Adding Skim to the Efficiency Toolbelt

Most writing apps can create a PDF. Dozens of apps can read a PDF. But, when you want to highlight, create bookmarks to useful sections and create annotations, things start to fall apart.

Plenty of apps can handle the task, but the features and price vary wildly.

Some come with basic features that aren’t much more powerful than Preview. While others come with impressive options and a price tag to match.

However, there is an efficient, feature rich, and low cost alternative called Skim, and after highlighting the heck out of a project management book, it has become my tool of choice.

Skim is a free tool that offers great features for reading, highlighting and annotating PDF files.

When a PDF is open, you can either use thumbnails or a Table of Contents for navigation. In the center is the document itself where you can easily change the zoom and page style. Then on the right are your notes. Working with all three for navigation and highlighting is very smooth and straightforward.

To highlight, select the Note tool, set the option to highlight, and whatever you select will be marked. Not only will it be highlighted in yellow on the page, in the right pane, your selected text and the page it came from will be displayed.

Once you have dozens of notes, you can double click the page and be navigated to the highlighted text. Very nice.

Further, all the notes can be exported out as a separate text file. This is incredibly handy for use in another document or using as points in a presentation.

Another simple but great feature is the use of Bookmarks. You can make several of them and jump to wherever you want. I made sure to set one so I know where I left off each day. If the app closed or I had to load something else, I jumped right back to my place.

From a QA perspective, I see plenty of uses for this. I have taken requirements docs, saved/copied/exported them as PDF, then used Skim to highlight the key features I need to focus on. Out of a 50 page document, only a few points are relevant to me.

Those are then copied into Taskpaper where they are turned into a checklist.

I can also take those notes and add them to DevonThink so I can group project notes together.

Point is, I have been looking for a way to read and highlight PDF files that was easy to work with and easy on the budget. Skim fits the bill in every respect.

Working on a 400 page PDF file was no problem and I have a ton of great notes to work with.

So, if you have a lot of PDF files to read, or you want a solid way to extract key pieces of information, Skim is a great tool to work with.

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