iAnnotate PDF: A Screenwriter’s Review

Whenever someone asks me about screenwriting books, Your Screenplay Sucks!:  100 Ways to Make It Great by William Akers is always on the list of must-haves.  Yesterday, over on his equally-valuable blog, Akers made a short post about printing to proofread.

As I read the article this morning, a wave of guilt washed over me.

Oh, not because I don’t print to proofread as Akers suggests. For me, it’s a necessity — physically editing with a pen in hand opens my eyes to things I simply don’t see on the computer screen.

The reason I felt guilty was because I hadn’t written an article about the best sawbuck I ever spent:

App: iAnnotate PDF
Price: $9.99 (iTunes)

In short, this iPad app allows me to proofread and markup .PDF scripts as if I were writing on paper (with or without a stylus).  And that’s just the beginning.  The care that has gone in to making this a solid app is really astounding.  Having been in the technology business for over 15 years, I’ve spent a lot of money on software — iAnnotate PDF is hands-down the best value I’ve ever gotten for my money.

Following are some features/examples of how this app has revolutionized my writing:

  • Edit any .PDF document.
  • Size is close to a printed page.
  • Dropbox Support!
  • Don’t want to print 100+ pages when you review another writer’s script?  Now you can send them a flattened .PDF with your notes and edits (extremely valuable for professionals and aspiring writers active in screenwriting groups).
  • Text Box Notes (copy and paste into your screenwriting software of choice).
  • Oops!  Didn’t mean to cross that out!  No problem…  delete and redo.
  • Non-Intrusive Toolbars/Menus.
  • Stock and Custom Stamps.
  • Read produced scripts from your favorite online archives and keep a library with notes.
  • Highlighting.
  • Insert pages into any .PDF document.
  • Stops Killing Trees!
  • Customize and Add Toolbars.
  • … and the list goes on!

At first, I was concerned that using a stylus on a tablet wouldn’t be an adequate substitution for putting red pen to paper.  Within the first few minutes, I actually found it better.

My wife and I just spent a week in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico (the Nuevo/Puerto Vallarta area is awesome!).  Each morning, I would head down to the pool with my cup of coffee, iPad, and stylus, and have a couple/few hours of solitude before everyone else showed up.  I edited over 90% of the script on the trip.  And with WiFi and Dropbox support, I was able to back up everything whenever I wanted.

Following is an app screenshot (I use the highlighter tool to mark words that should be capitalized):

Who would have thought that sitting by a pool in Mexico I would find peace in crossing out chunks of words I had toiled over.  Long before using this app, I knew I was becoming a better writer when I was more excited about deleting than adding.  Irony, anyone?

Since there doesn’t seem to be a full-featured screenwriting app for the iPad coming any time soon, I find iAnnotate PDF makes the iPad a great screenwriting tool.

2 responses to “iAnnotate PDF: A Screenwriter’s Review

  • Eric

    Great review! I’m an academic looking for a similar annotation solution, so this is very helpful. Just curious: what stylus do you use with this app? I’ve tried one of the cheap pogo ones before and found it very disappointing.

    • Mark Strauss

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for your kind words about the review! Since I’ve never used a stylus on a regular basis in the past, I ordered these cheap ones from Amazon.com and am pleased so far. They are 3 for a little over $5 (plus about another $5 for shipping) and are the size of a small pen. If you find another kind you like, please drop me a note here.

      Hope you enjoy the app as much as I do!


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