Android note taking apps for writing directly on pdfs

Apologies if there’s already a better thread for this, I’ll be thankful for any pointers!

I’m searching for an Android app for note taking directly on pdfs. The note taking app on the Onyx e-readers (I think it’s called Neo Reader) essentially does what I want, but unfortunately isn’t available outside their e-readers.

I sync my files between devices using syncthing and I mostly read/annotate on my Onyx reader, but occasionally I’d also like to work on my Fold 4 or my galaxy tab s6, so I’d like to make sure that my pdfs are always up to date on all devices.


  • being able to open and write on pdfs (preferably with S-Pen support)
  • any changes I make should be saved directly to the pdf, not in some app-internal copy that I’m then expected to export manually
  • It would be great if I was able to still modify/remove annotations when opening the file in the future. The Neo Reader app can do this (possibly with restrictions of the app has been edited by other apps in the meanwhile, but that might be the other apps’ fault, somehow locking the file)

Nice to have:

  • being able to write with the (s-pen) and deleting either with the finger (as squid does it) or by pressing the dedicated button (as most note taking apps do)

What I have tried:

  • squid: love the app, but sadly not for annotation
    • Pros
      • pressure sensitivity
      • bought the pdf import feature and love the app for projecting (pdf) presentations in classroom
    • Cons
      • only way to get annotations out is by manually exporting to pdf again (there’s a feature request for an automatic export setting, but I’m not too hopeful this will get implemented)
  • ezPDF Reader: bought the app several years ago.
    • Pros
      • it’s ok for reading and it seems to autosave changes to the pdf as required.
    • Cons
      • It doesn’t allow subsequent modifications to annotations, i.e. I can’t even delete them in the same app after I’ve closed the pdf once.
      • I don’t really like the annotation options (apparently only a black pen and for some reason they must have removed S-Pen support in a recent update, as I just read in the changelog.)
  • Samsung Notes
    • Pros
      • writing experience is nice
    • Cons
      • only way to get out annotated files is by manually exporting
  • Foxit pdf reader (Android)
    • Pros
      • seems to actually save to pdf
      • I believe that subsequent changes to annotations are possible (and I was able to delete an annotation made in ezpdf)
    • Cons
      • don’t like being prompted to login when starting the app (though luckily it’s not mandatory)
      • not a big fan of annotation style (though better than ezpdf)
      • deleting stuff requires changing tools
      • opening the toolbox menu is surprisingly difficult once displaying a pdf fullscreen

I haven’t tried OneNote yet, as I’m not eager to sign up for yet another thing, but might try it if people tell me it can do what I want. My impression so far was that it’s more like Samsung Notes in having some internal memory that goes to some “cloud”, so I assume I’d have to manually export to PDF again (if that’s even possible).

Any other options people are aware of that might fit the bill? (I also tried some random other options off the play store a while ago, but they didn’t do what I want and I forgot their names)

So far, Foxit seems to come closest in functionality, but feels somewhat inconvenient and the annotation rendering makes my handwriting look even less legible.


I’ve tried the same list, with the same results. Together with other UI limitations and Google issues, I’ve moved away from productivity on Android. When my SDuo goes, that’ll be it.


You can see if Drawboard PDF for Android has a free trial. It’s apparently still in its early stages, and it would require you to sign up for a Pro license ($50 per year, or $25 per year with edu discount for the first three years).

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I do most of my serious annotating in Windows. But, when I do use my phone, I use Xodo, One Note or Samsung Notes. That Drawboard subscription looks interesting.

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There was a lot of uproar when they started their subscription plans because they took pressure sensitive in out of the free tier, after people had already paid for the app. Whoops.

But: they do seem to be working hard to make all of this work cross-platform. They have windows, iOS, and Android apps, all of which are available the moment you pay for their subscription. Just note that the Android app is still very basic, at least it seems that way based on how few Andoid icons I see in their feature comparison table.

Yes. I was one of them. But the original cost was minimal and I guess they have a right to do what they want. I use it without pressure sensitiviy.

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Same here. I ended up getting the edu discounted version. Now if they would kindly stop disabling pressure sensitivity every time the app can’t reach the server, that’d be great.

Xodo would probably be the next one to try. The Adobe reader app allows annotation too and I think that one would go directly on the pdf file.

Plus 1 :raised_hand: on Xodo. Just know to open the PDF file from within the app rather than using the open with option.

Thanks to y’all for the feedback!
Xodo looks quite promising from my quick first look, I’ll try to find a chance to test it for my main use case these days. Funny that I hadn’t thought of it myself, as I actually knew of the app’s existence in principle.

@Nnthemperor Can you elaborate what goes wrong when opening Xodo using the open with option? I generally use Total Commander as my file manager and open PDFs from there.

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Sure thing. Now how the hell did feed back get censored?!

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Regarding the Xodo app, the Android free version is pressure sensitive, but I did not manage to activate this feature on the Windows free version. Is it possible?

This might have changed but usually it doesn’t automatically save to the original file from which it is opened. You then have to save it manually.

you can use pdf editor that runs on android and support pen input.
luckily, there are many apps available: Adobe Acrobat Reader, Xodo, Drawboard, Nebo, GoodNotes and etc.
This post may can help you: 12 Best Budget Drawing Tablets for PDF Annotating, Writing and Signing - pctechtest

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Just to feedback on this, I’ve been using xodo since it’s been brought up here a while ago and I’ve loudly not run into this problem of changes not being saved to the original file. I’m typically opening my pdf files from Total Commander and changes to those files are being saved as expected, so this does not seem to be an issue (anymore).


As @JoeS mentions further down the thread, Drawboard PDF shows a lot of promise, albeit one you may pay somewhat dearly for.

I and one of my engineers are participating in their private beta so I can’t really disclose anything, but suffice it to say they are evolving it rapidly, and it could soon be a viable alternative to acrobat on the PC for many uses/users

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Cool. With their edu discount the pricing begins to border on acceptable, especially given that they develop the app on three platforms.

Good. These people have been putting out a quality product for years at a negligible cost. Glad to see it all paying off for them. Don’t know if I’ll switch from Xodo though. I’m getting used to it.

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