Highlights - the PDF reader that helps you summarize.

"If this is something you need, then Highlights is kind of a game changer." - Gabe Weatherhead,
"[...] gather just the useful bits from an article to save you having to re-read it all." - Catherine Pope, The Digital Researcher
"Highlights, an amazing tool for two-way sync of Markdown notes with PDF annotations." - Brett Terpstra,

Whether you are preparing for an exam, reviewing a manuscript or doing a literature review, grabbing only the important parts of a PDF can be difficult. Highlights seamlessly extracts your annotations and notes into beautiful summaries, resulting in a simple workflow:
• Read & annotate
• Take notes
• Save summaries

The app is made for people who annotate and take notes while reading. Annotation tools pop up the moment you make a selection in the PDF to make the annotation process friction free. Highlight, underline or strikethrough text, add sticky notes and grab image selections with ease.

The two pane layout shows your PDF to the left and your extracted annotations to the right. Your PDF annotations and notes are extracted and formatted into a beautiful summary using these simple rules:
• Highlighted, underlined and strikethrough text become quotes with normal, bold and strikethrough emphasis
• Notes attached to these annotations become normal text below the quote
• Sticky notes turn into normal text
• Square selections turn into images
• Notes attached to square selections become figure captions

Highlights extracts highlighted text, notes and image selections from any PDF with embedded annotations when you open them. New annotations are extracted as you make them.

Highlights uses Markdown to transform your extracted annotation into beautiful summaries. You can add notes in the PDF directly by simply clicking on the annotations and writing into the text field that pops up. However, if you love plain text you can switch into edit-mode and add notes directly in Markdown. Highlights will keep your PDF and Markdown in sync.

Highlights lets you share your final summary in a range of ways directly from the share menu. You can email it to a colleague, save it as a plaintext Markdown-file or as a HTML-file with live links to disk. In addition, Highlights lets you archive your summary to these shoebox applications with a single click:
• Evernote
• DEVONthink
• Ulysses
• Together
• nvALT
• Quiver

If you color code your annotations, meaning you use specific colors when annotating specific parts of the text, you can sort your annotations by color instead of by page. Name each color category and set the sorting order in preferences.

• Designed for macOS and Retina displays
• No lock-in, all your PDF annotations are embedded and readable by other applications
• Native support for the new TextBundle-format for Markdown with embedded images
• Direct export to shoebox applications: Evernote, DEVONthink, Ulysses, Together, Quiver and nvALT
• Save your notes in a range of formats: Markdown, TextBundle, HTML or PDF

• Fetch metadata for scientific articles*
• Lookup references using text underlined with a specific color
• Add OS X tags from text underlined with a specific color
• Integrate with Papers reference manager

* If your document contains a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) link Highlights can fetch the metadata for the document from the web. As Highlights can read and write PDF metadata attributes, these can be embedded as title, author and subject information in the PDF file itself.

What's New

Version 1.5.3

New features:
- Smoother experience when annotating on macOS Sierra and High Sierra
- Interface now remembers size and position of both window and split view dividers

Minor improvements:
- Fixes glitches when adding/removing annotations
- Fixes issue with permission for saving sidecar files

Customer Reviews

Very buggy


Most of the time, this app works well. I use it to make sure I’m highlighting and noting the main points of my readings. However, there are many letter combinations that show up incorrectly in the sidebar. I also wish the PDF output organized notes more efficiently. Right now, they take up a lot of space. Instead of small paragraphs separated by line breaks, it could be bullet form.

Very buggy, still


I still would like to like this app, but it is still very buggy. Crashed on me several times. The newest release also makes it impossible to resize the rightside sidebar.
Again, it would be really nice to have some very basic pdf viewing tools, such as viewing bookmarks, or jump to a certain page. The only reason I’m still trying to struggle with this app is that the highlight exporting function is still really good. If you do not need that, don’t even try.

Maybe I should not have brought this app based on the reviews, but thought I would be lucky — and of course wasn’t. I run El Capitan, on a 2015 Macbook, and it crashes on opening more than half the time.

Otherwise, it would be great. I got it primarily to use it with Devonthink to take notes from pdfs; you can categorize highlight colors, find references from the app, edit the markdown itself (e.g., write an outline), and export the resulting doc into many formats (including DT and Evernote). (I had a bunch of scripts that did that, but they were a little cumbersome). It would be nice to have some customization featues (e.g., customize toolbar, or highlight colors, or the default markdown output), but I can live without those.

There is a trial version on the website, which I downloaded and I liked it so much that I replaced my otherwise great and free pdf reader with this; but until they fix these bugs, it is basically useless for me due to its unreliability.

Great app


I tried to build (hack together) this app about 6 months ago with a crazy workflow. Now that I have this app, it’s really easy for me to read PDFs for my research and export a set of summary notes to DEVONthink for the future. The app even links back to the PDF file in case I need to read more of the context. I sent the dev a note and asked a few questions and he was extremely responsive as well.

As a feature request (not a complaint!!) - the app could be a little more customizable in regards to my ability to format my notes, but I’m not a dev so I don’t know how hard that would be.

I highly recommend you give it a shot if you annotate PDFs and need your notes as seperate files.


Jonas Myren Ribe
7.5 MB
Age Rating
Rated 4+
© 2018 Jonas Ribe


  • Family Sharing

    With Family Sharing set up, up to six family members can use this app.