Tinderbox Forum

MarginNote and LiquidText

Continuing the discussion from Where do you put your reading notes?:

I’ve been with LiquidText since the first beta, and have admired how it has evolved – with increasing polish and features attentive to how users actually work. As a PDF annotation tool, I don’t think it can be beat. There is a bit of a downside in getting notes and comments out of the app. Export is all-or-nothing – and only exports to PDF, DOCX, or the LiquidText custom document format. I prefer my notes separated into individual documents or nodes in an OPML outline. If someone doesn’t need that, then LiquidText is fine. I’d mention that the absence of Mac version is no problem now that we have Universal Clipboard and apps such as Copied. It’s easy to put all of one’s notes on the clipboard on an iPad and then open Tinderbox on the desktop and paste (and perhaps explode) the notes.

MarginNote is sort of like LiquidText but maybe the overlap is more in the order of 50% or so. As I mentioned in the other thread, I love MarginNote’s ability to quickly consolidate multiple documents into a single “notebook”. If I have 5 or 10 related documents in the same topical notebook, I can easily make an outline or mind map in MarginNote and link together clippings / notes / images / scribbles from across all those documents into one mind map.

MarginNote is also better for research – text in a document can be selected and a browser opened to find additional web content related to that text. MarginNote has a much broader set of features than LiquidText – and many more options for exporting notes. Including sync with MarginNote desktop. It is also a bit rougher around the edges – the UI is unusual and sometimes confusing. MN syncs via iCloud – WebDAV is coming soon they tell me – but to sync notebooks you have to make sure there is at least one annotation added to the notebook. Took me ages to figure out that’s why documents I captured on iOS never showed up on the Mac.

So, I use LiquidText when I want to just focus on a single document. (Yes, I know documents can be linked / containerized – I just don’t use it that way.) And MarginNotes when researching taking notes on a topic involving numerous documents and web content.

There’s no bright line separating the two apps. If I had to choose to delete one or the other, I would delete LiquidText. Both developers are super nice and responsive.


Thanks for this analysis. I too have felt that LiquidText could do better at note export. But, the in-app navigation of notes is pretty neat. I’m anticipating some great value in class being able to work from the “note” pane and link back quickly to passages in PDFs.

Turns out I have MarginNote pro on iOS from when it must have been on sale in the past, so I’ll give it another go. There’s a lot of moving parts there to explore.

I had not heard about LiquidText, but it looks intriguing and I will check it out.

In general it is very interesting to read all the suggestions, questions, answers, and how-to tips and scenarios in recent days in this space. Thanks to all for contributing.

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That was really useful. Thank you.

Liquid-Text provides an incredible reading-experience. The handling of anotations – either as image or as ocr’ed text or as handwritten (all over the document) – is incredible.

And, @PaulWalters, one can create one LiquidText-(Container)-document including as many documents as one likes.

The killer-feature, though, is exporting the entire so called LiquidText-Workspace to PDF preserving all the links working created on the Workspace either within a single document or across the entire collection of documents saved in a single LiquidText-(Container)-document.

MarginNote is great … but UI-wise not as smooth as LiquidText.

Yes, as I said in the OP.

Sorry, @PaulWalters. It wasn’t so obvious to me … especially as you commented that

“you just don’t use it that way.”

“I” don’t use it that way. Anyone else can do what anyone else does. :slight_smile:

MarginNote has just made a significant improvement: it starts each individual file exported to rtf with the page number printed in the pdf it belongs to, instead of numbering each file consecutively. MN is pretty accurate at using the page number printed in the pdf, instead of the order of the page in the pdf file -nearly perfect for citations, but even better for the preservation of the quotation, as one will always be able to manually locate it in the pdf.

Therefore, now notes can be recurrently exported at any reading stage and the file name will not be altered in successive exports. As a consequence, DEVONthink will mark the reimported notes as duplicate, so that it is easy to delete the later version.

This is important for Tinderbox’s AutoFetch and Watch features, as it will avoid deleting or missing the links of a note that went from MN to DT to TB. It also decreases distraction due to breaks of a workflow in between apps: Now I can highlight in MN and take my reading notes in TB, stating the page number they refer to if needed, in order to later link quotation (in DT or TB) and annotation in TB.

I’ve posted in this thread dedicated to MN and LT, what was a follow up to a conversation with @MartinBoycott-Brown

I don’t get this result from MarginNote exports – every note has the same “P000X” indicator, regardless of page.

DEVONthink determines what a “duplicate” is based on several factors. Same name is not one of them. (Just create two files in DEVONthink with the same name and no content – they are not flagged as “duplicate”.)

Personally, I would be wary of relying on these two factors.

Are you testing MN’s page numbering with all highlights from the same pdf page? Here is an image with DT on the right (rtf file number and number in text of the file) and MN (number in mind map and pdf page number. Both the nubering of notes to be exported to DT, so that they can be arranged in order, and this numbering by pdf page I suggested to the developer, but admitedly I haven’t thoroughly yet tested its accuracy with a large sample.

My annotation in TB would have a $Page attribute that I check manually for citations. The paging in MN is as accurate as it can be automatically, but I would double check for a citation because there are in-between pages quotations and so on.

Looking to improve my PDF highlights/notes to TB workflow (from iAnnotate). I just downloaded LiquidText - i love the highlighting and dragging features. But I can’t find a way to click to advance to the next page (and with a pencil, i don’t seem to be able to advance the PDF at all). I download and read tons of long papers all the time so i need to be able to click and not scroll. MarginNote is great allowing click advance while keeping magnification (perfect for iPadPro). with MN i just want to switch the sides of text and notes (PDF on left and notes on right) but can’t seem to find that option.

Both of them leave me disappointed in dropbox integration. MN can’t do it at all, and LT can get pdfs from db but not update them the way iAnnotate would. So seems you have to generate multiple copies.

Frustrating, but i can live with export problems. As much as i like highlight view in LT, i can’t live with only scrolling and no click-to-advance. Hopefully i’m just missing it!

LiquidText has a scroll bar on the left side of the document, and it shows a table of contents (pages) when the original document has one. Easy to flick the Pencil to change pages, IMO.

Otherwise, maybe the folks at LiquidText can address your issues faster than user opinions on a Tinderbox forum?


Thanks! (i couldn’t find a LT forum, but i’ll follow up with them directly). I do like the scroll bar for jumping, but not for going page by page through a 400 page dissertation.

AFAIK, there’s no way to view a document page-by-page in LiquidText. It’s surprising to me how many PDF annotation tools have this limitation – Highlights on the Mac (iOS version in Beta) is another example that would be almost perfect if you could view documents page by page rather than by scrolling.

In Highlights.app one can use Option + CMD + Cursor (up/down) to flip documents pagewise.

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How are all you LiquidText users handling the export of your annotations / notes from the LT PDF document and getting them into tinderbox? (Or perhaps that isn’t part of your workflow?)

Before there was a Mac version, a few times, I took the PDF export to my Mac and copied and pasted. It was a manual process and a bit fiddly. Something happened with LiquidText where the development became more active with new features, a Mac version and so on. However, the QA fell through the floor. I now find it so buggy (malfunctioning as well as prone to crashing) on iPad that I have become reluctant to use it.

I’m coming to that conclusion myself. It seems like either MarginNote (with its quasi-OPML export) or the Highlights app seem to be good alternatives with options for markdown export of individual highlights.

I mainly use MarginNote 3 for PDF annotation. I don’t use any of the export features because the formatting of exported data from MarginNote is so weird that it takes a lot of post-processing to make it right.

So, I’ll select blocks of notes, active the “Search and Outline” button, select all the notes, and copy them out to paste into Tinderbox.

Depending on the content and annotations, I might instead paste the notes into Obsidian files, work on linking references there, then watch that folder of Obsidian notes (markdown) in Tinderbox.