How to Annotate PDF Documents in Apache OpenOffice

Edit PDF files in OpenOffice Draw.
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OpenOffice offers an extension that imports PDF documents into OpenOffice Draw and enables you to make small corrections and add text. The software requires this extension because PDF files don't normally support editing in applications other than the ones in which they were created. Adding extensive annotations to a PDF can alter the original document's formatting, especially a long document or one with a complicated layout, such as an Adobe InDesign file. The OpenOffice PDF extension can create editable PDF files embedded with OpenDocument formatting information, which preserves your layout when adding annotations.

Visit the OpenOffice site to download the PDF Import for Apache OpenOffice extension (link in Resources). Launch OpenOffice Draw, then click “Tools,” “Extension Manager” and “Add.” Navigate to the folder containing the downloaded file and double-click it to install the extension. After the installation, restart OpenOffice.

Press “Ctrl-O” to open the PDF in Draw. Opening the document from any OpenOffice application automatically opens it in Draw; the extension only applies to this program. Select a font and font size from the style menus in the menu bar, then select the “Text” tool from the toolbar. Click an area of the document where you want to add text to place the cursor there.

Type your annotation to see how it looks and how it affects the overall layout. If you don't like the result, press “Ctrl-Z” to undo the changes rather than pressing “Backspace” to delete the text. If the file is a hybrid PDF with ODF formatting, the results are predictable and the layout adjusts to your changes.

Click “File” and choose “Export PDF.” In the PDF Options dialog, select “Create Hybrid File” and click “Save.” This method is the only way to create an OpenDocument PDF, so if the original file was created in another application, it doesn't contain ODF formatting.

  • Information in this article applies to Apache OpenOffice 4.0.1. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.
  • Use a small font and avoid special formatting, such as bullet points or italics, when editing a regular PDF file. The extension can only make small changes to documents without making them difficult to read.
  • The PDF Import for Apache OpenOffice extension also works in LibreOffice.

David Wayne has been writing since 2010, with technology columns appearing in several regional newspapers in Texas. Wayne graduated from the University of Houston in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.