LiquidText for the iPad (2021)

PROS

  • Infinite canvas for note-taking
  • Can sync across devices
  • Available on Windows
  • Can link all your ideas
  • Save annotations to original PDF

CONS

Rating: 8/10

Pricing & Supported OS

LiquidText is a PDF reader by LiquidText Inc, that is available for your iPad, Mac and Windows 10. For the iPad, the app costs about $29.99 for a one-time purchase to get the Pro version of the app. The Pro version gets paid major updates and does not sync across your devices. For different subscription packages, you get the app on all your devices. You can also sync across all of them and you don’t have to pay for major updates. This review focuses on the Pro version of LiquidText on the iPad.

Adding PDFs to your project 

On the homepage, you can import documents into LiquidText from Files, a website or photos. In Files, you can select multiple documents to get started. LiquidText converts word and ppt documents to PDF first, before opening them in a workspace. The workspace in LiquidText has two columns that you can resize. This does not affect the zoom percentage of your canvas, which is awesome. At least your handwritten notes remain uniform.

You can add a lot of resources to your DocPane, but can only open three documents at a time. You can easily switch between the documents as you take notes. In your project, you can add documents from other LiquidText projects and choose the documents you want. You can also add many images. LiquidText creates a document from all the images you add. The images can be from the Photos Library or Files. You can then rename the document and Import Document to add it to your project.

The DocPane lists all the documents in your project. You also get an Outline of the PDF if it has one. You can resize this to make it bigger and you can toggle it away to create more space for working. Outlines are awesome because they help us navigate through our documents faster. Not all documents have them though.

Toolbars

LiquidText has three toolbars, one at the top and two floating/mobile sidebars. The left sidebar configures how you interact with your documents while the right one configures your canvas. You can move these around, but its best to keep them where they are, to avoid any confusion. Your annotation tools are on the top toolbar. iPadOS 15 has made them a bit of a pain to work with because tapping them accidentally brings up the multitasking gesture. It seems they might have to bring it back down where it was before.

Writing Tools

You can annotate the PDF or write notes on the canvas. Most PDFs don’t have any space to write on, so the canvas comes in handy. In LiquidText, you can easily link ideas back to where you got them on the PDF. It is useful when you like referring back to your resources.

LiquidText has an impressive accurate representation of my handwriting. Writing in the app feels natural and smooth and we love it. For a PDF reader, not a note-taking app, it is fantastic! The app has a BallPoint and Calligraphy pen, which you choose in the settings. These look and feel the same, but the Ballpoint pen (with pressure sensitivity turned on), works better. To handwrite notes, choose the Freehand setting for your pen. The Straight one draws straight lines for underlining important information.

The pen tool has 17 favourite colours that you can replace with one of 31 preset colours. Drag a colour to replace one of the favourites. For PDF reading, these colours are more than enough. They have a wide range and cover some basic, as well as, fancy colours too. You probably won’t miss any colours.

The pen tool can also extract PDF sections onto your canvas. LiquidText doesn’t handle two-column documents well. The best way to go around that is using the pen tool to extract sections on the second column. The first column won’t have this problem.

PDF text

Selecting the text on the PDF gives you options to:

  • Comment
  • Select More
  • AutoExcerpt
  • Tag
  • Define
  • Copy

Comment & Select More

Commenting creates a note linked to the section you selected on your PDF. You can colour code your comments. For example, follow-up questions can all be red. Comments don’t extract anything from your notes, they just refer to them. You can either type or handwrite them.

Select More lets you select multiple sections in your PDF to act on them. You can select multiple items to comment on them or extract them from the PDF. You have to keep tapping Select More each time you want to select another section. It would be easier if this feature could support a multiple-select mode. That way, a single tap would be enough to select many resources without having to tap the icon again.

AutoExcerpt

AutoExcerpt extracts sections of your PDFs to your canvas. You can expand these extractions to Edit them, Comment on them or add handwritten notes. These extractions, handwritten notes and comments make the building blocks for your research notes in LiquidText.

All of them link back to the resources in your project. They can also link with each other and this means you will not lose the links between them. For anyone that links connecting pieces of information to understand how different pieces fit together, this is the app you want to get. Connecting ideas this way means you don’t have to add all the information in one place. Sometimes it helps to break it up for easier assimilation. As long as it is linked and you can always follow those links.

Palm rejection on the writing canvas has improved dramatically. You will not accidentally move comments and extractions when taking notes in the app.

Tags

You can tag your PDF for researching and cataloguing information. Each tag can have a specific colour, Category and tag name. Unfortunately, tags in LiquidText are limited to projects, meaning you’ll have to create them for each. We hope our developers can find ways to make them universal. Tags are more useful when you can access the same ones across all your documents.

You can also tag the notes on your writing canvas. They appear on the bottom right corner of each extraction, which makes them easy to find. You can then easily search through the tags in your Documents or Workspace. Instead of scrolling through to find your questions during a class or meeting, you can easily search for them in seconds.

Highlighter

The highlighter in LiquidText has a lot of inconsistencies:

  • On the PDF, it goes behind the text (the best way to highlight digital notes).
  • On the canvas (in sticky note comments) it goes behind your ink and infront of your text.
  • On the canvas, it goes in front of your ink for comments directly written on the canvas.

That is a lot to remember. We hope our developers can iron out those inconsistencies. A highlighter should always go behind to make text/ink pop out of the page. The highlighter can either be Straight or Freehand. It has the same colours as the pen tool, but fewer (only 6) sizes.

The eraser, in LiquidText, only erases per stroke. It doesn’t have customisation options. Erasing per stroke is best for digital notes, you don’t want to manually erase every pixel on the page all the time. There are times when erasing per pixel helps though.

Lasso Tool

The lasso tool selects everything on the page. You can move items around to create space for adding more information in specific places. In LiquidText, you can write in any direction even beyond the canvas. Adding additional information is easy because you can always link it, no matter how far apart it might be.

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? 

Workspace

Your documents can either be on the left or right side. You can switch positions depending on whether you are left or right-handed. You can also change the orientation of your workspace. It can be Vertical or Horizontal. When set to Automatic, the orientation automatically switches between the modes. Interestingly, split-view doesn’t affect your document arrangement when set to fixed orientations. 

Writing Canvas

You can now customise the paper template in your canvas. We hope to be able to save our settings as default to avoid doing this for every project. Your Workspace Pattern can be dotted, squared, ruled or plain. The canvas in LiquidText is infinite, but it consists of fixed paper sizes put together each with a unique colour. You can decide the sizes of those small pages that make up the big canvas. You can also 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.
  • Border colour
  • Vary the colour of nearby rectangles. This makes your different pages easier to appreciate.
  • Line spacing is probably in millimetres; the app doesn’t say.
  • Grid colour

Tap Done to save your changes. Otherwise, they will not be applied to your canvas. You can also Restore Default. We’re still waiting for the option to save our preferences as default. That way we can do this once and not have to do it again.

When zooming in on your pages, the app displays a zoom percentage on the screen. That is a tremendous help when working in the app. Your zoom ratio 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.

OCR

Liquidtext can now interact with scanned documents. You can work with its text as though it was not scanned, which is quite impressive.

Search tool

You can search through your Document or Workspace. LiquidText also lets you filter to search through visible documents, which are all the open ones, or all the documents in the project. For your documents, you can pinch to bring your searched terms together. That way you don’t have to scroll through all the pages in the PDF, it saves time. 

On the canvas, LiquidText does not search through your handwriting. Comments, excerpts, and text boxes with your searched term pop out against a dark background. It is easy to find what you are looking for in LiquidText. PDF readers generally don’t search through your handwriting. When your project has tags, you can search for them, in LiquidText. Since they introduced this feature, it is now easy to search and find the tags in your notes.

LiquidText has had a problem with lagging for many years. After adding a lot of notes the app would start crashing when searching through your notes. Closing the app also took longer as the app save to the changes you’ve made. In 2021, our developers seem to have finally fixed that. Lag and crashing of huge PDF documents is not a problem you encounter in LiquidText only. It’s in all PDF readers on the iPad. Some PDF readers are, of course, worse than others.

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 option has both advantages and disadvantages. 

Single Topic per WorkspaceMultiple Topics per Workspace
Takes up too much storage space on the iPadTakes less storage space on the 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 handling 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 still a bit buggy. There remain some critical issues that our developers haven’t yet addressed. The app still handles massive documents poorly.

Updates

Version 4.0.6
Version 5.0: Sync & backup

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Comments · 6

  1. Hi 🙋🏻‍♂️ Ropsie…First of all, LiquidText is the most amazing app that I’ve ever tried for PDFs upto this day. But due to its POOR handling of the BIG projects (containing digital handwriting notes and big pdf textbooks), it mimics a Bugatti which struggles to either start or moves at the pace of snail 😂… The CEO of LiquidText is fortunately a very nice person, well aware of this problem and working in partnership with their third party pdf developers to fix this memory issue (resulting in this poor handling of big projects ,crashes and all sorts of other related issues) for good! So we’ve all our fingers crossed 🤞🏼 that they will soon sort out this problem for good and LiquidText will work exactly for what it was designed in first place.
    Regards.
    Abid.

  2. I have been using LT now for about three years, and have PDFs for meetings with 700+ pages every week. I find it exceptional, preparations of complex issues and organizing topics for the agenda are great. I never had a crash, and also it was never slow in importing or jumping within a project. I can only highly recommend it. Sometimes I send project files to my Mac, and even that works fine. But without the pen, it is much less effective.

  3. I know this is an old post, but I just started with LiquidText. I keep my work files on OneDrive (because I have to), but when I have LT auto save upon close, it duplicates the file rather than overwrites it. It adds some date/time text to the end of the filename. It also has saved the annotations to the PDF sideways (rotated at a 90 degree angle) when I save/close. Have you ever had this problem?

    1. LiquidText doesn’t bookmark pages like most PDF readers do. The best way would be to tag sections, but extractions seem to work better though

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