Highlights - the PDF reader that helps you summarize.

"If this is something you need, then Highlights is kind of a game changer." - Gabe Weatherhead,
"[...] gather just the useful bits from an article to save you having to re-read it all." - Catherine Pope, The Digital Researcher
"Highlights, an amazing tool for two-way sync of Markdown notes with PDF annotations." - Brett Terpstra,

Whether you are preparing for an exam, reviewing a manuscript or doing a literature review, grabbing only the important parts of a PDF can be difficult. Highlights seamlessly extracts your annotations and notes into beautiful summaries, resulting in a simple workflow:
• Read & annotate
• Take notes
• Save summaries

The app is made for people who annotate and take notes while reading. Annotation tools pop up the moment you make a selection in the PDF to make the annotation process friction free. Highlight, underline or strikethrough text, add sticky notes and grab image selections with ease.

The two pane layout shows your PDF to the left and your extracted annotations to the right. Your PDF annotations and notes are extracted and formatted into a beautiful summary using these simple rules:
• Highlighted, underlined and strikethrough text become quotes with normal, bold and strikethrough emphasis
• Notes attached to these annotations become normal text below the quote
• Sticky notes turn into normal text
• Square selections turn into images
• Notes attached to square selections become figure captions

Highlights extracts highlighted text, notes and image selections from any PDF with embedded annotations when you open them. New annotations are extracted as you make them.

Highlights uses Markdown to transform your extracted annotation into beautiful summaries. You can add notes in the PDF directly by simply clicking on the annotations and writing into the text field that pops up. However, if you love plain text you can switch into edit-mode and add notes directly in Markdown. Highlights will keep your PDF and Markdown in sync.

Highlights lets you share your final summary in a range of ways directly from the share menu. You can email it to a colleague, save it as a plaintext Markdown-file or as a HTML-file with live links to disk. In addition, Highlights lets you archive your summary to these shoebox applications with a single click:
• Evernote
• DEVONthink
• Ulysses
• Keep It
• nvALT
• Quiver

If you color code your annotations, meaning you use specific colors when annotating specific parts of the text, you can sort your annotations by color instead of by page. Name each color category and set the sorting order in preferences.

• Designed for macOS and Retina displays
• No lock-in, all your PDF annotations are embedded and readable by other applications
• Native support for the new TextBundle-format for Markdown with embedded images
• Direct export to shoebox applications: Evernote, DEVONthink, Ulysses, Keep It, Quiver and nvALT
• Save your notes in a range of formats: Markdown, TextBundle, HTML or PDF

• Fetch metadata for scientific articles*
• Lookup references using text underlined with a specific color
• Add OS X tags from text underlined with a specific color
• Integrate with Papers reference manager

* If your document contains a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) link Highlights can fetch the metadata for the document from the web. As Highlights can read and write PDF metadata attributes, these can be embedded as title, author and subject information in the PDF file itself.

What’s New

Version 1.5.6

Adds support for exporting directly to DEVONthink 3
- Please reinstall the AppleScript in Preferences --> Export --> "Install DEVONthink Script" to use DEVONthink page links in the exported files

Ratings and Reviews

3.7 out of 5
15 Ratings

15 Ratings

koparosti ,

Wow - finally the tool I've been looking for

Had tried in a previous version and passed on the tool as part of my workflow. At that time stability was an issue and more importantly for me the product did not handle images the way I need. Very happy I took another look. Now handles images perfectly and export to Evernote, Keep It, DevonThink etc seem problem free.

One issue to make it 5 stars - reading and highlighting pdfs is one of the key values for the ipad in my workflow. Really would like an ipad version - even if it only allowed the highlighting and I had to come back to desktop to manage exports etc.

To bad Flexcil/Tagnotate/Liquidtext you have taken too long to get to the point where Highlights is now.

Jacobosen ,

Much improved from previous versions

Highlights fits a simple but useful need when it comes to converting annotations to something that can be exported or transfered to another system.
The overall stability and usability of the app has improved since I had last tried it (~2 years ago) so if you were turned off a while ago maybe give it another try.

prsk9 ,

Not useful with OSx Sierra - updated November 2018

Several of the feactures in this app do not work with OSX Sierra. So unless you want roll back your os you have to use a limited app. Some of the features that don’t work are simple things such as navigating the pdf using the thumbnails. Others are inconsistency in using number list of citations. The concept is great and I would like for it to be functional enough to be useful but alas it just isn’t until it is made compatible with Sierra.

My concerns and issues have been addressed and this is now my goto pdf reader/editor


Jonas Myren Ribe
6.1 MB

OS X 10.10 or later, 64-bit processor



Age Rating


  • Family Sharing

    With Family Sharing set up, up to six family members can use this app.