I bought a Microsoft Surface primarily for taking notes during lectures and also writing notes on PDFs that I am studying. I bought it after seeing how useful this functionality was on my friends Samsungs tablet, and another friends Apple tablet.

However working with PDFs has turned out to be a disaster with the Surface. Unlike the case of my friends tablets where they just open a PDF and can scroll through the pages and write over them at will with the stylus, when I import a PDF into Onenote it imports it as a set of separate pages each one overload over the regular copybook style background. And if I want to move to the another page, I have to click the page name on the sidebar and then wait about 3 or 4 seconds for the page to load. Every time. This is terrible usability as I am working with equations that often run into the following page and hence I have to keep glancing back and forward at other pages.

Is there a way to import the document into OneNote as a whole to avoid this page loading issue? If not, are there any apps out there for the Surface that are able to provide continuous scrolling (without scrolling) of PDFs while letting you write over the PDFs?

  • Just want to say, this is still a problem and I wish I had read your post before buying a touchscreen Windows laptop. – user1323995 Feb 21 at 16:21

On Onenote, there's a setting you can uncheck if you want the entire PDF (all the pages) to import to a single page.

Go to File | Options | Advanced, and scroll down to Printouts section.

Uncheck the checkbox for the option to "Insert long printouts on multiple pages".

  • This seems to only work under OneNote 2016. I now use OneNote since apparently that's what Microsoft recommends and updates frequently. Both versions lack features that the other have, but it seems like long term OneNote is their focus and OneNote 2016 already feels abandoned. I mainly prefer OneNote due to the all vertical navigation pan. – user1323995 Feb 22 at 6:46

Have you tried Drawboard PDF? It's pretty much what you describe. (MS Store Link)

It's basically a PDF reader that allows you to draw on PDF pages and save the result as a PDF. I havn't seen much lag browsing PDF documents (less than 100 pages with many images).

Initial load takes a little while though, the tool has to pre-render all pages for faster browsing.

  • Can you expand your answer a bit? Just pointing to a product doesn't really explain how to accomplish the solution, and it's often viewed as spam. It's better to include some instructions on how to use the product to solve the problem, or at least describe what makes the product a good solution, providing value beyond a random Google hit. Good guidance on recommending software here: meta.superuser.com/questions/5329/…. Thanks. – fixer1234 Dec 20 '16 at 0:30
  • Sorry there. Drawboard PDF came pre-installed with my SP4 and I allready used it to annotate various PDFs. It's basically a PDF reader that allows you to draw on PDF pages and save the result as a PDF. – havin_a_bad_fur_day Dec 23 '16 at 16:41

Importing into OneNote is a simple function of printing. OneNote installs a "Print to OneNote" printer on your computer that allows you to "print" any printable document into a OneNote Notebook.

When printing into OneNote, you select the Section you wish the pages to go to and OneNote will create new pages for the new content. If you select a Page in the destination dialog, it will append the new document to that existing page, which kinda sounds like what's happening for you.

GRAHL PDF Annotator is fantastic for writing on and otherwise annotating PDFs, and for navigating on PDFs. I use it with my Surface Pro with very large PDF files. I also just OneNote heavily, but OneNote really doesn't work well for large PDF files.

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