On recommendation of several people, I decided to try the annotation app, Highlights. Although I was intrigued with several of the features, after extensive use, I can’t recommend the app. The program still needs work before I could reliably use it in my writing workflow.

I found two of Highlights features especially attractive:

  1. The ability to extract each highlight or comment as its own markdown file.
  2. The ability to underline references in the PDF and have those references automatically appended/linked to extracted notes.

I trialed Highlights for about a week. Ultimately, even with the intriguing features, The appnwas far too buggy for me to adopt.

Here are some of the issues I faced:

  1. References would not reliably link to a note. I could find no rhyme or reason for this behavior. Sometimes the feature worked, sometimes it didn’t. No matter what I tried, I was unable to remedy this issue. My attempt at editing markdown files led to frustration—my edits were often erased.
  2. Even when the reference extraction worked, there is a bug that alters the markdown file, adding additional markdown to each reference. With many references, this bug makes each file unreadable.
  3. I found no way to configure the order, type, and appearance of the metadata.
  4. Extraction of figures from the manuscript were buggy and unreliable.
  5. Metadata was impossible to change. Initially, I set Up the app to automatically retrieve metadata. Unfortunately, several of the paPers the software Retrieved had erroneous metadata. Once imported, I found the metadata impossible to change. Since I add the title, author, And other metadata to every one of my extracted notes, this was The fatal flaw that caused me to end my trial.

Although I am intrigued by several of the features of the Highlights App, I will continue to use my tried and true method of note extraction using Skim. I plan keeping an eye peeled for these issues to be fixed within Highlights. With some improvements, I could see the app becoming my Mac PDF reader of choice.

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One Response to Highlights.app not ready for prime time

  1. Dominique says:

    Agreed! I faced the same issues with Highlights and hoped it would be an easier workflow. I tried it a while ago, definitely last year but can’t exactly remember when. I left comments for the developer but it apparently still has the same issues… unfortunately. I am sticking to Papers 3 which I have rediscovered – I enjoy annotating on the iPad Pro with the pencil and then have everything synced.
    Happy holidays! Dominique

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