [Highlight Existing Fields] button pressed in it will be easy to see and move between the fields you need to type into. Below is an example of a highlighted field. Simply click in the blue box and type in your answer.

Adobe example of a highlighted field.

NOTE: The Adobe Reader® website has additional help and information.