Skim - PDF reader and annotation software

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Skim is an excellent free PDF reader and annotation software for Mac OS X. It allows you to do digitally what you are used to on paper: highlight, underline, add sticky notes. Beyond what you can do on paper, with Skim you can quickly search the PDF and browse your notes in a separate pane. Get it, try it, and stop printing out kilos of paper that then bog you down when you have to move.

Skim icon.png download Skim 0.9.1, 2.3 MB (latest version as of 9/07)

or check Skim project homepage for latest version

Example of Skim PDF annotation - chapters in the left panel, notes listed on the right; sticky notes (yellow), boxes (green), circles (red), highlight (yellow), and arrows (blue)

Selected features

  • facilitates reading PDFs with full screen mode, many zoom shortcuts, reading bar
  • easy searching using a pane on the left; list all hits with page number and marks them clearly in the text after selection
  • paper-like annotation including colour-highlighting, underlining, circles, boxes, full sticky notes, and anchored sticky notes that expand when clicked
  • dedicated pane listing your notes; searchable and hot-linked

PDF file output

Skim doesn't change the original PDF like you can with Acrobat. Instead, it attaches annotation info to the file. This is welcome since it allows you to remove your annotation before printing or passing on the PDF to a colleague. It is also superior to a two file system of a PDF paired to a comment file. Things can't get lost. Currently, if you open a Skim-annotated PDF with a different PDF viewer like Preview, you will see the bare PDF. The annotation remains hidden. You can, however, engrave the annotations in the PDF, at which point they can no longer be separated via the Skim export.

Long-term viability and Leopard

While you may loose your 50 kilos of scribbled on print outs when you move to your next job, the digital equivalent of this may happen when you upgrade to the next operating system or change computer. Will the the valuable and time-consuming annotations made in Skim be lost one day? Apple's new version of OS X, nicknamed Leopard, is rumoured to have extensive new annotation features [1] build into Preview (Note: Apple took care to suppress information on the new Preview features; a page that had detailed information has since been mostly deleted [2]).

The obvious question here is, whether Skim annotation will be compatible with and convertible into the new Preview annotation. It's to early to answer this question since the new OS X Leopard (10.5) is not out yet. But it makes one think about what will happen to all those PDFs, nicely annotated thanks to the innovative Skim software.


See also