Writing Nowadays–Scribbling to PDF

My printer is out of toner, and I’m supposed to print out manuscripts to critique for writer’s group on Monday.  And then it occurred to me–I have an iPad, for heaven’s sake. Why am I even using paper?

(It’s true that I could use the comment function in Word.  However, it’s clunky and slow.  I can scribble on a paper manuscript with a pen much more quickly, and in any case, I dislike editing on a monitor.  An iPad mimicks paper quite nicely, however.)

A few minutes’ searching turned up the Notability app, which for a mere $1.99 will import PDFs and let me scribble on them with my finger or a stylus.  Well, splendid!  A few more minutes hooked the app to my Dropbox account, where I had stored the manuscripts I needed to critique.  I did have to take a side jaunt to my word processing program to convert said  manuscripts to PDFs, but that only took a few mouse clicks.  Importing the new PDFs into Noteworthy was easy.  In seconds I had a screenful of text I could scribble on just like paper, only it didn’t involve any dead trees.

I happily went through the manuscripts.  Notability added my handwritten comments to the PDFs and saved them to Dropbox, though the files are also still on the iPad.  At the writers group meeting, I can call up the manuscript with my comments on it, use it to give the oral critique, and then email the PDF to my colleague afterward.  Notability even allows me to record comments vocally, if I want. Delightful!

Oh, you modern times.  What will you think of next?

Update:An earlier version of this blog incorrectly referred to the app as Noteworthy instead of Notability.

–Steven Harper Piziks
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Writing Nowadays–Scribbling to PDF — 5 Comments

  1. You’re seriously telling me that I can do that on an iPad? I print out reams of pages to edit. My red pen and ability to scribble is what works for me. Maybe I need to ask Santa for an iPad for Christmas after all. Someday when you have spare time (ha!) maybe you can post a pic of an edited page on your iPad.

  2. I just got an Ipad for my birthday, but I have not yet progressed to where I can handle ms on it. Getting the BVC slide show onto it was my big hurdle of the week. Do you use Pages to actually manipulate the text? Do you have to go through Dropbox to get it onto Noteworthy, or is it possible to move it directly?

  3. Oops! It’s Notability, not Noteworthy. I’ll correct the blog.

    I probably shouldn’t post pics of the text I’ve edited, since it was someone else’s writing, but here’s what someone else did that was similar. It shows what you can do:


    I don’t use Pages to manipulate text; I use CleanWriter or Open Word. I dearly wish Corel would make an app.

    Noteworthy lets you open PDFs directly from Dropbox. If you’ve linked Noteworthy to Dropbox, you can also go into Dropbox, select a PDF, and tell Dropbox to open the file with Noteworthy. If you don’t want to convert files to PDF, Noteworthy will work with Word files if you have a Google docs account. Noteworthy will open Word files by converting them into Google doc files, which you can then scribble on.

    I’m enjoying this quite a lot!

  4. I’ve been using the Notability/Dropbox combo to do exactly this for a year now, and I can’t recommend it enough. I use it in conjunction with Scrivener because of the dual pane window. I can open the notated PDF in one pane and the work in progress in the other. It’s so much nicer than propping up a paper manuscript in front of the monitor.