Great content often requires many iterations. But most of the time, collaborating on different file types isn’t as easy as it should be. That’s when annotation and markup tools come into play. They can help your team directly work together on content and achieve amazing results on every project.
But there are a lot of choices out there. So this article is going to take a closer look at the best online annotation tools out there. We’ve categorized the editing and drawing tools according to the file type they are suitable for.
Reviews of the best online annotation and markup tools
What are annotating tools? Ready to find out which annotation and markup tools are the best ones? Here’s a closer look at the first category.
PDF annotation and markup tools
The humble PDF remains very popular, so there are many PDF annotation tools out there. Here’s a closer look at the best PDF document markup tools to support all your projects.
Filestage is a review and feedback tool that makes it simple to collaborate on PDF documents, videos, graphics, and marketing projects in general.
It offers project managers a wide range of PDF annotation and proofing features, which makes it easy for your internal and external key stakeholders to leave and discuss logical in-context feedback in real-time.
A range of workflow features will make sure that you never miss a deadline or a game-changing suggestion. Next to custom pricing options, Filestage offers a free trial – so you can check out the annotation software at no risk.
2. PDF Annotator
PDF Annotator is a tool that empowers your team to add notes and annotations to your PDF documents. This tool includes comments, corrections, signatures, highlights, and designs.
But this desktop app is only available for Windows, which reiterates the complexity and inefficiency that comes with coordinating version control, using disparate tools, and sharing various documents. If you factor in those wake points, its license pricing is very expensive.
3. Xodo PDF Reader & Annotator
Xodo allows users to edit, annotate, sign, and share your PDF file on desktops, smartphones, and the cloud. It’s also possible to invite collaborators by using their email addresses, which is a nice touch.
This option is great if you want a simple PDF annotation tool. But if you also want more sophisticated mobile apps that support you with your project and task management activities, this might not be the right tool for you. Since it can’t help with task management and checklists, the text tool could cause you to miss comments and changes.
Drawboard is PDF markup software that boasts a wide range of markup tools, including the ability to write with digital ink.
But this PDF tool is only available for Windows 10 users, which limits its scope and makes it such a specialized text tool that your external stakeholders may have trouble accessing it. So these limitations of Drawboard could affect your ability to accurately collect feedback for your PDF documents.
Annotate is a smart digital workplace that helps your team take online PDF documents from the first draft to final sign-off. Some users complain that the pricing is not as transparent as it should be, which could create some confusion and make it difficult to ascertain its true value.
Given the pricing of the PDF tool, users might also expect it to support alternative formats, such as videos and images.
Video and audio annotation tools
Faster computers and internet speeds have recently made video annotation tools a more viable option for project managers, and video was already popular.
Filestage also offers best-in-class video annotation features, which makes video review and collaboration much easier and faster. With this tool, you can speed up your video workflow by 3 times.
Your reviewers can easily leave time-stamped and in-context feedback by clicking anywhere in the video. This eliminates the need for email ping-pong that can grow tiresome and affect your final product. Reviewers can also add feedback without having to sign up. Further Filestage’s automatic versioning and to-do lists boost your team’s productivity.
Media and post-production professionals use Wipster to achieve faster creative collaborations and reviews across client bases and internal teams. It even offers a free plan for individuals and freelancers.
While this tool has a premium option, users have some complaints about the charges required to add users to an account. Another point of frustration is the email notification system, and comments tend to appear in the wrong place, which can cause ambiguity and negatively impact your project.
Some users have complaints about this platform’s email notification system, which has the tendency to go overboard if multiple users are simultaneously leaving a comment. Other issues are its lack of storage and the steep learning curve it requires, which could annoy some external stakeholders.
Screenlight aims at removing the pain and stress from untangling client feedback, and it helps customers move their video projects forward.
But its lack of versioning is a big issue since users run the risk of overcomplicating their project. Its UI has also left some users feeling a little lost, and a lack of side-by-side comparisons can make it difficult to get a full picture of the way a video evolves over time.
GoProof offers proofing software and a collaboration platform that helps marketing teams review their media work in one place.
The mobile apps and tools offer direct integration with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Despite the quality of the platform, some users complain that its restrictive pricing and poor mobile website interface make collaborating more difficult. When convenience is a priority, these restrictions can be major drawbacks.
Image and design markup and annotation tools
By nailing your images and designs at an early stage, you can lay the groundwork for your project. Here’s a closer look at the image and design annotation tools and apps available to you.
Filestage is perfect for reviewing images and designs. With this tool, you can implement a streamlined review and approval workflow that can help you increase productivity, save time, and make your whole project more transparent.
Reviewers can add comments and annotations directly on designs, which will structure your communication and avoid misunderstandings. It’s also possible to add attachments to your comment to make discussions clearer by giving an example for suggested changes.
12. Red Pen
Red Pen makes it possible for marketing teams and creative professionals to upload designs and receive live, annotated feedback.
The pricing structure can quickly become expensive, depending on how you intend to use the tool. In addition, the Red Pen website hasn’t been updated in a long time, so it can be difficult to get in touch with their support.
GoVisually helps marketing teams quickly deliver designs faster, without the chaos of email. It aims at simplifying proofing by cutting out frustrating emails that are all-too-common during the review and approval process.
One big complaint that GoVisually users have is that it renders PDFs as images. This drawback makes it impossible to find the browser’s text features, which causes the whole process to be more difficult and time-consuming. Since this platform lacks an archive and retrieval system, it can also become more difficult to find your projects.
Despite some nice features and even a Chrome extension, the lack of in-context feedback can make it difficult for your team to respond to feedback about their images and designs, which can slow the process down because a separate tool is required. Dropbox offers a free trial with limited storage space so that you can explore the new collaboration features yourself.
InVision is a digital platform for product design that aims at helping teams perform their work better and faster.
Some users complain that the price is a barrier and that the free version only permits teams to upload one project. If you have more than one project in the works, you’ll have to pay quite a handsome sum for this platform. So the process of adding clients and external users can also be a little challenging.
Website annotation and markup tools
It’s not easy to build a website from scratch, so your designers need to have access to the most accurate feedback possible. Here’s a look at the best website markup and annotation tools out there.
Filestage is the perfect option for reviewing wireframes and website designs. Just make a screenshot of your entire website or the part you want to get feedback on and upload it to Filestage.
Now you can collect feedback from everyone involved in one centralized place, no matter where they’re working from. Plus, you can set due dates for files to remind your reviewers to leave feedback on time. On the dashboard, you can always keep an overview of all review processes and their progress.
Highly is owned by Twitter. This tool makes it possible to highlight web content and share the most vital information with a range of collaborators. Since the tool works with a wide range of apps and websites, it’s a breeze for users to collate information from a wide variety of sources.
While Highly places a strong emphasis on social sharing, the functionality of the tool doesn’t extend much further. So it’s easy for your friends and other users to see your highlights, but it doesn’t function well as a collaboration tool.
zipBoard is a bug-tracking tool that aims at facilitating the collaboration process between designers and developers. The tool makes it possible to quickly share screenshots, annotations, and information about bugs and other issues.
Some developers complain that reviewing tasks and issues can feel laborious, while external clients may have issues with reviewing the content. Specifically, they must create a login, which can further elongate the process.
Nimbus is a tool that makes it easy to create screenshots and pictures that can then be edited and shared with your team. The screenshot tool is also available as a browser extension (Opera, Firefox, Edge Safari, and Chrome extension).
While this tool is great for taking a quick screenshot and drawing attention to a certain area, it doesn’t allow for task management. In other words, the screenshots get lost in a sea of emails, which reduces transparency.
Diigo is a social bookmarking website that allows your team to attach a sticky note to specific areas of a website. The tool does a good job of helping users catalog those resources.
While groups can be created on the platform, the tool doesn’t accommodate the creation of tasks or sophisticated sharing options, which limits the usability of the tool.
Usersnap is a visual tool for bug reporting and customer feedback that can be used to shape your digital product from development to production. This platform’s web annotation tool makes feedback clear and actionable.
The premise is promising, but users bemoan the lack of functionality on display here. The tool simply allows users to take screenshots, but there’s no guarantee that customers will use the tool as intended. Some users also report that the ticket-filter system can get messy.
BugHerd is a visual feedback tool that aims at providing a seamless and intuitive feedback experience for clients. The tool collects and organizes their feedback, so the team can act on it.
Frequent users believe that a lack of attention harms the evolution of the platform. Specifically, Bugherd’s development team can be slow to make changes, and third-party connections on the backend leave a lot to be desired. Users must also download the program for each individual website they use it for.
PageProofer bills itself as the easiest way to request changes, report bugs, and track issues during the development of a website. This tool aims at helping teams get rid of antiquated feedback methods, such as emails, screenshots, or handwritten sticky notes.
Compared to its direct competitors, PageProofer is more expensive, and it doesn’t offer a free option. This tool doesn’t offer real-time notifications, bug-tracking, sophisticated reporting, or advanced support.
24. Capture for Jira
Capture for Jira is a tool in the Atlassian suite that provides visual feedback and testing. It aims at helping digital teams collaborate by using annotated and visual feedback. As you would expect from Atlassian, the tool is sophisticated and feature-rich.
Unfortunately, these strengths also create weaknesses. For instance, the tool relies on deep Jira integration to unlock its full potential, which draws your team further into its complex workspace, makes it more difficult to include external stakeholders in your review process, and reduces the time-saving potential offered by the tool.
Droplr is a collaboration tool that aims at simplifying communication. It was created by a team that believes technology should be a friend, rather than a foe. So they’ve spent the last nine years finding ways to make teams more productive.
Since this ambitious tool suffers from a range of bugs, it can cause a slow and laggy experience. And this problem has gotten worse as the platform has introduced newer versions. Some users also complain that the free version is very restricted, which makes it difficult to get a good handle on the various features it’s offering and build an informed opinion about it.
TrackDuck is a visual feedback tool that helps professionals communicate about web pages and designs. This tool is intelligent, and it records a new screenshot every time a user adds a new comment, which makes it easy to find the exact comment and its content.
But some users complain that the tool suffers from glitches, which can affect the readability and usability of screenshots. The pricing structure is also a point of contention since it doesn’t offer an unlimited plan at a flat rate.
Hypothes.is is a nonprofit that aims at helping web users foster open communication. By helping people organize their personal notes, the tool helps facilitate discussions and social reading. Users can discuss annotations in groups and search through notes.
While the intention of the platform is admirable and lofty, it may not be the right markup tool for most agencies and marketing teams. The features are restrictive and stripped back, which makes it difficult to truly collaborate among professionals.
28. Zoho Annotator
Zoho Annotator describes itself as an elegant, efficient annotation tool. The screen grabber works as a simple plugin, which makes it easy to annotate screenshots.
Zoho is emerging as an alternative to Evernote, and it aims at acquiring Evernote users who are upset with recent subscription changes. Despite challenging Evernote’s authority, Zoho lacks a range of key features, such as encouraging collaboration among users and using tags for organization. Zoho Annotator offers a free trial to new customers.
29. Skitch by Evernote
Skitch by Evernote aims at helping creative professionals get their point across with fewer words by using notes, annotations, shapes, and sketches. These drawing and markup tools help professionals make their ideas become realities by providing clear, concise feedback.
While the tool is billed as being simple and elegant, some users complain that there’s a significant lack of proofing tools and editing abilities. The pricing is also a barrier for users who resist being pulled into the Evernote environment.
What are digital annotation tools?
Web annotation and markup tools simplify ways for users to add, modify, or remove a comment on a particular piece of collateral without affecting the actual content. In other words, these markup tools make it easier for multidisciplinary teams to collect design feedback and accurately implement that feedback.
Most of these drawing and markup tools are available online, which creates a frictionless experience that makes it very easy for stakeholders around the world to access them, saves time, and reduces complexity.
Some of the more premium tools offer complementary features that help simplify project management. For example, annotations can be linked with tasks, which makes it easier for team members to keep track of individual responsibilities.
Other tools offer checklist functionality. In other words, it’s easy to track which team members have given feedback, which boosts accountability and encourages every team member to engage with the project on a deeper level.
Globally, there is a high demand for agencies and marketing departments to provide these tools. Therefore, there are now more tools to choose from than ever before. Agencies and marketing project managers will find that accessible proofing tools offer a lot of pricing, quality, and functionality.
Why should you use annotation and markup tools in digital projects?
There are three key reasons that marketing agencies and project managers should use digital annotation tools.
Every project manager understands how frustrating it can be to receive an unclear, unhelpful comment or drawing. If you write an email in rambling bullet points, it will only confuse your team members, which can lower morale and decrease productivity.
However, quality annotation and markup tools significantly clarify feedback. Your team members will be able to see each comment, drawing, and notes in context, which will reduce the amount of time you’ll waste going back and forth between stakeholders.
The management of a feedback process can be very stressful and complicated. As a project manager, you could spend a lot of time chasing down stakeholders to get their feedback and drive accountability.
But the right annotation tool has multiple advanced features, which will make it easy to get every stakeholder involved. Checklists can be used to keep track of which stakeholders have delivered their feedback, and this effort will ensure that every team member is engaged and works together.
A faster, more accurate approval process
The review and approval process is precarious. If the team misses a comment, annotation or piece of feedback, the final product could suffer, so you have to keep a careful eye on every comment.
Annotation and approval software for documents can support all your projects and make your feedback and approval process much more accurate, which will empower you to protect yourself and your team members.
What are 5 annotation techniques?
Before you choose the right markup and annotation tool and proofing features, it is advisable to take a step back and take a look at what annotations actually entail. Therefore, we are going to introduce you to the five most common techniques and methods for annotations.
Highlighting or underlining a text is an underestimated feature every good annotation and markup tool should include. Highlighting text parts makes it much easier for your colleagues to find and implement your remarks.
Comments are the core of every annotation and markup process. Reviewers can leave feedback, add ideas or just ask questions to the content creator. Comments can be supported with highlights so that the content team knows exactly where the comment refers to.
A descriptive outline can help readers and reviewers understand the train of thought of the content creators. The descriptive outline shows how your content is organized and can include a summary, introduction of ideas, further explanations, or sources.
Use of abbreviations
Experienced content creators and reviewers use abbreviations of commonly used expressions inside their comments. For instance, ‘EX’ can be used if reviewers need an example while an arrow ‘→’ shows a connection. The longer the teams work together, the more abbreviations will be used to further shorten the review and approval process.
Pictures and symbols
Adding a drawing, a symbol or an attachment makes your comment and annotation even clearer. Infographics, specific examples, or other supporting material gives your comment more weight and can help you support your standpoint.
How do you use annotation tools?
Now that you know the most valuable markup and annotation tools in combination with the best annotation techniques, we are going to show you how you can set up your annotation process.
1. Share your file with reviewers
When the content team has finished their first draft, they are going to upload it to the annotation and markup software. Now the file can be easily shared with all reviewers.
Reviewers are usually previously added to the review step so that they get automatically notified when a new file was uploaded. Another option is to share the review link via chat.
2. Receive feedback
Now reviewers can add annotations, markups, and comments directly on the file. This makes it easier for the content team to understand what needs to be changed at which part.
3. Discuss annotations
Sometimes, comments and annotations need further clarification, or suggested changes need to be discussed because various reviewers have different opinions. In this case, they can use the comment section to find a solution.
4. Revise and upload the new version
After all feedback is clear, the content creator can implement all changes. Depending on the comments, content creators might take hours up to several days. After the revision is finished, the new version will be uploaded and shared with the same reviewer group.
5. Get final approval
Now reviewers can compare the old and new versions side by side and leave more feedback. In case they are happy with the revised version they can approve it with just one click. An advanced markup tool offers approval time stamps, which contributes to the accountability of each reviewer.
As you have seen, annotation and markup software entail much more features than just comments or sticky notes. Mastering the review process with the support of advanced software solutions enables your team to work more efficiently and make the most of all your projects.