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?
  • An Android application which tries to sync annotations only is highly worth.
  • We're currently hiring for an Android developer.
  • I noticed that "Android developer" is no longer listed under the Zotero job listings. Does that mean an Android developer has been hired? Or that Zotero has decided against developing an Android app?
  • We've hired an Android developer, yes.
  • Fantastic! Looking forward to the Android app! Is there any beta version to try? And if not, is there any timeline for when it might be available?
  • I'm looking forward an Android app as well. I've tried every solution on the market and it is a real pain in the neck. What you've done for IOS would be fantastic !
  • Same here. An Android app + paid storage would be my preferred solution for seamless reading & annotating on both, my PC and my tablet. Thank you for the great program and developing an Android app. I am convinced many users will appreciate this.
  • That's great to hear @dstillman very excited to see what comes out of their work. As many have said, being able to annotate PDFs on Android would be an excellent feature!
  • I guess I should wait for the android app then. I was just about to buy a minimum version of iPad (barely affordable), so I can use Zotero. Waiting eagerly for the android app.
  • Best news since the integration of a PDF Reader to Zotero Desktop.
  • Echoing that! Will be very happy to have Android app :)
    Looking forward.
    (Meantime VERY happy with PC desktop version.)
  • Excited for Android app...I almost cheated on Android.
  • Exciting yes indeed! All the best
  • I am also waiting for an Android app able to edit PDF directly on my tablet, it would be perfect !
  • Just want to add my support for the android app. Third party apps just aren't up to scratch. I'll pay for Zotero storage for my pdfs if I know there's proper app support.
  • I am also very much looking forward to an Android app. I almost bought an iPad just to be able to annotate in Zotero but glad I held off. Can't wait!
  • I am also looking forward for the Android app! About this, how could I contribute?
    I just saw that the iOS version was done in Swift. I wonder if there are plans to port it, or if there's an android version repository. I could not find any specifics in the forums so far.
  • Zotero has generally published code together with the public beta of any new project/tool and kept repos private until then. I'd expect them to do the same for the Android app.
  • Excited to get my hands on the Android app as well! Love how Zotero keeps getting better and better - thank you for all your hard work!!
  • Looking foward to this!
Sign In or Register to comment.