Alternatives to MarginNote?

Unfortunately, there is no real alternative to Marginnote 3… liquidtext comes close, but I haven’t found any software that combined these mindmap, annotation, and epub-capable features into one package. Best we can do is hope the developers can fix all these outstanding features


Or we hope that one of the plethora of other PDF annotation apps allows tagging on the annotations and provides robust export into tools such as DEVONThink or MindNode. Then we can leave the problems in MarginNote behind.

The race is on.


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1 and 3:

It has been confirmed that we will be doing a separate version of the Mac DMG after Apple’s launch for fixing this issue. Please understand that we are working with Apple China during the event, so we can’t deal with this at the moment, according to the notice we got from Apple, these two bug will be fixed by October 1st for sure!

Both of these are minor issues that are easy to fix. The reason we didn’t fix them is because we didn’t specify your needs, such as the italics issue, which we thought was an issue with how the Emphasize mode works in English environment, which we had already fixed. After we identified your needs, it only took a day or two to fix the problem.

We have completed and published a preview of the Chinese version, and will submit it to Gengo for translation after fine-tuning.

Unlike MarginSketch, marginnote’s user base is too big. to be so sensitive and vulnerable to changes in design data structure, and we don’t take the latest technology lightly, but you will see an implementation of MarginSketch in December (which may be earlier depending on testing), and the The MarginNote 3 application of the technology to revamp the data structure will have to wait until next year, most likely in the MarginNote 4 launch, but we’ll keep an eye out to see what small improvements can be made ahead of time!


MarginNote is the product of independent requirements design, and we have a research team of many lifelong learners who specialize in reasoning and researching how computers can be used to assist in human cognitive processes. MarginNote works in many learning scenarios, not just academic ones, and now that we have a full plug-in interface, we can do a lot of interesting things, and I look forward to building with the community in the near future! Interesting needs and implement them in the form of plugins.

In fact we already have many third party plugins in the Chinese forum, we still lack useful usage discussions in this area, we will try to improve it!

I am quite satisfied with MarginNote. I have also bought Liquidtext, but MN IMHO is ways better. Highlights really not an alternative to me: 24,99 per year??? I hate these annual subscriptions. 250 Dollars for a simple pdf-Annotator in 10 years?? Crazy.

What problems do you have? The only thing I would expect from MN is the possibilty to sync with Onedrive. Apart from this disadvantage I am very satisfied with MN (and I use it on a daily basis.

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My primary (and perhaps only) reason for avoiding MarginNote is the fact that PDFs exported from MN are flattened.

I really enjoy the reading and researching experience MN offers, but because MN uses a proprietary database rather than standard PDF annotation, it’s essentially a one-way ticket for my documents.

Proprietary format is a deal-breaker for me when it comes to choosing research tools. No matter how powerful MN’s feature set gets, I have to avoid using it. Although, I agree, there simply isn’t any real alternatives to MN feature-wise, so I’m always keeping a close eye on MN’s development and waiting for it to adopt the standard PDF format.

  • The synchronization remains … cumbersome (to be polite).
  • The annotations are flattened.
  • The synchronization is limited (no Google Drive, Dropbox, Onedrive …).

The biggest innovation in MarginNote is not that it gives one place to annotate, research, and create study cards. I can do this sequence already. Granted, I must use two or three different apps, and granted by combining the three into one tool, MarginNote has overcome a technological hurdle. But that is not innovation.

The biggest innovation in MarginNote is that annotations can be tagged. AFAIK, this is only also possible in LiquidText. Interestingly, LiquidText also suffers that its annotations are flattened on export (and that it plays even worse with importing standard annotations from other apps).

The minute that an annotation app appears that allows tagging on its annotations and that overcomes the three limitations (stable sync, open export to other apps, and multi-cloud support), MarginNote and LiquidText will become two lone-standing apps on their own island. By example, with the new app, I will be able to annotate with tags, export to DevonThink, and compile the tagged annotations there. Or I can export to a mind map format, import to MindNode, and play with the tagged annotations in an app that is designed from the ground up as a well-structured mind mapping tool.

I applaud this effort. However, you have a product that cannot talk consistently, robustly, and routinely to the rest of the outside world (i.e. it does not sync well) in all its various languages (i.e. it can only access one of the wide range of cloud storage formats that exist), and what it says when it does talk cannot be understood by anyone else (i.e. its exported annotations are flattened). How far will your vision really take you looking ahead in the real world?



I fully agree with your arguments. But I would like to object that it depends on the expectations and perspectives of the processing possibilities of MN. I use MN to structure my PDF texts in a first step. And MN is ideally suited for this, I believe.
I use RoamResearch to further process the information structured with MN. I can recommend RoamResearch because it was created for processing and networking (scientific) information.
Because: How should MN “talk to the world”? Or do you expect MN to be able to talk perfectly to your world? What can be meaningfully done with comments if they are not “flattened”? :slight_smile:
For me, MN is a powerful and useful way to structure and annotate PDFs. No greedy subscription solutions, no outrageous prices and no attitude to rob users.
BUT: Sync is a joke and should urgently be made available for Google Drive, Onedrive, etc.

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Here’s a real-life example from me that demonstrates why I consider it crucial to not flatten PDFs on export.

I was reading some PDF materials the other day and need to reference another book I finished ~5 years ago. I searched for the book and found it in DEVONthink, but soon realized a large portion of my annotations hold little value to me now due to my limited understanding of the material when reading it for the first time. But because I made those annotations in GoodReader, a robust PDF reader I once relied on which did not flatten my annotations, editing those annotations 5 years later is a trivial task.

All the tools at the core of my workflow do not use a proprietary file format. In the case of PDFs, I can create / edit / delete annotations in DEVONthink or PDF Expert knowing my works are future-proof, i.e. future me will be able to edit them when, not if, he disagrees with present me.

MarginNote offers a unique workflow not easily replicated otherwise. But until I can export my data in a non-destructive way, I have no other choice but to regretfully avoid it.

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With all due respect, I don’t think you have understood what I was talking about at all. When I said “[MarginNote cannot] export my data in a non-destructive way”, I wasn’t talking about the synchronization process, I was talking about how it flattens all my annotations into the documents and consequently preventing any means to edit those annotations in the future, thus “destroying” my documents.

As I demonstrated above, programs that adopt the PDF standards (rather than a proprietary database like MN does) don’t even need to export. When I’m using programs such as GoodReader, DEVONthink, PDF Expert, PDF Viewer etc, I can store thousands of PDFs in them and never worry about exporting because they never convert my documents from PDF to a proprietary format in the first place.

I feel like our discussion is going in circle here. By “not exporting”, I have effectively surrendered my data to vendor lock-in. The whole reason I was asking for unflattened export in the first place was to avoid lock-in.


As someone looking to buy MN, and not waste money having to buy a new version soon after, what is the rough eta for MN4? Q1, Q2 of 2021?


Q3, and all MN3 purchases within six months are eligible for a free upgrade, and there’s also a big discount for one year.

issues cf

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I have PDFExepert on my iOS devices, but ever since being in an office that has a subscription to Adobe Acrobat, I have not really used PDFExpert.

For more “academic use” what other PDF programs for iOS (or Macs) should one consider besides PDFExpert and Acrobat? I have GoodReader 3 (or whatever the older version is; not the current version).

I’d like to know too. I’m pondering over purchasing MarginNote for both Mac and iOS, but would be fine to hold out until version 4 comes out depending on when it does.