Marginnote annotations should NOT be flattened

I just bought my iPad and the whole reason was to use Marginnote.

Ever since I started reading, I’ve always been looking for the way to make an interactive mind map so that I can fully understand and remember every bit of information in the book forever.

The creator of Marginnote seems to understand this philosophy so well that Marginnote has almost everything I’ve ever wanted and imagined.

However, it is still important to stick to some standard when it comes to a truly productive workflow because sometimes I want to make a quick change or notes on the PDF using THE OTHER APP and then come back to Marginnote to continue my study, reading, etc.

However, as of now Marginnote flattens the entire annotation so it is not editable in any other PDF software.

I originally came from Android and Windows so I don’t really know much about how iOS sandbox system works but it would be great if I could just edit one single file with multiple apps.

Is this something achievable and Marginnote devs are planning to do?

I love Marginnote and I truly respect the creator after reading his interview with Chinese media, how he started Marginnote as a side project and successfully made it what it is now.

  • A big fan from Korea.

I cannot speak for the MarginNote devs’ plans, and I hope they will add to this thread.

I can say that the question of interoperating with other PDF apps is not about the design of iOS. Rather, it’s because MarginNote uses its own database for storing all notes and annotations. These are linked to the PDFs you are editing, but are not annotations to the PDF files themselves. This design is similar to the very popular freeware app Skim, which uses “sidecar files” for PDF annotation.

I gather the rationale for this design is that editing PDF annotations can be very slow, as the entire file structure must be rewritten. There may be a way to speed up the operation by appending the annotations at the end of the PDF file, but this is complicated for editing. The simplest solution is to use a separate database. There are other benefits, as a database can be queried, etc. This, BTW, is what Sente and Bookends do.

As I understand it, you’ll need to export PDFs in order to convert MarginNote’s “internal” system of annotations into bona-fide PDF annotations. Interoperability is a bit complicated, then, and somebody with more knowledge than I may be able to explain more.

It may sound like MarginNote is the “odd man out” in this picture, but in general I have found that moving between different PDF annotation apps can be complicated.

Thanks for the answer @mobo I think that was a great explanation for someone like me who doesn’t quite understand how pdf internals work in development.

I’m from Windows/Android so I first thought it was weird that I can’t simply edit a single file with multiple apps but I now see that there are some challenging works to make that happen.

Hope something can be done with that but I think I’ll be sticking with Marginnote anyway because I can still do 90% of the jobs on it.


+1 to this. It would be fantastic to be able to pull in MarginNote’s annotations in DevonThink or similar!

1 Like


Thanks for your suggestions now as Preliminary Adoption.

Best Regards,
Support Team

1 Like