The Best Tools to Annotate PDF in Google Drive

The Best Tools to Annotate PDF in Google Drive
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How To Annotate A PDF File: PDF Tools for Teachers and More

Editing and annotating PDFs has become a much sought-after feature as the file format has become the dominant choice for document creation. From business to education, from whitepapers to scientific journals, the wide-range usage of PDFs across all sectors necessitates a way for these files to be edited and annotated. But it is not always clear how to do that. There are a wealth of PDF readers, but less pervasive are the tools (whether online tools or downloadable software) that make it possible to not only view PDFs but to manipulate them for one’s specific goals. The following tools allow users to edit, annotate, share and even create PDF files.

PDF Annotators for Online Learning and Beyond

The tools listed here come from various sources and come with features unique to each of them. They are a mix of free and premium tools (that come with a small cost) but are widely available regardless. These selections are based on research of user reviews, personal use, and recommendations from those who have used them.

Google Drive

Annotating PDFs in Google Drive was not possible until updates to the platform arrived in 2018. These new upgrades allowed users to manipulate PDFs on the cloud-based system that functions in much the same way that users can edit and annotate Google Docs. Users can download PDF files to their drive and then follow a series of simple prompts to highlight and comment on specific passages.

PDF files uploaded to Google Drive can also be shared with other users by expanding the sharing settings. Users can first use the annotation tool within the PDF interface by clicking on the annotation icon, which then allows users to read and highlight text and leave comments on the selected passages.


Xodo is a free downloadable tool for reading and annotating PDFs. Most free downloads have limited features, but Xodo is an exception. The tool has an expansive toolkit that lets users perform any number of functions with ease. It also has wide cross-compatibility across various devices from PCs to laptops and from laptops to tablets.

Xodo gives users the ability to fill in downloaded PDF documents and add a signature to any electronic documents. An important feature for students and teachers is that Xodo also allows users to view and make comments on specific, shared-access files so anyone with the document can instantly view any comments made on the file.


There is a long list of what DocHub allows users to do with PDF files. The software is available for free with limitations. There is a premium package that allows more features and gives users unlimited use of the tool. DocHub can be added as a browser extension giving it a straightforward interface that makes opening, reading, and editing PDF files as simple as clicking the icon.

Once the PDF shows up in the viewer, users can perform a laundry-list of functions that include:

  • Inserting, highlighting edit text directly into the file
  • Adding comments to selected passages
  • Inserting images, infographics, and signatures
  • Merging and rearranging pages

DocHub also has broad compatibility and supports many different file-sharing and cloud platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Gmail. It can also be used with several different file types from the Google Suite and other programs to convert files into PDF format even easier.


Even though it is one of the oldest PDF tools on this list, don’t let its age fool you. PDFescape is still widely used not only by those who have used it since the beginning but anyone who enjoys its user-friendly interface and wealth of tools. There are two versions available. One is free, and the other is a premium version that includes all the free features but comes with several useful upgrades.

While its user interface may not be as flashy or next-generation as other platforms, the easily navigable reader gives users intuitive hints about how best to use it properly. Among the basic features of PDFescape are:

  • The ability to annotate, edit and manipulate PDF files
  • The ability to add images, graphics, and other visual information
  • The ability to add links, notes, comments, and another iconography (arrows, circles, shapes, etc.)

The premium features go much further and allow for unlimited editing and annotating and the ability to convert, compress, and print PDF files when using the desktop version. The free version is compatible with several browsers from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and it also allows files to be imported from several sources.

Lumin PDF

Lumin PDF is one of the newer tools on this list that has seen increased use as schools and universities have shifted to online learning because of the pandemic. The tool is ideal for remote learning, and higher education as its features provide for easier note-making and collaboration. Lumin PDF also comes in several versions as there is a free version with limited features. But there are also premium versions that are available for individuals as well as businesses.

The free version of Lumin PDF comes with standard PDF editing tools such as:

  • Highlighting and annotating text (including in real-time)
  • Collaboration tools (like a chat feature) that make sharing, reading, and editing easier
  • Cross-compatibility with several servers and cloud-based platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox
  • Filling out and signing important PDF documents


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