How to annotate PDF files on Linux

The PDF format is one of the most widely used document formats of all time. Many people use it for work, school, and other purposes. As a result, people are looking for ways to edit and annotate these types of documents.

On Windows and Mac, PDF annotation is done with the Adobe Acrobat. On Linux, users will need to use a third-party program like Xournal. In this guide, we’ll show you how to set up Xournal and use it to annotate PDF files on Linux.

Install Xournal on Linux

The Xournal application is an open-source program, and as a result, it is widely available for users on most modern Linux distributions out there. To install the Xournal app on your Linux PC, start by opening up a terminal. To launch a terminal, press Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard.

Once you’ve got a terminal window open and ready to go on your Linux PC, follow the command-line instructions below that correspond with your OS to get Xournal up and running.


On Ubuntu Linux, you can install the Xournal app with the following Apt command.

sudo apt install xournal


Using Debian Linux? Get the Xournal program on your system with the Apt-get command.

sudo apt-get install xournal

Arch Linux

Arch Linux does not have the Xournal app in its primary software sources. Instead, users must install the software by source code through the Arch Linux User repository.

To start the installation, get the Git and Base-devel packages with the Pacman command below.

sudo pacman -S git base-devel

After both Git and Base-devel are installed, use the following commands to install the Trizen AUR helper app. It will make getting Xournal much faster and automatic.

git clone
cd trizen
makepkg -sri

Once the Trizen tool is up and running, you can easily install the Xournal program on Arch Linux with the command below.

trizen -S xournal


Fedora Linux users can install the Xournal program with the Dnf command below.

sudo dnf install xournal


On OpenSUSE, install the Xournal app with the Zypper command.

sudo zypper install Xournal

Generic Linux

Xournal is on quite a few Linux operating systems, but not all. If you can’t find it for your distribution, you may need to compile it from the source code instead. To do this, head over to Xournal’s SourceForge page, and download the latest version.

After downloading the latest version of the app, you must read the README file to learn what it takes to compile Xournal on Linux.

Annotate PDF files with Xournal

To annotate a PDF in the Xournal app on Linux, start by opening the program. To open Xournal, look for “Xournal” in your application menu. Or, press Alt + F2 to open up the quick-launcher, and use the command below to launch it.


Once the Xournal app is open on your desktop, find the “File” menu at the top of the app and click it to reveal it’s options.

Inside of the Xournal “File” menu, find the option that says “Annotate PDF” and click on it to open up the “Open PDF” window. From there, use the “Open PDF” window to browse for a PDF file on your hard drive.

how to annotate pdf files on How to annotate PDF files on Linux

Adding text

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To add text to a PDF file in Xournal, do the following. First, locate the “T” button on the toolbar, and click on it to enter text mode. Then, once in text mode, click on any area of the PDF you would like to write on, and start writing. The text will be added to the PDF instantly.


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Need to highlight something in a PDF file? Find the “Highlighter” button and click on it to enter the Highlight mode. From there, use the mouse to highlight anything on the PDF you’d like to highlight.

Adding images

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With Xournal, it is possible to annotate PDF files with images. To use this feature, find the “Image” button, and click on it with the mouse. Upon clicking the “Image” button, click on the Xournal workspace with the mouse.

Once you’ve clicked on the Xournal workspace, an “Insert Image” window will appear on the screen. Use this window to browse for an image to put in the PDF.


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Xournal lets you draw on your PDF files! To start drawing, click the “Pencil” button” with the mouse. Then, use the mouse to draw on the PDF as desired.

Need to change colors? Select one of the colors in the toolbar to switch the color the pencil uses.

Saving your annotated PDF

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After annotating PDF files in Xournal, it is time to save. To save, click “File” to open up the “File” menu. Then, locate the “Export PDF” button, and select it to save the annotated PDF file.

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