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How to Annotate PDF Files Using Preview on a Mac

2021-11-29 13:49:38 • Filed to: PDFelement for Mac How-Tos • Proven solutions

Most Mac users know the Preview app as an image viewer, but did you know that it’s also an excellent tool to read and annotate PDF documents? Yes, Preview is a very versatile application, and the best part is that it is absolutely free because it is a native Mac app developed by Apple, Inc. Over the years, the Preview app has been given a lot of new capabilities and a new UI, making it a very useful tool in your Mac app repository. In this article, we’ll show you how to fill a form and sign it using Preview, and also how to edit a photo without using a third-party photo editing tool.

Part 1. How to Fill and Sign a PDF Form in the Mac Preview App

Filling a form is as simple as selecting a field and typing in the content. You can also save a form and resume filling it later on. Here’s how to perform these simple actions in Preview:

1. Launch Preview on your Mac and open the PDF form that you need to fill.

fill form

2. If the form is fillable, you will be able to select the first field. Do that and fill it with the required text.

3. Move on to the next field and keep filling it up until you’re done.

4. To sign the form at the end, you can use one of several methods:

digital signature
  • Click the button for Show Markup Toolbar and select Trackpad. Click the field and sign your name on your Mac’s trackpad. Exit by hitting any key and then click Done. You can also use the Clear button if you want to do it over.
  • To use the webcam to record your signature, first sign on a white piece of paper, then select Camera and hold the paper up to the webcam. Make sure that the signature is aligned with the blue line in the preview on your screen. Once it’s recorded, click Done. Click Clear to do it over.
  • To use an iPhone or iPad, click the Device option. Use Apple Pencil or your finger to sign. Click Done or Clear, as before.

5. Finally, click the Sign button to show all recorded signatures, select the one you want, and drag it to the document where you want it to be applied. You can also resize it using the corner and edge handles.

Using these steps, you can fill and sign any PDF document that is interactive. If the document is a scanned one or is non-interactive, you won’t be able to use Preview to fill and sign it. You will need a third-party PDF editor such as PDFelement for Mac to convert the file into an editable PDF and then use the application to fill and sign the form.


Part 2. How to Annotate a PDF in the Mac Preview App

Annotations are essentially notes and marks on a document that highlight certain portions, request a collaborator to make changes, or simply add notes regarding the content. Here’s what you can do with Preview in terms of annotating PDFs. The tools are limited but quite adequate for most markup needs.

1. Launch Preview and open the PDF file to be annotated. This does not have to be an interactive file so you can also annotate image files this way.

2. Click the button for Show Markup Toolbar if you’re not able to see it displayed in the app. The toolbar looks something like this:

3. You can now mark up your document using the redact, sketch, draw, shapes, note, or text tools. This will allow you to circle words and phrases, highlight text, write on images, add important notes, and so on.

edit pdf text

4. You can also edit text styles as well as the border, thickness, and fill color shapes that you use in your annotations. If your device meets Apple’s Continuity system requirements, you can use a nearby iPhone or iPad to annotate any item in the PDF on your Mac.

Of course, since this is not an advanced PDF tool, you won’t have a comprehensive collection of annotation tools such as what you’ll get with PDFelement or Adobe Acrobat. Nevertheless, since the app is already installed on your Mac, it’s pretty useful when you’re in a hurry and you don’t have access to premium tools.


Part 3. How to Edit a Photo in Preview

Apart from just viewing photos, you can also edit them to a certain extent using Preview. It has basic tools like cropping, rotating, resizing, etc. You also have color adjustment and other tools to enhance the quality and clarity of your photos. Here are the steps for these actions:

rotate pages
  • To rotate a photo, open it in Preview and click the Rotate button to rotate it counterclockwise. You can hold the Alt (Option) button and click it to rotate it clockwise.
  • You can also flip an image using Tools → Flip Horizontally/Flip Vertically.
  • To adjust color, saturation, and other parameters, use the Adjust icon.
  • The Auto Levels button will choose the ideal combination of adjustments to make your photos look brighter and clearer.
  • You can also reduce the size or dimensions of an image file using Tools → Adjust Size… Here, you can specify the exact dimensions and resolution you want. You can keep the scaling proportionate or stretch the image vertically or horizontally when doing this, and you can also choose to resample the image to the new dimensions rather than just resize it. This will give you better quality, especially when enlarging images.

Conclusion

Preview is a truly unique application because it is as versatile as it is simple to use. The menu options may not be clear at first, but once you get used to the tools and where to find them, you’ll be able to work quickly. Moreover, since it’s a native Mac app, it is well integrated with macOS in terms of having keyboard shortcuts and so on. But if you need a robust PDF annotation tool, look no further than PDFelement.

PDFelement has an extensive toolkit for annotations, reviewing, and commenting. You also get a host of other features such as create PDF, convert PDF, edit PDF, file encryption, form-filling, OCR, Batch Processes, watermarking, redaction, Bates Numbering, and much more...all for a very reasonable subscription fee that’s a fraction of what you’d pay for market-leading tools from Adobe and Nitro.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I annotate images with the Preview app?

You can add notes, shapes, etc. to image files, but you won’t be able to highlight text and other elements. For that, you’ll need to use PDFelement to convert your file to PDF and perform OCR to make the text editable or selectable. You can then highlight text, underline, strikethrough, etc. in addition to being able to use other annotation tools.

Can I see a list of all annotations on a document?

You can’t do this in Preview but you can certainly see your annotations list in PDFelement. As you can see in the image above, your comments and annotations can be viewed as a list in the right sidebar panel. This is helpful if you’re looking for a particular type of annotation in a document that’s been heavily marked up.

How do I share my annotations with others who are collaborating on the document?

Files can be shared to others using extensions for various applications. When you click on File → Share → More, you’ll see your System Preferences window opening to this page:

You can add whatever share methods you need to on this page and then use that with the File → Share option in Preview. In PDFelement, these same sharing options can be leveraged to make it easy to send a PDF to anyone by email, AirDrop, the Messages app, and so on.

What is the advantage of using PDFelement instead of Preview?

There are many obvious advantages to using a full-featured PDF editor versus using a PDF reader such as the Preview app. You can’t use Preview to edit PDFs, perform OCR on non-interactive files, process conversions as a batch, and many other tasks. For these advanced tasks, you’ll need PDFelement. The software also allows you to merge files, optimize PDFs, add password protection, add content such as footers/headers, and more. None of these tasks is possible with Preview, so the advantage is clear.

Does the Preview app get updated when I upgrade to a new macOS version?

Depending on whether or not Apple has made any changes to the Preview app on the macOS version, you’ll either get an update or it will remain on the same version. Apple sometimes adds bug fixes and performance improvements to its native apps without adding any new features or changing the UI. These may come along with your macOS update, if available.

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Audrey Goodwin

chief Editor

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