PDF reader annotations and Android

This discussion was created from comments split from: Available in preview: Zotero PDF reader and new note editor.
  • edited March 14, 2021
    This PDF reader feature is *amazing* and I'm so excited for it, and especially well timed for "return migrants" like me from Mendeley, where this feature was a major draw that lured me away. But I'm already seeing workflow issues for those of us who read and annotate on mobile and are waiting on the mobile apps (I'm an Android user, so who knows how long I'll be waiting).

    In the mean time I'm using Zotfile, and getting frustrated by the fact that in order to see the annotations I make, I have to keep them in the marked-up PDF. I'd rather have the annotations in Zotero and keep the PDF "clean," the way this new feature does. I can obviously extract the annotations into a note and delete the marked-up PDF (keeping a clean version), but then I can't "see" the annotations in the file. Does that make sense?

    Is there any way around this? Is there any way to re-create or replicate the Zotfile annotations onto the clean PDF? Or am I going to have to do this manually?
  • edited March 15, 2021
    No easy answer here, other than that you can keep using an external PDF reader on desktop and still take advantage of the new note features (e.g., creating notes from annotations with active citations that can be added directly to word processor documents).

    We could consider adding the ability to replace any native annotations on a PDF with the annotations from the file, which would let you (or ZotFile, using Zotero functionality) export a PDF with embedded annotations and then import them back in later. But you'd lose tags and any annotations not in the file. (Trying to automatically reconcile native and external annotations isn't something we plan to support.)

    Beyond that, we'll try to add information on annotations to our API documentation soon so that Zoo or other third-party Android clients could try to support them. I don't know what the options are on Android for embeddable PDF readers with programmable annotation support, so I don't know how feasible that would be.
  • I'm only using an external PDF reader on mobile, not on desktop. I would very much welcome the "one way transfer" idea you mentioned in the other thread: "importing annotations from a PDF and removing them from the file." But only if "removing" would still render them visible in the same place on the file within the reader, rather than into a separate note.

    I don't know the technical feasibility of annotation support, but I do know that the Mendeley Android app had PDF annotation support built-in, and it sounds like that's what the plan is with the iOS app. Right now Zoo and other third-party clients are a long way away from having that functionality. I would be bummed if that functionality were only available to iOS users.
  • Hi, I just want to see if this idea of importing/transferring external annotations (eg, from Zotfile) into the new PDF reader is still planned, and if so, whether we can hope to see it soon. I haven't seen much chatter on this in the past couple weeks.
  • If the question is if Zotero will re-create extraced annotations from Zotfile into the PDF as you describe above, then that's definitely not going to happen. That's not even technically possible (Zotfile only stores the page the annotations are on, not their actual location).

    As you know, Zotero already reads annotations from other PDF readers.
  • Okay, I clearly misinterpreted comments from @dstillman here and on other threads suggesting this was technically possible, especially if it were a one-way transfer and not a sync function, and was planned for future releases. Phooey.

    I'm fully aware that Zotero *reads* those external annotations but the whole point is to avoid having to keep the annotations in the PDF. But until there is an Android mobile app that allows for native annotations in Zotero, folks like me are stuck using Zotfile to read PDFs on Android readers - which gives no option but to have external annotations. I feel like my only choice now is to manually go in and duplicate all of the external annotations in the PDF file, then delete them off the PDF file. Or keep multiple versions of the file - one with annotations and one without. Total PITA!

    If that's indeed not possible, then *please* tell me that you're going to develop an Android app similar to what you've developed for iOS. If not then I'm going to have to suck it up and buy an iPad, which is the last thing I care to do.
  • I think there's some confusion here due to your describing the annotations as "ZotFile annotations". ZotFile simply extracts annotations — the annotations in your PDF file have nothing whatsoever to do with the ZotFile plugin in Zotero. That's why @adamsmith assumed you were referring to the extracted annotation notes in Zotero, which can't be transferred back to the PDF, rather than the annotations in the PDF files.

    As we've said, we'll likely make it possible to do one-way transfers between external and Zotero annotations while deleting the source annotations. I don't know when that will happen.
  • @dstillman Got it, yes, I see the confusion here. Glad to know you're likely to add this functionality at some point, hopefully soon. I'm referring to Zotfile mainly because it's my workaround for sending and retrieving files from my mobile device in the absence of a native mobile app. Speaking of, any plans for an Android app?
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