Using PDF Expert to Highlight and Summarize Non-Fiction Books on the iPad Pro and Mac

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PDFs on the iPad Pro using PDF Expert are extremely versatile to annotate and use for studying non-fiction texts such as books and academic papers.

The PDF Spec has been open for years and you aren't forced to use Acrobat if you want to harness the full annotation capabilities of the PDF format.

You can also rip Kindle books you've purchased to PDF using Calibre and an open-source plugin.

This is a powerful combo.

Amazon let's you perform simple highlighting and annotations in the books you purchase. These can be exported and shared in various ways. For many this is probably "good enough."

For me it isn't as robust or portable and requires too many steps.

It's also difficult to share my annotations in context with collaborators.

The iPad Pro 12.9" with the Apple Pencil 2 is an exquisite e-reader for reading and highlighting non-fiction books. The screen is massive and easy to read. With a quality stand active reading and highlighting is efficient and productive at the desk, but the iPad is light enough to be versatile and study on the go.

PDF Expert is software that works across iOS, iPadOS, MacOS for reading and annotating PDFs files.

The iPhone version is useless, so feel free to skip that one. 💀

The iPad PDF Expert is very well built. It's responsive and has a clean UI that is familiar to navigate if you've been using a computer for most of your life (:troll-face:).

iCloud makes syncing to the macOS version of PDF Expert very simple. The Mac version is also very capable and familiar, and is a great default PDF reader and editor for your desktop. It's relatively expensive, but with PDFs essential to this workflow it is well worth it.

The most important capability of the desktop version of PDF Expert is the ability to export markdown text files of your annotations.

  1. Read a non-fiction PDF book on the iPad Pro
  2. Highlight and annotate with the Pencil
  3. Export markdown from Mac

The exported markdown is versatile and can be migrated into many different apps for progressive summarization and future reference as part of my "second brain" system.

The Mac app Markdown Pro is simple and effective to clean up the annotations as needed.