I am looking for a free program that can retroactively copy highlighted text into comments in a PDF, just like this non-free tool does.

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Adobe has an option the option "Copy selected text into Highlight, Strike-Out, and Underline comment pop-ups.", which when activated won't change the existing comments, only the new ones. The tool retroactively emulates the option.

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Before running the tool:

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If possible, works with Windows 7 SP1 x64 Ultimate or Ubuntu 14.04. Ideally, it could process several PDF files at once (full (sub-)directory scan would be even better) and ask without I want to overwrite the original PDFs or create new ones.


3 Answers 3


Edit after seeing the downvote

@Normal human Is that downvote because, I copy pasted the same answer to one another question ? May be I felt hyperactive after I felt that I had achieved something learning a new programming language and impementing something for which there is no alternative solution.

Anyway taking your suggestions in good spirit and formatting answer accordingly.

By the way I have clearly mentioned it is not free and costs 15 USD and the application shown in question costs 80 dollars. I agree that still it does not make it free.

Actual Answer

I have written a small app for this and hosted at https://pdfcommentextractor.wordpress.com/).

I have added the following features in it:

  1. Provision to copy old highlight texts to comment pop ups retroactively..(that is you had not made the setting explained above before making the comment.).
  2. Provision to copy highlight texts to comment pop ups for highlights made from a tablet.
  3. Provision to specify delimiters in the comment generator. Single file processing and bulk processing
  4. MY FAVORITE: Provision to split different colour highlights to different files
  5. Search for a string and highlight

If anybody is still looking for this requirement, you may try it....

Caveat: It is not free... It is the result of 1 months hardwork learning java and PDFBox. So please dont visit the site thinking it is a free app.

But if anyone wants to take the same path and develop from scratch, I can help with pointers, if you mail me at [email protected]

  • 1
    Also @Normal Human... I had looked for this solution for months and had searched a lot of sites for this solution. I might have tried to post in those sites trying to show that I have found a solution.If you feel that my post is of no value to this question, please feel free to get this deleted by the mods. Thank you
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 11:21

Python + PDFMiner should let you knock up a short script to do exactly what you are after:

  • Both are free
  • A little effort on your part will be needed but an example of extending PDFMiner is here.
  • Such a script should be able to parse multiple files.
  • Once you have located it you should be able to extract the highlighted text with the context into a text or html file easily.

I think this answer (by me) offers (almost) the exact (and free) solution:


It's "almost" ... in that it does NOT process a few files in a batch, because it is an Add-on to the free Acrobat Reader.

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