Create a note that linked to a specific paragraph in a pdf

RemNote implemented this requested feature in their recent updates.
It works pretty well, I’m very amazed.
The problem is just that it is not markdown and it’s not plaintext that you can use in other markdown editors.

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An app called Highlights (Mac) does this as well, and it saves annotations as markdown with the appropriate links.

To link to an exact Para or text, A hacky solution would be harvesting the in-file search, just creating a link to the exact search term and order, this has to be implemented internally in the software, it can’t be achieved using a plugin, I guess so.

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That would indeed be amazing, if Obsidian would adapt LiquidText features.

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Can we display only one page of a pdf?
I am reading from a book that has <900 pages, I only need page 42 for a specific topic to take notes underneath. ‘#page=42’ is starting from 42, yeah, but goes all the way 900. I want only that page or maybe 42 to 43, not all. I could not find a way to do it. Does anybody know?

Not exactly sure what your exact question is - #page=42 only means that when opening your pdf it will jump to that page; it will not fragment your document in the sense of “show only pages 42 and following”…

What you want, perhaps, is to embed specific pages into your note? Maybe you should have a look at this new plugin - I haven’t tried it myself and according to the discussions there still seem to be some installation problems in this early development stage; but that might be what you are looking for!

Yeah! That’s exactly what I was looking for!
I know it goes to page 42, but you see the rest of the pages, too. Not only one 42. I will check the plugin!

Thanks,
HA

I’m hoping keypoints will be released soon with an Obsidian plugin, but who knows how long it will take.
But yes maybe Obsidian could so something similar.

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Does anyone know if there has been any progress on the development of this request by @Ocarinalover ? Is it on Obsidians development roadmap?

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I don’t know anything official, but I wouldn’t bet on this anytime soon. I imagine this kind of feature would require building a PDF handling engine from the ground up. (That’s based on the knowledge that only a select few PDF editors can do this kind of linking at present, and they are all exclusively PDF apps…)

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@DarrenMcDonald Hook can do something similar. See for example here, especially the section entitled “Hook and reference management software (PDFs)”. I wonder, if anyone can/want showcase her or his workflow with Hook and Obsidian.

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Interesting that Roam Research and Remnote has already has this feature. Roam Research as an extension and Remnote has it built into the app.

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Both of these apps have a different fundamental data structure than Obsidian.

In Roam’s case, I assume you mean the extension mentioned here: https://mobile.twitter.com/cococ_rr/status/1366654227506991105

If so, it uses Roam blocks to emulate highlight locations.

As for RemNote, it’s purpose-built with this feature in mind.

It might be possible in Obsidian someday, but it makes more sense for a good PDF editor to provide this functionality and for Obsidian to leverage that app than for Obsidian to build it from the ground up. (After all, shouldn’t we be able to link to and use these annotations outside the context of the note-writing app?)

zotero has a plugin called zotfile,it can extract highlights and annotations from pdf files edited by acrobat pro 11. and there is another zotero plugin named mdnotes, which could export all the zotfile-extracted notes and metadata of a item in zotero to obsidian in md format. and you can jump back to pdf paragraph when both obsidian and zotero are opened.

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Actually, there is a quite simple way to make references to exact positions within pdf files. I used to do it manually once (unfortunately, I can’t script to make the process automatic). But I’m not a programmer and don’t know how difficult is to implement it and how useful it would be for other users.

The things needed are:

  1. a simple pdf-annotating tool embedded within Obsidian,
  2. a search engine that can search and preview pdf files and show “hits”, and
  3. little programming.

The functionality should work like this:

  1. You highlight a passage, take notes, annotate, and do all your work within a PDF file using the embedded pdf-annotating tool. I believe, this is already a requested feature.

  2. If you wish to make a reference, you will select an option “Create an anchor (reference)” and insert the cursor in a place in the PDF file where you want to create it.

  3. The program will create an anchor at the exact place by inserting a little text in the PDF file with a generated unique string of characters (perhaps using the exact time stamp). The string will be copied to the clipboard.

  4. Now, you should just paste that string in an Obsidian file with a special syntax – let’s call it a “pdf block link”. The string doesn’t need to contain the name of the pdf file, since it’s always unique.

  5. Later, by clicking on the pdf block link, the system launches the indexed search for that string in PDF files, finds the hit and previews the pdf file in the exact position.

So, it works in a way similar to block references in Obsidian.

Visually, the anchor string should be invisible or barely visible in the PDF file (for example, small, transparent style letters can be used). Or the string in the pdf file could appear as a little anchor icon (so that you can see, where you have your anchors; you can move them around to adjust their position; and you can copy their id-string to create a pdf block link to it in an Obsidian file, when necessary; and so on). Sure, there are plenty of possibilities here.

The good thing is that these links won’t be broken by renaming or moving pdf files within your vault – the search engine will automatically reindex all the files that has been modified or moved and find the unique string in a new location without any problems.

You don’t even need OCR-processed files – because you can write (i.e., create anchors) even on top of images. So, this method can work also with images - you can for example refer to the exact point in the image.

The method can be adjusted for other file types that can be edited, searched, and previewed by the search engine with hits higlighted.

I used to do this manually using PDF X-Change Editor (for annotating PDFs and manually creating “anchors”) and DtSearch Desktop (for searching the “anchors” in the PDF files). After manually creating an anchor in a PDF file, I just copied the string into my note-taking app. And when I wanted to find the exact location in the source PDF file, I just ran the desktop search for that string. But any pdf annotation tool (that can write on top of PDF) and any search engine (that can search PDFs and highlight “hits”) will do.

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Thanks @ryanjamurphy for your input and clarification. I am not a programmer. I will leave it to people like you who understand how things work under the cover. :slight_smile:

I would find Obsidian useful as a tool for my academic research if it you were able to highlight PDFs, make notes on the text (OCR?) from the highlights and have this text link back to where they were made in the PDF so that I can see the highlights in context.

In find most PDF editors/readers very frustrating to use because they have you making comments in bubble notes that are hidden the moment you move on to the next comment. I need to be able to have all my comments open because I refer to them when writing the current note. So having the PDF feature in Obsidian would be fantastic! :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Slavomir for your detailed explanation. You may not be a programmer, but you are a power user. :slight_smile:

Is there any detailed “how-to” description of the steps you use for absolute beginners?

Ok, I have for some time been taking a very deep dive into PDF - summary : it is hard to believe such a fckd up format got so big, Adobe really have a lot to answer for.

However, there is a way to do what is asked, that is use of namedestinations, which can be created most easily by use of pdfmarks.

It is a long, long story, the info is available but it is like some family secret and very difficult to really distill down to these two key facts.

If you search those two terms you will find what you would need to know to add this feature programmatically. Msg me if you really need to know more but I only went as far as I needed for my particular use at the time - it took months to get to the final key details I needed.

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Ok, I have for some time been taking a very deep dive into PDF - summary : it is hard to believe such a fckd up format got so big, Adobe really have a lit to answer for.

However, there is a way to do what is asked, that is use of named destinations. These are what you use to open a PDF at a specific section (as opposed to page #).

You add #nameddest= to your file/url when you open it. A named destinations will change as the PDF changed as it has an extra level of indirection allowing it to associate with a “section” instead of a page.

You can make a named destinations in some PDF editors, or convert a bookmark or link destination etc.
into a named destination. (eg using autobookmark or debeneu).

But, the hidden secret that is out in view, if you know to look, is the use of pdfmarks - this is the key and would easily allow this feature to be implemented and they are a “layer” that goes in at the distilling (ghostwriting) phase of pdf generation, turning PostScript into PDF.

Search and you will find.

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Use case or problem

Highlight keywords in PDF reader and a link is created in our note. Clicking on this link in the notes will then open the PDF at the correct page

Proposed solution

enable highlighting in PDF and right click menu will have both

  • paste text
  • paste link to reference

Current workaround (optional)

The only feature in Remnote that I miss

Video below of Remnote implementation (still buggy but works)
PDF highlight link to page (streamable.com)

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