App for books that allows annotation?

macOS and Mac Apps

Every book or PDF article I've ever scanned/OCRed is in a library of several thousand Word docs, all structured with headings for chapters and sections. This has been fine for 25 years or so on the PC, but I'm really having difficulty switching to the Mac because Word for Mac 2016 is currently choking on these documents, either because of the sheer length of some of them or else something in how Kurzweil 1000 saved metadata or images that I can't get rid of. Many sighted Mac users are having some of the same problems with book-length documents in Word for Mac 2016. So, I'm hunting for alternatives that I can convert my library into, one file at a time as I need them (most of the files, I won't ever need again).
My requirements are to be able to quickly navigate to chapter and section by heading level, and to add annotations. I would also hope to keep it transportable between Mac and PC if possible. Any ideas, folks?
Here are the things I've thought of:
* I have Scriviner and could import them, using the cork board for annotations. I'm new to the software, and it seems rather "busy" for this purpose, though it makes loads of sense for template-based writing.
Also, the PC version seems totally inaccessible, although I haven't gotten past the installer.
* I could chop them up into sections/pages (chapters/subchapters) into Microsoft OneNote, which at first glance seems rather accessible now. One notebook per book. That's lots of work, though, and I lose the ability to read my books on PC because OneNote isn't accessible on PC still and the file format is proprietary.
* Convert to Daisy. Forum discussions on here indicate that there's a real paucity of software for daisy-reading, and I've certainly found that to be the case. ReadHear appears not to have been updated in 3-4 years: their Web page said "EPUB support coming soon" when the app directory entry was written, and it still says that now!
* Pages is out because they took away Outline view, so there's no document map for quickly navigating. I suppose I could generate tables of contents for all files, but then I'd have to continually return to the top of the document to navigate. Also lose the ability to read on PC.
* chop each word doc into chapters and save them each as separate Word files in a book folder. Yuck. Also seems not to strictly work, since even short PDF articles that have gone through K1000 mess up royally, even after resesaving as rtf. Even txt files of 300 pages or so freeze my MBA for 28 seconds when moving to a new page.

I hope I'm missing something. I've been waiting for Word for Mac to work the bugs out now for quite a while, but I'm really interested in finding an alternative. MarkDown would work great, but I ran into problems finding MarkDown software that could jump by heading or offer a document map of headings/subheadings, plus I haven't found any accessible markdown editors for Windows.



Submitted by WriterGirl on Sunday, March 12, 2017

Unfortunately, I don't think you're missing anything... I've been trying to solve this problem myself, and here's what I know:
1. Kurzweil seems to be the best out there for bookmarks and annotations.
2. Scrivener is excellent if you are writing novels like me, but not very intuitive as far as organizing existing files. You are correct that the PC version is completely inaccessible, and the developer seemed unwilling to make it accessible do to the development platform that was used to create it. The Mac and IOS versions are fine though, and I've come to love them for my writing purposes.
3. I wouldn't go the OneNote route. I tried that and found it to be accessible on Mac but not Windows, and very busy and chaotic to navigate.
4. Daisy on the Mac technically works but will probably leave you disappointed if you're used to Windows.
5. Simplenote is a very basic markdown editor that syncs between Mac, IOS, Android, PC, and The Mac and IOS apps are completely accessible, along with the website. I haven't tried the Windows app yet, but you can always go to the website from your Windows PC. I was able to navigate by heading using NVDA on my PC, but it doesn't seem to work with Voiceover in the apps.
6. I know you want something for Mac/PC, but Voice Dream Writer for IOS might do the trick. It's a markdown editor with an excellent outline view! If you import your docs to the app, you can navigate by heading, paragraph, sentence, or line. I use Voice Dream Reader to convert a lot of PDF's because sometimes it's quicker than Kurzweil, and then use Voice Dream Writer to split them into sections.
7. Honestly, my dream machine would be a Mac running Windows in a virtual machine with Kurzweil and NVDA. I haven't got that set up yet, but that seems like the way to go. I switched to the Mac about a year ago and love it for a lot of things, but I still have one foot in Windows world because of Kurzweil and a few websites that just make more sense to me with NVDA than Voiceover.
Sorry for the insanely long post, but HTH! :)

Submitted by Halison Junior… on Monday, March 13, 2017

I use Ulysses on the Mac and Iphone, and use the Dropbox to sync so I can edit the .txt on Windows.

I really like MacJournal, and it's supposed to do, as I understand it.

I think what we really lack on the Mac is an .epub reader as QRead for Windows.

Sorry for my bad English ...

Actually, I really appreciate your thoughts. Great minds apparently think alike, since I spent yesterday setting up a VM with K1000 and Office. It does seem like I'm stuck with using Word for Mac for documents of less than 100 pages, and then going into the VM for long documents. On my I7 MBA, the vM is pretty sluggish, and there's a long enough typing delay that I haven't ever been satisfied with using Word/NVDA or Jaws in the VM, but we'll see. I had been looking at Voice Dream Writer and might well give that a shot. Reader became much more usable for me when he added the iCloud sync folder. I really should stop thinking of Mac/PC as the two work platforms. After all, the iPhone is in my pocket regardless of which computer I'm working on--now, if I can just get my Apple wireless keyboard to hold a battery charge....
Another option we didn't discuss is Ulysses. That app actually seems to most reflect how I like to write, since what I disliked most about Pages and the Mac in general is how much I missed how Winword just plops you immediately in a document ready to write. Also, I like MarkDown because it returns to the original intent to separate content from markup, and keeps it all easily seen and changed reliably, whereas Word styles always mess up sooner or later. But I think the proprietary library system would drive me nuts, particularly because I'm locked into a Windows 10 laptop for work over the next 3 years.
I put myself to sleep last night (literally) with the Scrivener tutorial. It's as complex as Word, but its power comes from features that I would actually use, very much unlike Word on Windows. I'm hoping that the investment and the more usable tools will prompt me to finally get writing creatively again.
I hope you'll revisit this thread when you discover something new for book-reading/annotating. I really should have kept things in .kes format all these years, since it would have saved me a lot of usability grief over the decades with my library. I wanted to keep things in a mainstream format, but that was kind of silly in retrospect.

Submitted by Voracious P. Brain on Monday, March 13, 2017

@halisonjl, how easy is it to get to those txt files from Windows? From what I've read, they're buried and unintelligibly named. I'd be interested to hear your comments on the app in general, too.

Submitted by Halison Junior… on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Actually the files are hidden by default. But if you add an external folder, and choose the Dropbox as local, then the .txt format, then the files are available.

Doing this, unfortunately at the moment you lose some features of Ulysses, as the ability to attach items to the sheet. But it really doesn't bother me.

So far this was the best solution I found. The .txt doesn't have any compatibility issue, or risk losing support, while the Markdown, without a doubt is the best format, even more for blind us. My workflow was very transparent and accessible. Like I said, just the lack of an equivalent to QRead for Mac.

Submitted by Voracious P. Brain on Sunday, April 9, 2017

Just installed the QRead demo. Holy crap: why didn't I know about this? Answer: because it was probably before 2012 last time I tried to find a good Daisy solution for PC. It doesn't allow annotation, and it doesn't allow navigation by sentence (which would be really easy to implament). It also doesn't recognize headings in PDF files, or at least not those created in Word. However, I keep looking for a PDF from "the wild" that has headings, and I couldn't find one. So, that's largely a non-issue and easily marked up as I read.
For those with Jaws, FS Reader 3 is another good option for Daisy, looks like, but not pdf.
The external folder tip for Ulysses is something I'll try, too.
So, let's see. Let me summarize for the benefit of others who Google into this thread. As of March 2017, we have:
For read-only Daisy:
* PC+IOS = QRead or K1000 + Voice Dream Reader. K1000 and VD allow annotation.
*Mac + IOS or PC = nada, if my suppositions are correct that ReadHear is (a) a dead project and (b) irrationally overpriced.

* Mac + IOS = Ulysses
* Mac or IOS + PC = any of the above for Mac and IOS, plus WriteMonkey for PC. WriteMonkey 2.7 is free and is like notepad with the ability to jump by heading/comment/etc. plus export. It reminds me of Foobar, a bit, in its under-the-hood extreme customizability. However, the upcoming v3 is totally unusable, both in Windows and Mac OS. v2.7 is from 2014 but seems to do what I need. A few years back, I tried every markdown editor I could find for PC, and all used JAVA or the like. Found WriteMonkey this morning.
There's also a Word plugin called Writage that has some promise: it converts Markdown to Word at open and then saves Word as markdown, allowing all the navigation features of Word in Windows.
--Notes: Ulysses doesn't provide a way to hide the MarkDown characters, which can be a little bit of a drag. But a whole book could be a single "sheet," and there's an outline payne for navigation. This is the editor I wished for 20 years ago. For Scrivener to hide markdown characters, you'd have to work in its native RTF format and constantly import/export to MarkDown when transporting the document to a different app. Just working in Scrivener is fine but extremely cumbersome for reading an ebook, since I don't see a way to jump by heading-marked sections within a single file (you'd have to split the file into multiple files, AFAIK).
--MarkDown overall seems like the cross-platform winner.Typical Markup for headings, lists, attributes, and comments in Ulysses and WriteMonkey looks a bit sloppy, though, which is why the format hasn't gone mainstream. But the advantages are huge, starting with the fact that ++comments++ stay with the document itself, unlike with the Daisy editors.
Voice Dream Reader and Writer looked like good solutions, but the dev has put limitations in place that are deal-breakers for me: Reader doesn't import headings from Word files and can't read MarkDown. Writer uses MarkDown internally, but doesn't store its drafts as standard files on ICloud, so I can't use it to access the same library as my regular computers.

.DOCX format:
* PC + Mac = Word and Word for chapter-length documents, or Word + a real problem for long ones. No good Mac solutions for just reading a long book in .docx format, but importing/exporting to Ulysses retains navigable headings. Hopefully Word for Mac becomes more responsive in long documents. Or hopefully not everyone has the problems some of us (sighted or not) are having with them. [Update: Pages now supports heading navigation, making a big thrust of my problem a mute point now]
--Notes: Word for IOS doesn't support the navigation payne, so no navigation by heading. Voice Dream Reader doesn't recognize headings in .docx files, and so I assume Writer doesn't, either. Meanwhile, IWork Pages lost its outline view when Pages for IOS came out. and so creating a TOC is the only way to navigate by heading. Or maybe create "sections" at each heading, but that's not hierarchical.

What a simple problem that is so much more messed up than it needs to be, thanks to small oversights on the part of several different developers who write code and read short documents rather than write books and read reference books. Hopefully, it's not just me emailing them to point these things out. I've been doing it for years.

Submitted by Halison Junior… on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

In fact it is possible to navigate the pages in Ulysses.

Before it is necessary only to create the title with "#". A single signal for heading level one, two for titles of level two, and so on.

Then use cmd+8 to navigate. Also works with markers: open the menu with VO+Shift+M, and add bookmark.

Submitted by Mayank on Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Hello, I recently bought a MacBook Air. I am facing difficulty in navigating books on the native Apple Books application. I am wondering, is it my lack of knowledge or is it a real problem? Are there any better alternatives for Apple Books in which I can take notes, Make bookmarks and other efficiency features like those incurs well.