Highlights is a PDF reader for researchers, now on iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a universal purchase

Apple last month officially rolled out support for universal app purchases between iPhone, iPad, and Mac. One of the latest apps to take advantage of this functionality is Highlights, a powerful research-focused PDF reader.

Highlights has been available on the Mac for years, but alongside Apple’s support for cross-platform universal purchases, the app is also now available on iPhone and iPad for the first time. What this means is that one payment unlocks Highlights on iPhone, iPad, Mac.

Highlights is described as “the PDF reader for research.” The app includes a variety of features that are incredibly useful for sifting through large amounts of research, including context-aware annotations, support for extracting annotations, and much more.

One of the most interesting features to me is extracting table and image data. A lot of sources like to include a screenshot or image of a chart, which makes it hard to access the actual data. Highlights is able to extract that chart and convert it to an actual table of text using machine learning.

On iPad, Highlights takes advantage of the latest features, including multi-window support, Apple Pencil integration, keyboard shortcuts and navigation, and more. There’s also Dark Mode support across the board.

  • Annotate faster – Context aware annotation popovers gives you powerful tools at your finger tips. Default annotation colors prevents you from having to repeatedly setting the color for the same type of annotation every time.
  • Extract annotations – As you markup text and images the contents are extracted and sorted into notes. You can customize the formatting further and sort the annotations chronologically using your own color coding.
  • Extract table data and recognize text – Convert images containing text or tables to actual text and tables using machine learning – letting you get to the underlying data with a single tap.
  • Smart Copy – Copy annotations to the desired format — text markup as text and image selections as images, but tables as CSV and citations as BibTex.
  • Lookup Citations – Markup any reference and tap the link icon to look it up. Highlights will fetch DOI-links and even check if you have read the work already or have it in your reference manager library.
  • Export Anywhere – Export your notes as files (Markdown, HTML, TextBundle or PDF files) or open them directly in your favorite shoebox application (including Ulysses, Evernote, Bear, DEVONThink, Keep It, and Apple Notes).
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Highlights is a free download with a $2.99 per month ($24.99 per year) subscription to unlock some of the more powerful features:

The Highlights Pro subscription unlocks advanced features for extracting information including table and text recognition, customizability, citation lookups, Smart Copy and export options for other apps and easily editable formats.

Highlights Pro includes a 14-day free trial. If you use the free version of the app, you still get access to document browsing as well as reading and annotating. The experience is completely ad-free.

You can download Highlights on the App Store to try it out. If you’re looking for a powerful, yet lightweight PDF reader for research, Highlights is worth a try. MacStories has a full review that is well worth a read as well.

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