There are undoubtedly many great PDF annotation apps for the iPad and iPhone. I own many of them. Apps like PDF Expert, Notability, iAnnotate and Foxit PDF are great options, but you don’t always need such a full featured app. Sometimes you just want to do some quick markups to a document and send it back to the person who emailed it to you. For occasions like this, you can use the Apple Mail app in iOS 9 or later.
How to Annotate PDFs With the iOS Mail App
1. Open your Mail app and tap the PDF icon in your message to open a full screen preview.
2. Tap the screen again to reveal the toolbar at the top of the screen, then tap the toolbox.
If the PDF appears as a live preview in your email, press and hold on the image view of the PDF and select Markup and Reply.
3. Use the annotation tools at the bottom of the screen to markup your PDF.
4. There are a variety of tools available for marking up your PDF. They include a pen tool, a text tool, and the option to add your handwritten signature. You can adjust the font, font size and font alignment as well as the pen color and thickness. There is even a magnifier tool that can be resized and used to call out areas of the document by making them larger.
5. When you are finished, click Done in the top right-hand corner of the screen and the annotated PDF will be added to an email that is pre-populated with the original sender’s email address. You can now add a quick message and send it straight back to the sender for their attention.
Possible Uses for the iOS Mail App Annotation Tools
Perhaps the most obvious use for these tools is to electronically sign documents. This is an increasingly common need and although there are 3rd-party apps to help you do this, nothing would be faster than doing it in the Mail app and sending it right back to the sender.
Teachers could use this tool to markup and give feedback to students on the 1st draft of an essay or another type of assignment that was emailed to them on their iPad. However, students could also use it to email ideas and drafts of group projects back and forward to each other, or as part of a peer review process.
Bonus Tip: iTunesU
Many of the markup tools also appear when you view a PDF inside an iTunesU course. This means teachers could add a PDF for students to annotate and turn in as an assignment. The PDF could be blank and students could use it as a whiteboard for working out Math or Science problems. It could be a map, a graphic organizer, a handwriting guide, graph paper, or any number of other things. The built-in tools can then be used to mark-up the PDF so it can be turned in to the teacher for grading or review.