Activities: PDF Annotation

Maintained by Picture of A. ObeidA. Obeid, Picture of Bernd DeckerBernd Decker, Picture of Steffen SchaffertSteffen Schaffert
The PDF annotator allows students to insert questions, comments and remarks on learning materials in PDF format directly into the document. Since all students, lecturers and tutors can read and answer the questions and comments asked, it is made easier to clarify open questions on lecture slides, scripts and other PDF learning materials quickly and in a concrete context.
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What is the PDF-Annotator?

The PDF annotator allows students to insert questions, comments and remarks on learning materials in PDF format directly into the document. Since all students, lecturers and tutors can read and answer the questions and comments asked, it is made easier to clarify open questions on lecture slides, scripts and other PDF learning materials quickly and in a concrete context.

The PDF annotator is integrated into Moodle. You can recognize the PDF annotator by this  icon: The following screenshot (Fig. 1) gives you an impression of what the annotator looks like. On the left side of the PDF are the annotations, for which there are different tools. In the column to the right of the PDF you can write a comment on the annotation or respond to existing questions and comments from students. Comments may contain references to an important passage, an error, or a question to be answered by other students.

All annotations and comments are public and therefore visible to others. However, comments, as well as replies to existing comments, can also be posted anonymously.

Add PDF annotator to the course

To use the PDF annotator and add it to your course, click Turn On Edit at the top right of the Moodle page. Then click on ADD AN ACTIVITY OR RESOURCE in the desired area in which the PDF annotator is to be displayed and select PDF ANNOTATION from the list. Then click on ADD and you will be forwarded to the overview page where you can make further settings, such as the name and a description for the document. In the next step, please upload the intended PDF document. You can do this either using drag & drop or the file manager.  You also have the option of availability, prerequisites and activity completion.

to be determined. If you do not need these settings, simply leave them untouched, after uploading the file and clicking on SAVE AND TO COURSE your PDF document will be displayed directly in the desired area.

NOTE:  also drag and drop a PDF into a Section (editing on), you will be asked "Create file for PDF Annotation".

Toolbar for annotations

Use the toolbar to select the different annotation tools. With these you mark a place or area in the PDF, for which you can then write a comment or a question.


Fig. 2 The toolbar

  • Cursor: With the cursor you can select, comment or move existing annotations.
  • Pin: Use the pin to mark individual points in the PDF to ask questions or leave a comment.
  • Bounding box: Use the frame to select individual text or image areas and create comments for them.
  • Highlighter: Use the highlighter to highlight parts of the text and make comments on it.
  • Cross-Out: With this tool you can cross out and comment on incorrect parts of a text. 
  • Text: With this tool you can insert additional text into the PDF and comment on this insertion. In addition, you can select the font size and color before writing.
  • Pen: With the pen you can paint freehand in the PDF and create comments. You can also select the pen width and pen color before drawing.
  • Zoom: With the zoom you can display the PDF larger or smaller.
  • Hide annotations: To view the original document, you can hide all annotations. Note: With another click on the open eye, all annotations can be shown again.
  • Fullscreen: In full-screen mode, the entire PDF annotator is displayed across the width of the screen.
  • Page count: The page number shows you where you are in the PDF document.
  • print pdfDownload document: Download the PDF document
  • Download comments: Download all Discussions as PDF

Create annotations and comments

If you select an existing annotation or create a new one, a comment field opens on the right. Here you can enter your questions or comments.

If you want to post anonymously, activate the checkbox Post anonymusly. With a click on CREATE ANNOTATION or ANSWER you can send your text. However, it is recommended that you do not post anonymusly.

Overview all annotations


The Teacher Overview provides an overview of various elements of the PDF annotator. You will receive a presentation of the reported comments, new questions will be made directly accessible here and can be accessed via the link on the right-hand side, you can continue to view your contributions to comments of the students in this presentation and additionally administer entries.


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Picture of A. Obeid
A. Obeid (Lead maintainer)
Picture of Steffen Schaffert
Steffen Schaffert
Picture of Friederike Schwager
Friederike Schwager
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  • Picture of Rozelle Mari Nortje
    Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 9:06 PM
    Hi, I was wondering if the PDF Annotation can be set up to only cater for making notes for oneself? The use case is a self-reflection journal so group work is not necessary. Neither is it ideal if tutors can comment. Which settings or permissions would I have to edit for this to be possible?
  • Picture of Kaspar Bredahl Rasmussen
    Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 5:52 PM
    First off thanks for a great plugin. As Rozelle's write it could be nice with a feature where you start with private notetaking and then decide if you want to publish them later on.
    I have an issue with the plugin on our moodle 3.5 installation. If I create a task and I afterwards tries to change the settings then I get this error:
    Argument 1 passed to file_get_all_files_in_draftarea() must be of the type integer, null given, called in [dirroot]/lib/form/filemanager.php on line 336
  • Picture of Ammar Elhassan ElMerhbi
    Thu, Aug 15, 2019, 12:10 AM
    I have tested it in a separate group mode, but it seems that students in separate groups can see the annotations and comments of students in different separate groups. This works great for small groups or one class but if one has 11 groups with each 20 students it become messy if the questions are meant to annotate an informational text or literary text.
  • Picture of Andreas Schenkel
    Thu, Aug 15, 2019, 2:43 AM
    It is difficult to see where lines will start when using the pencil-tool. The icon for the pencil should be an arrow to the upper left corner of the icon that is shown during annotating with a pencil. The upper left corner is the position where the lines will start. How can I change the icon?
  • Picture of Bernd Decker
    Thu, Aug 15, 2019, 3:23 PM
    Hi Matthias, we will change the default for the notifications with the next update of the plugin. The idea to include an option in the activity (like in forums) is great and we will implement it in a later version.
  • Picture of Bernd Decker
    Thu, Aug 15, 2019, 6:44 PM
    Hi Rozelle, hi Ammar, all students can see all comments unless a particular comment is hidden. We didn't plan a private or group mode until now. In our use case, we assumed that the more users can see a question, the greater the likelihood of getting a helpful answer. But basically, an option over which visibility can be controlled is certainly a very good extension for the plugin. We will include this in our backlog and check implementation.
  • Picture of wz z
    Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 8:34 AM
    @Bernd Decker
    Would you please have a look at this issue:
  • Picture of Milciades Ramirez
    Wed, Sep 4, 2019, 9:23 PM
    Hello dear friends... Excellent extension. It can provide another tool to motivate the students to read and discuss directly on the document. I wonder... It could be a way to set options to grade the participation of the students? This can encourage the participants. Congrats and good luck.
  • Picture of Daniel Poggenpohl
    Thu, Oct 24, 2019, 8:02 PM
    Hello, I commented on a closed issue on github and am not sure whether this comment is propagated by github to the plugin authors. ( We're still having issues using a theme_bootstrapbase child theme (missing buttons). The new release didn't fix our problems.
  • Picture of David Berk
    Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 11:41 PM
    Are there plans to make this compatible with 3.8?
  • Picture of Oscar Nogueiras
    Mon, Apr 27, 2020, 7:16 PM
    Great plugin. Thanks for your effort.

    Just one question: it seems that "Reset" button is not working at all, so you have to delete all annotations one by one.
    Another concern is, I'm about to upgrade to Moodle 3.8, but I don't want to loose this functionality. Could somebody confirm wether it will work or not?

  • Picture of Avinash Kshirsagar
    Tue, Jun 9, 2020, 1:37 PM
    I also want this Plugins support for My site version Moodle 3.8.3. Please reply for if this plugin in working on version of 3.8.3.
  • Picture of Bernd Decker
    Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 8:56 PM
    @Avinash, @CFSM-Oscar
    The plugin is now tested with Moodle 3.8.2 and the compatibility is added in the description.
  • Picture of Martín Ceballos
    Wed, Sep 16, 2020, 11:17 AM

    How I can disable automatic sending of email notifications every time an annotation is made in the pdf document? Due to restrictions on my web hosting, the server cannot send many emails per hour.

    Thank you.
  • Picture of Emily Azzopardi
    Sat, Oct 17, 2020, 10:20 PM
    Hi, could anyone highlight which part of the code is used to view the document in Moodle. I would like to create this feature for my own plugin and was hoping to take a look on hwo I should go about it.
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