libraries.

LiquidText

LiquidText is a PDF reader for the iPad. They just released a Windows version of their app. The Mac version will be released in the third week of this month, according to the information published on their website. The app costs $29.99 on App Store

Annotating PDFs 

You can import documents into LiquidText text from your Files, a website or your photos. Make sure your webpage has fully loaded before importing it. Whichever file type you choose, LiquidText opens it on this revamped workspace. It has two columns. You can resize and switch them around as you please.

The workspace

Because I am right-handed, my documents are on the left and my canvas on the right side of my workspace. You can switch the positions if you are left-handed. You can also move your canvas, below your documents (works better in portrait mode). For those who wanted your documents on the side in portrait mode, you can now do that in LiquidText. 

When set to automatic, your documents move above your canvas in split view. When your layout setting is fixed (horizontal or vertical), split view doesn’t affect your document arrangement. 

Writing canvas

You can now customise your canvas. The default setting is the one that’s always been in LiquidText (the dotted one). Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to customise default settings for our canvas. At the moment, you have to change every workspace you create. You can pick your grid pattern from these: dotted, grid, ruled, and a plain paper template—something for everyone.

The canvas in LiquidText is infinite, but it consists of fixed paper sizes put together; each with a unique colour. Those small pages that make up the massive canvas are the ones whose size you can decide now. At least now we know the paper sizes we are using. 

You can decide: 

  • Orientation: portrait or landscape
  • Border thickness (to know where each page ends). The thicker the border, the easier it is to tell your pages apart. 
  • Border colour 
  • Background colour: you can now have one colour for your whole canvas if you don’t like the varying shades.
  • Line spacing is probably in millimetres; the app doesn’t say.
  • Grid colour

When you finish, tap done on the top right corner to effect the changes. Otherwise, they will not be applied to your canvas. All this customisation is incredible, certainly a welcome addition. Doing this every time you want to create notes in the app, though, is a bit cumbersome. We need to save some presets or default preferences.

Now that we can choose our page sizes, a zoom percentage display on the screen is essential. The good thing with LiquidText, though, is that your zoom ration doesn’t alter as you adjust your columns. It is crucial for keeping your handwriting uniform when using varying split view ratios. Most apps change the zoom percentage when you split view.

PDF documents

On the DocPane, you can add as many resources as you need to your workspace. You can add them from the app (LiquidText), Files, online and your photos. You can add many images in one document, and LiquidText will create one document from all the images you add. The DocPane shows you all the documents in your workspace. You can switch between PDFs as you use them, but can only open a maximum of three documents at a time. To open a document, drag & drop it to other open materials. It either adds it to the open ones or replaces an already open one.

The contents page on your PDF is under outline. Not all documents have outlines. You can collapse the DocPane, hide it from your workspace, for more screen real estate.

Toolbars

The app now has three toolbars; one at the top and two sidebars. The left sidebar is for the DocPane; the right one for the canvas. Sidebars are mobile. You can move them around your workspace and even switch their positions. Your annotation tools are now on the top toolbar. The previous version of LiquidText had them at the bottom. Why not have both and let the user choose what works for them?

Annotation tools

The text select tool selects text in your PDF so you can comment, select more, AutoExcerpt, add Tags, define and copy it.

Comments

You can put your initials to your comments. Separate them from the comment itself using a comma. This feature feels incomplete.

Tags

You can tag your PDF for research and cataloguing information in the PDF as you go through it. They help you organise your thoughts. You can create tags for anything: questions you want to ask, authors in your write up, etc. Your tags divide into categories, names and colours. They don’t extract anything out of the PDF; they only create bookmarks. Tags look beautiful on sticky notes and text boxes.

Writing tools

You can write comments and annotations on the PDF or canvas (linking them to the PDF). There’s not enough space on the PDF itself for annotations since LiquidText doesn’t expand PDF page sizes. On the canvas, you can create notes linked to the PDF. Handy when you need to go back and verify something.

You can also use the pen tool to extract data from the PDF.

LiquidText has the most accurate representation of my handwriting I have seen in any app since I went paperless! It is impressive and exciting, considering this is a PDF reader, not a note-taking app

You get a BallPoint and Calligraphy pen in the app. The difference between them is negligible. When you turn on pressure sensitivity, you might find one you prefer. When turned off, however, they look and feel the same. The pen tool has a freehand one for handwriting annotations and a straight one for underlining with straight lines. The straight one can draw shapes (except circles), but the experience is unpleasant. 

The pen tool has eight fixed sizes and seventeen favourite colours. You can replace your favourite colours with one of the thirty-one preset colours. Simply drag the colour you want to replace one of the favourites. These are plenty of colours for PDF reading; I doubt any of us need this many colours for annotating PDFs.  

In LiquidText, all the ideas can be linked. Your extractions and comments remain connected to the PDFs. LiquidText shines in this linking department. You can link all your ideas, no matter where you put them on the canvas.

Highlighter

Their highlighter looks better on PDFs than it does on the canvas. It looks awful on the canvas. On the PDF, the highlighter goes behind the text, while on the canvas, it goes over it. A highlighter behind text/ink is always best. The highlighter has a freehand and straight one (for neater highlighting). It has the same number of colours as the pen tool, but only six fixed sizes.

The eraser erases per stroke.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool selects everything on the page. You can move items around to create space on your canvas. You can’t create space between your notes using the lasso tool. In LiquidText; however, you can write in any direction even beyond the canvas. Creating space is not a problem for this application.

Sticky notes and text boxes

You can add sticky notes (handwritten/typed) to your canvas. A text box is different from a sticky note in that it doesn’t have a background. Locking sticky notes and text boxes on the canvas can improve our user experience in LiquidText. When resting your palm on the screen, you can shift them (sticky notes and text boxes) accidentally. Palm rejection in the app for sticky notes and text boxes isn’t the best.

You can drag & drop items (images, for example) into LiquidText, but can’t pull them out of the app. Who else thinks it’s essential to have the ability to drag snippets out of PDFs? 

You can customise the double-tap shortcuts your Apple Pencil 2.

Searching in LiquidText

You can search visible documents (currently opened) or all the documents in your open project. LiquidText then shows you which materials have the term you want. Pinch the document, to pull pages with your searched terms together. It saves time because you don’t have to scroll through all the pages in your PDF to find what you are looking for. 

Searching the canvas is more fun because searched terms are easier to find. The comments, excerpts, text boxes and sticky notes with your searched term pop out and stand out against a dark background. The navigation animation is exciting.

Tags are difficult to search in LiquidText. We’ve not yet figured out how to find them. There is no point tagging things if you can’t search for them later. At this point, we are not sure if this is a bug or the feature is still incomplete. Searching for tagged notes should be as easy as creating the tags. 

You can’t search through your handwriting in LiquidText.

At first, the app handled bulky documents well. It loaded in fractions of a second, but that quickly changed after creating a few notes and annotations. The lag in the previous version and its slow document loading times still plague LiquidText.

Our 350 MB workspace takes long to load and save changes. Searching it crashed the app every attempt we tried. The app freezes, making it difficult to cancel a search query.

Exporting options

You can share different formats of your notes with others: 

  • LiquidText 
  • PDF
  • Notes Outline

A LiquidText file only opens in LiquidText. It is, therefore, ideal for sharing with other LiquidText users or for backing up (when they finally add that feature). 

You can export a PDF copy of your documents and/or notes. Due to the nature of the workspace in LiquidText, how you export your notes is very important. You can export everything on: 

  • one page (we don’t recommend this) 
  • one column/row 
  • multiple rows and columns 

Exporting multiple rows and columns creates many pages of your notes. They will be big enough to read without zooming in; the page sizes are decent. The app still cuts off your notes unexpectedly even if you stick to the page limits.

You can export the background page template. But every time we tried exporting notes, with the option turned on, they were on a plain white background. The app now exports active hyperlinks (if you export the PDF documents too). You can now keep the connections between your notes and the original documents.

Exporting out of the app is tedious. Documents reviewed in LiquidText best stay in LiquidText. 

When exporting multiple documents, LiquidText merges them into one. It isn’t always ideal. If you have two documents, chances are you want to export them separately. The app, however, exports outlines and hyperlinks in PDFs that have them. 

Depending on how much information you want in your Notes outline export, you can select what to remove from it. 

  • Inline captions
  • Full comment sources
  • State item type
  • Highlights
  • Margin comments
  • Comments
  • Excerpts

Most people prefer exporting highlights only, LiquidText has that option.

Lastly, you can update the original document you uploaded. If your document came from, OneDrive, you can save the changes back to OneDrive. Handy for permanently saving your annotations and simplifying your organisation. You won’t keep multiple copies of the same document in many different applications.

The homepage 

The home has two columns. A left one for adding documents into the app and a right one with all your files. LiquidText supports folders within folders. Imported files go to the currently opened folder. Remember to open the folder you want your imports to go into before importing files into the app. Otherwise, you will quickly lose track of where your files are. 

Organisation

LiquidText has two ways to organise documents; single topics in folders or multiple topics in projects. Each organisation options has both advantages and disadvantages. 

Single Topic per WorkspaceMultiple Topics per Workspace
Takes up too much storage space on iPadTakes less storage space on iPad
Each workspace has all the documents needed for each topic, the app thus has multiple duplicates of the same documents.The app has all the materials in one workspace. No duplicates of the documents, since all topics are on one canvas.
The workspace canvas is small as it contains one topic. It is easier to export and find your notes.The canvas is too big with too many topics. It is impossible to export and difficult to find your notes.
Comparison between the organisation options for your workspace in LiquidText

Neither possibilities are ideal for users. LiquidText needs to work on how it organises your PDF files.

You can edit your documents. When you select some items, you can export, delete or move them to a different project or folder. LiquidText permanently deletes items from your app. There’s still no way to recover your documents. In 2020, this is unacceptable. A recycle bin is a must-have for any app handing documents.

You can arrange your documents according to Name or Date. You can view them as lists or thumbnails. You can add new folders and search all the documents in the app.

Universal search

You can search a word, and it’ll show you all the files in your app with that word. It does this in milliseconds, impressive!  LiquidText highlights the searched terms if the workspace has one document. However, if there are many documents nothing will be highlighted when you open it.

Version 4 is a fantastic update though it’s is still a bit buggy. There remains some critical issues that our developers haven’t yet addressed. The app still handles massive documents poorly.

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