Highlighting/annotation of PDFs as a core feature of Obsidian?

I was wondering if highlighting and annotation of PDFs will ever become a core feature of Obsidian. The current workaround is to use a plugin that makes this possible. But it would be nice to have this feature as a core feature in Obsidian (like it is in Logseq). Is there a reason why the developers do not have this feature on their roadmap?

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I can’t speak to Logseq’s prioritization patterns, but generally speaking the Obsidian developers focus on things things that are hard for plugin developers to do, like the mobile app, or things that are “table stakes” functionality that most users can reasonably expect to have even in safe mode, like tags.

Logseq has a much larger team than Obsidian’s, which leads to different design decisions being made. Most of the time something gets pulled into Core, it’s because there’s a good reason for the feature to be core instead of a plugin.

It might help your feature request get traction if you can explain what about the current plugin is insufficient for you and why you’d like this to be in core — instead of any of the other plugins that could be pulled into core, like for instance dataview or style settings.

Developer hours aren’t infinite, so knowing more about why this matters to you will help with prioritization.

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last month I was looking for a solution to highlight PDF books while reading them on my iPad but came up short.
Just got an email from @janpeeters recommending the annotater plugin
I tested it and it does provide a pretty good experience highlighting, annotating and tagging PDF files

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Hello @EleanorKonik. Thank you for your reply and for giving me some insight into the situation for the development of Obsidian. :slight_smile:

There is a plugin that works very well with Obsidian called obsidian-annotator (as @udracing has also noted). It has most of the features I seek in having highlighting/annotation as a core feature. I am very thankful to the developer of this plugin who has spent considerable time and effort to make the plugin work.

But that is somewhat my concern, especially when looking at the short- and long-term. The ability of Obsidian to highlight/annotate PDFs is in the hands of one developer who may or may not be able to continue work on it in the future. So, the reason I wrote the original post to ask if the feature was on the developer’s roadmap.

PS.
There have been various discussions on having this feature in the Obsidian forums for a very long time, for example; Create a note that linked to a specific paragraph in a pdf.

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I hope this is implemented in the future. We need pdf area highlighting in Obsidian. Not everything is text, sometimes you need to add graphs and diagrams in a book.

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Right now one workaround I do is to convert pdfs to markdown. Really hoping obsidian adds this feature themselves.

I just downloaded annotater and input my default folder location for my PDFs but I’m a bit lost from here how to get the PDFs into Obsidian so I can highlight them. Dragging and dropping allow them to show but no options to highlight, annotate, etc appear. Can you provide some assistance?

Re. Annotator Plug-in: Am aware that this is more than likely an Hypothesis issue but it is nonetheless a place crying out for improvement. On a 2021 iPad Pro with a 2nd gen Apple Pencil it is extremely difficult to highlight text accurately. Moreover, when the desired text is ready to be highlighted the Copy|Look Up|Translate|Share etc. options often get in the way of the Annotate|Highlight options. See attached photos.

The first photo is of Obsidian Annotator. After three tries I was able to select the text I wanted to annotate. Was lucky in that the Copy etc options displayed above and not on top of the Annotate|Highlight options.

The second photo is of the same pdf in Zotero. One try and very responsive movement of markers to define a highlight.

All this time I had been thinking that the difficulty I encountered on the iPad was owing to the quality of the pdf - though the plugin is more responsive in the desktop version of Obsidian using a mouse. My experience with Zotero highlighting indicates that the issue is not with the pdf. Am aware that many people use Zotero for notetaking and import to Obsidian. I do not want to do this. I love having all my texts in Obsidian along with the notes from them. Moreover, I am a big fan of the structure of the Annotator notes with text+comment+ tags.

So. Is it on Hypothesis’ radar to improve their pdf reader? Or is there something else that can solve this issue?

Many thanks
Pdf in Annotator Plug-in
Pdf in Zotero

PDF highlights are so easy to do in Logseq, and is a core feature. It remains a struggle in Obsidian, and we have to keep trying different workarounds.

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As a student I have to read, annotate and tag a lot of PDF’s. So far i still do this in my literature management app but i would love to do this directly in Obsidian. From a research perspective, better native PDF support and in the future reference management options or connectivity to apps like zotero or paperpile would make Obsidian much more useful to me than it already is. I like what they do in Logseq and really hope for a feature like that.

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Indeed, this development would be great. I struggle with the annotator plug-in.
I nearly left Obsidian for Logseq for this reason (but excalidraw integration is right now much better in obsidian)

I agree. I really hope that this could become a core feature of obsidian!

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Definitely needs to be core-featured, pdfs are the lifeblood of academia at this point and making the workflow easier would drive so many more people to Obsidian. Right now I’m struggling with the annotator plugin which refuses to work consistently - I can’t always get it to open the pdfs I need and when I do there’s text in the pdf which I can’t select for some reason. I do hope there’s a solution soon.

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+1
I tried almost all the pdf-related plugins for obsidian. None of them give me neat and smooth experience.

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I genuinely think this + a few other features is all that stands between Obsidian being adopted by large swathes of uni students across the globe. I just converted my SO into an Obsidianite and one of her first questions was about PDF integration and annotation. Here’s hoping this gets addressed soon!

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Being able to annotate/highlight parts/text of a pdf and to link it in obsidian is the only thing keeping me from using it daily and really organizing all of my stuff in obsidian (and the only thing keeping me from financially supporting it).

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This would be an absolutely massive improvement! Ability to annotate and directly link to notes is critical and the only thing that keeps me from using Obsidian 100 percent of the time! What can we do to get this on the roadmap? :slight_smile:

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With the release of Canvas, PDF reading and annotations in Canvas, along with mind mapping, have become much more desirable. The ready-made software example is Marginnote, expect Obsidian to launch this feature as soon as possible!

For now, my Marginnote video is for reference only

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Has that been communicated by the Obsidian team?

In my opinion a simple solution :

  • Annotate your PDF with whatever software you use to read PDFs. For me Preview on Mac does a fine job.
  • When getting information it is best not to copy paste, but to write your own notes. Every system of keeping knowledge will emphasise this. So you have to write your notes anyways.

I usually do one note per PDF. Embed the PDF at the bottom of the note. Using this notation ![[somepdf.pdf]]. Add my notes on top.

Now if your vault is inside GoogleDrive or Dropbox or something and you open your PDF from another device or a mobile device, you can still do highlights in it and you will see them back in Obsidian.

Check out this system for academia if you like.