Sente for iPad Preview: PDF Highlighting
Being able to read and highlight PDFs on the iPad is perhaps the single most requested feature for Sente for iPad. We have known from the very beginning that this was going to be a critical feature on which the success of the app would depend. This feature alone has taken almost half of the development time of the entire application, but now that it is done, we are very pleased with the results and we hope that you will be as well.
We were trying to achieve several goals in our design for PDF annotation.
First, we wanted the interface to be clean and unobtrusive. There are some seriously ugly PDF annotation tools out there, and we did not want to be one of them.
Second, we wanted it to be easy to learn and easy to use (of course!).
Third, as in desktop Sente, we wanted PDF annotation to be tightly connected with note taking. Of course, this means including the ability to add notes to a PDF, but it also means (optionally) adding notes to your Sente notes, which are visible outside of the PDF view. This is not something that other PDF tools support.
Fourth, we wanted it to support a number of common usage patterns. This is where the UI design got tricky. Some people like to highlight passages in documents but they are not interested in adding comments or saving quotations for later use. Some like to add comments inside the PDF as an aid to remembering their thoughts on specific passages. And some take copious notes, often with quotations, for use in their own writing. We wanted Sente for iPad to support each of these common patterns in such a way that the user never feels as though they are fighting with the software.
Here is a brief overview of what the PDF annotation and note-taking interface looks like in Sente for iPad, starting with the PDF view showing some text highlighted and a comment marker.
To initiate highlighting, you can either press-and-hold somewhere in the text, or tap on the highlighter icon at the top of the screen and swipe your finger to select some text. Either action places you into Annotation Mode.
When you have text selected in Annotation Mode, you will see an edit menu that includes:
The Highlight option simply highlights the text using the color selected in the toolbar. The edit menu is then automatically dismissed and the user can return to reading.
The Comment and Quote options both bring up a note editor. Notes created here can be either internal to the PDF, or they can also appear in your list of Sente notes for the reference. If you select the Quote command, Sente assumes that you are creating a full Sente note and it automatically adds the selected text to the note as the quotation. If you select Comment, Sente creates either a PDF-only note or a full Sente note, depending on which you created the last time you used this command. You can change the type of any note at any time.
Here is the note editor for a full Sente note (when editing a PDF-only note, the body of the editor is replaced with a single text field for the comment):
When the note editor is closed, the PDF is then displayed with the text highlighted (if a color had been selected in the note editor) and either a "note" icon or a "note-with-comment" icon is displayed in the margin of the document.
Tapping on a note-with-comment icon will bring up a small sticky with the contents of the users comments in it, which can be dismissed by tapping anywhere else on the screen. This also brings up a new edit menu that can be used to make changes to the saved note.
I will discuss Sente notes in a later post, but just to anticipate that discussion, here is a shot of the single reference view after taking some notes in a PDF. In particular, notice the section of the summary entitled NOTES.
And, as you would expect, if you are working in a synchronized library, all highlighting and notes are immediately synchronized with all other copies of the library, both on other iPads as well as on any Mac desktop or laptop computer.