It’s no wonder tat the Surface Pro 3 is becoming a hit, especially with enterprise users. Of course, with business adoption comes some demands.
As a result, one of the most frequent questions I get from new business users is “can I annotate PDF documents with my Surface?” The answer is a resounding “yes, but you’ll need to download an app. Don’t worry though, I have a couple of options that won’t break the bank.”
In fact, there are several apps available that will let you annotate PDF files including at least 6 in the Windows Store that will run on Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets.
Below, I have picked two of them (one free and one low cost – under $10USD) that I like and have used. After a quick overview of each, I have created a feature matrix so you can easily compare them.
Annotate PDF on Surface Tablets: Foxit MobilePDF
Foxit Software has been around for a while now and I’ve used their free desktop PDF reader (Foxit Reader) software for years. I’ve always liked the quality of their product and we even implemented it as the standard PDF reader for Windows workstations at the college where I work.
The Foxit MobilePDF application is basic but functional. However, it does occasionally have difficulty opening PDF files.
Along with the expected pen/paint tool, it features tools for highlighting, underlining, and striking out text in the PDF file. It also includes a tool to insert notes about the text into the document, which is handy. It includes a button to hide your annotations which is also pretty handy.
Unfortunately, it has a few serious limitations. For example, a very limited undo/erase feature. Basically, the only thing you can erase is markups from the pen/paint tool and you can only undo it until you switch to another tool. If you highlight or strike-through text and decide you want to undo it, your only option is to exit without saving then reopen the PDF to redo all of your markups.
Another big limitation is the lack of print support. You simply can’t print PDFs from this app.
Overall, though, it does fine if you need to quickly markup a PDF file and you can’t beat the price – FREE!
Annotate PDF on Surface Tablets: Drawboard
Drawboard is available in the Windows Store for $9.99USD (there is also a 3 day trial version), so it runs on Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets as well as the Surface Pro line. It has a much more streamlined interface and much richer feature set.
Basically, it has just about any feature you could want to annotate a PDF on Surface tablets, including the ability to print from the app.
It uses an interface wheel very similar to the one in OneNote. You can see what that looks like below.
In addition, to the great feature set it is much better at opening PDF files. I didn’t have any issues opening my test PDF files even the ones Foxit MobilePDF couldn’t p[em. Also, it was able to open large/graphically intense PDF files.
I guess sometimes you do get what you pay for.
Annotate PDF on Surface Tablets: Feature Comparison
In the table below, I’m comparing both products side-by-side against a list of features.
It should be no surprise from the data above that I found the Drawboard product to be more fully featured but MobilePDF is provided for free, so I guess it depends on how much you want to pay.
Annotate PDF on Surface Tablets: Conclusion
If you need to quickly mark up a few PDFs, either product will do just fine. If you are going to regularly annotate PDFs on your Surface tablet I would recommend shelling out the $10USD for Drawboard, you’ll be glad you did.
If you like a different app to annotate PDFs on your Surface tablet, let us know about it in the comments. I’m sure your fellow readers would appreciate it.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.