I learned about the PDF possibility of taking notes which are then stored with the document, usefull when reading ebooks. If the note taker also supports some math notation, that would be wonderful! Which free PDF reader can do this? (I am using Lubuntu 12.10)


11 Answers 11


I suggest you try these two programs and choose the one that better fits your needs.


sudo apt-get install xournal

All annotations are hand made (so to speak). You can print them on the PDF, if you want, or you can set them apart.

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Download from here. Very useful to keep track of your research notes.

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  • 4
    Xournal doesn't save annotation in the pdf file itself, so if you send the file to someone else, he won't get the annotations.
    – To Do
    Jun 1, 2013 at 10:38
  • 14
    You must "Export to PDF" to generate a new PDF with the annotations. This way anybody can read them. Jun 2, 2013 at 13:40
  • How can you save your annotations directly to PDF using Mendeley? Nov 21, 2013 at 14:02
  • 1
    Yes, you can. Just go to «Export to PDF with annotations» in the «File» menu. Nov 24, 2013 at 18:03
  • xournal sucks regardless, because it just shows the pdf as a canvas and the links and interactive elements don't work. Nov 24, 2021 at 19:45

Evince 3.6.1 (the default PDF viewer) now supports adding annotations and bookmarks (proper PDF bookmarks), that are saved with the document.

Since Evince 3.14 you can add and delete annotations.


UPDATE Evince 3.14: Annotations can be added and deleted.

UPDATE 2020: Key S adds a text note and Ctrl + H highlights selected text. (both still require a mouse click to start writing on the annotation). Thanks @Gogowitsch

  • 3
    Maybe I just do not see it, but I can't move or delete annotations in evince. I'm using the ubuntu 13.10 default version (3.10).
    – verpfeilt
    Oct 19, 2013 at 23:02
  • 3
    yup, that is a pending feature help.gnome.org/users/evince/stable/annotations-delete.html.en
    – alfC
    Oct 20, 2013 at 19:50
  • 4
    With GNOME 3.14, removing annotations has been finally implemented. See wiki.gnome.org/ThreePointThirteen/ReleaseNotes (evince: supports removing annotations).
    – Peque
    Dec 10, 2014 at 22:13
  • 2
    If you're looking for it and can't find it, in Ubuntu, Evince is called Document Viewer.
    – Brad Turek
    Sep 24, 2018 at 15:44
  • 1
    Look at the keyboard shortcuts to work with comments efficiently. For instance, the key S adds a note.
    – Gogowitsch
    Nov 21, 2020 at 17:52

You could also try Okular. Now you can actually export annotations to PDFs in Okular (this was not possible until recently): http://docs.kde.org/stable/en/kdegraphics/okular/annotations.html

It seems Okular has to be built with Poppler at least version 0.20. It works with Ubuntu 13.04.


The version of Okular (0.19.3) found in at least Ubuntu 14.04 now also supports customising the review toolbar (the toolbar for adding annotations) by adding and modifying the various annotation types that can be selected.


Xournal Install xournal would be worth taking a look at. Annotations and modifications are stored in a separate file but can be easily exported to PDF.

I don't think there's any PDF editor out there that supports any kind of sophisticated math notation, but I might be mistaken.


Try qpdfview Install qpdfview. It is fast, customizable and has rudimentary annotation support.

A recent version can be installed by adding this launchpad ppa.


PDF-X-Change Viewer is fairly good. You have to run it under Wine, though.


There is yet another alternative. You can install Adobe Reader. The latest linux version is 9.5.5 (which is dated compared to W$ and Mac versions). It allows for editing and commenting. You do have to enable the editing and commenting toolbars (right click on the toolbar and select).

sudo apt-get install adobereader-enu
sudo apt-get -f install # needed because there is a wrong dependency

For doing proofreading when working with a publisher this is the way to go.

  • I also suggest you to use adobe reader for that. Adobe reader might not be the fastest (for viewing only the default ubuntu viewer is way faster for large documents), but is available on many platforms and works very well.
    – ortang
    Jul 30, 2013 at 7:31
  • This seems to no longer work in Ubuntu 14.04. Jan 25, 2016 at 15:39

Our company, Qoppa Software publishes a free advanced PDF viewer for Linux. It can render many PDF features including annotations, form fields, layers. PDF Studio Viewer has advanced printing options, and other UI features such as loupe tool, pan & zoom, rulers & grid, etc. There are navigation panes such as thumbnails, comments, digital signatures, bookmarks, etc .. And the application is easy to install with no dependencies. The installer comes as a single file. https://www.qoppa.com/pdfstudioviewer/


I'm a huge fan of Master PDF Editor, which is free for non-commercial use (home, education). Features include:

  • Comment and annotate PDF documents
  • Add and/or edit bookmarks in PDF files
  • Edit PDF text and images
  • Create and fill PDF forms
  • Split and merge PDF documents
  • Create new PDF document from scanner or existing file(s)

You could give Polar Bookshelf a look.

Then note style is similar to Mendeley, where notes are shown collected in a sidebar. It also copies out highlighted text. For math, it has the very handy feature that you can drag a "highlight box" around content, with the content then shown in the list of notes.

Note that Polar stores notes etc. in a database, currently with no options to share them, and not embed option.


For anyone who found this question, my suggestion is to use:

Foxit PDF Reader

installation link: https://www.linuxbabe.com/desktop-linux/install-foxit-pdf-reader-ubuntu

In my opinion it is a more powerful PDF reader than any mentioned in this post. Its advantages include, but are not limited to:

  • user friendly interface
  • easy customization
  • comparable features/functions to Adobe Acrobat Reader

And the most important is that it is available cross systems: Windows, Mac and Linux.

Try it out, I believe you will find amazing!

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