Top 11 Annotation Tools: Features & Pricing Breakdown (2022)

Let’s talk about real-time annotation tools!

We’ve got a thorough look at the market of annotation tools and picked the most capable solutions that enable teams to streamline their workflow through amazing collaboration features.

In this blog post, we discuss:

  • The most common use cases for annotation tools
  • Today’s best annotation tools, their functionality, features, and pricing

But first, let’s clarify the basics.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this article was collected from publicly available sources as of this blog post’s publication date,  May 25, 2022.

What is an Annotation Tool?

An annotation tool is a piece of software that enables users to add digital sticky notes and commentaries or digital annotations to different types of file formats, including:

  • Images
  • Websites
  • Spreadsheets
  • HTML files
  • Videos
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Design files

Furthermore, annotation tools streamline the quality control process within teams and enable users to provide contextual, granular feedback by leaving comments right in the section that needs edits.

This approach boosts productivity as it eliminates the need for constantly sending files back and forth for reviewing and proofing.

Plus, it opens up opportunities for team members to collaborate in real-time in an increasingly digital environment.

How does it work?

Let’s say we’re part of the design team that created the imagery to promote the new iPhone 13 Pro. 

Before we can add this image to the website, it would need to be approved by our manager.

Instead of sending the file over email, we’d use MarkUp.io to submit our work for review.

To illustrate the process and give you a better idea of how an annotation tool works, we created a markup with the design file.

As you can see, our ‘manager’ left some comments to tell us what needs to be changed. 

The best part?

Using an annotation tool means that we’re able to see everything as it happens

Not only can we view the comments in real time, but we can see the exact elements that need improvement.

Alright, you might be thinking to yourself. That’s just one use case, and it’s pretty basic. 

I hear you!

What else could we use an annotation tool for?

Let’s have a look at the most common use cases for annotation tools.

6 Most Common Use Cases of Annotation Tools

There are multiple annotation types for different purposes. What all of them have in common is their ability to make proofing projects painless

This means no more “as per my last email;” there won’t be any need. You’ll get contextual feedback that is easy to implement.

GIF source: Giphy

Today, we’re going to look at:

  • Image annotations
  • Video annotations
  • PDF annotations
  • Audio annotations
  • HTML annotations
  • Website annotations

Annotation tools are commonly used to markup images, videos, PDFs, audio, HTML and websites.

Now, let’s have a closer look at the six most common instances where you would need an annotation tool.

1. Image annotation

Image annotation is essential in our world of graphic design, where 90% of the industry is made up of freelancers.

Can you imagine the collective pain of these designers who are stuck relying on emails for the proofing process?

Fortunately, image annotation tools ensure that designers won’t be overwhelmed by rivers of their own frustrated tears.

For instance, with our tool, MarkUp.io, you can upload images and design files, and submit them for review via a sharable link or email.

How to invite reviewers to a MarkUp

Then, the reviewer can click anywhere on the shared image and leave prompt comments with their desired edits.

Super straightforward, isn’t it?

An example of image annotation on MarkUp.io

But what if you need help with file types that are a bit more dynamic than static images?

Let’s get into video annotation. 

2. Video annotation

Today, video accounts for over 80% of all consumer internet traffic – and that number doesn’t even include all of the projects currently waiting patiently for approval that have been lost in busy inboxes.

That’s where video annotation tools come in.

These tools open up a new world of collaboration opportunities for the video content creators and video editors out there.

That’s why MarkUp.io has developed a video annotation feature, which you can try now (for free!). Video MarkUp gives you the ability to create markups of the most popular video file types (such as MP4, MPEG, AVI, WEBM, Apple ProRes, and MKV).

An example of video annotation on MarkUp.io

After you’ve uploaded your video file, you can share it with your team and leave comments anywhere within the video.

Now let’s see what PDF annotations are all about.

3. PDF annotation

Content writers, students, teachers, marketers, and pretty much everyone else that has to write or provide feedback for reports, blog articles, white papers, and other types of content are in dire need of a PDF annotation tool.

Why PDF?

It’s among the most used file formats today. In fact, people are saving 73 million PDF documents on their Google Drive daily!

With the way people continue to flock to PDFs, it almost feels like a religious movement. 

Image Source: PDF Association

The annotation process for a PDF markup is similar to the previous use cases we’ve discussed.

To create a PDF markup, you just need to upload your PDF to MarkUp.io. Then, you can go ahead and leave comments wherever you want inside the document.

4. Audio annotation

Generally, audio annotation is used by data scientists to categorize sounds produced by animals, humans, the environment, etc. with the help of specialized data annotation software (such as Prodigy).

Image Source: Prodigy

Audio annotation falls under natural language processing (NLP), a subset of artificial intelligence that uses models to train computers to “understand” language through capabilities like speech recognition and natural language generation.

You’ve likely encountered trained NLP models through workflow automation use cases like chatbots, voice recognition systems, virtual assistants, and so on.

5. HTML annotation

There are over 250K new websites being launched every day. That’s over 3 websites created every second!

Imagine how much feedback is necessary for each of these websites — especially in today’s remote-first culture.

How can remote teams shorten feedback loops and cut the time needed to take a website from ideation to the final version?

You already know the answer: HTML annotation.

In MarkUp, you can annotate an HTML file by simply pasting your link into the Go URL bar in your workspace.

An example of HTLM annotation on MarkUp.io.

Then, the tool will automatically create a markup with your HTML document that you can access, share, and add comments to.

So far, we’ve covered a lot of annotation tools that are the foundation of building a great website! For the next use case, we’re going to stick around that same register — web development.

6. Website annotation

Even after a website is live, the web developer’s job is never done. There are always updates and changes to be made to keep the website relevant.

That’s where web annotations come in.

Think of this type of annotation as bookmarking a web page and adding comments right there in your web browser.

This is exactly how MarkUp’s browser extension works; you click on it and create a website markup with the simplicity of bookmarking your favorite web content.

How to create a MarkUp with the MarkUp.io browser extension

After doing so, your new markup will be automatically displayed in your workspace. From there, you can start the review and approval process with the necessary commentary.

How to add annotations on MarkUp.io

Now let’s head over to the most popular annotation tools available on today’s market and see which one of them offers the types of annotation your business needs.

The Complete Annotation Tools Comparison Table

Before we get started with all 11 annotation tools we’ve compiled, let’s see how they stack up against each other in terms of features.

Check it out:

The complete annotation tools comparison table

Now that you’ve gotten an overview, let’s get to the best part: the in-depth breakdown of features and pricing for these annotation software solutions.

1. MarkUp.io

First on our list is, well, us: MarkUp.io

We are a leading visual commenting platform that streamlines creative processes through a myriad of cool and flexible annotation features.

Screenshot of MarkUp.io homepage

Our tool helps users share, receive, and organize feedback in real-time for a wide range of supported file formats — from PDFs and HTML docs to live websites and videos. 

Take a closer look at what we can do for you and your team.

Annotation Features Breakdown

We base our philosophy on purposeful simplicity, placing the user experience and the ease of use at the tool’s core.

Specifically, all the tools we offer are developed for teams to easily bring all their projects to one place with a click of a button. And we’re not just saying that; you can literally click on the Chrome extension and create a markup of any tab in your browser!

We’re here to help you tame creativity and bridge the gap between ideas and deliverables with features such as:

  • Web page annotation, PDF file annotation, image annotation, video annotation 
  • File sharing via links and email
  • Searchable real-time comments 
  • Drag-and-drop comment attachments in a wide range of file formats, including JPG, JPEG, PNG, SVG, BMP, etc

And more!

Want more good news? Head over to our pricing.

Pricing

For a limited time, MarkUp.io is available for free.

Grab it while it’s hot!

GIF Source: Giphy

2. Pastel

Pastel is an annotation tool developed for marketing professionals. 

Image Source: Pastel

It enables marketing teams to share and get feedback on multiple digital marketing assets, such as live websites, PDFs, and images.

Let’s take a closer look at what this tool can do.

Annotation Features Breakdown

Pastel offers users the ability to provide feedback using any device, from their browser of choice.

The most relevant Pastel features and capabilities include:

  • Real-time comments
  • Support for image file attachments within comments
  • Label-based comment organization system
  • PDF, image, and website annotations

Pastel’s functionality is predominantly focused on streamlining website-building processes

However, its image and PDF processing capabilities make it useful for a wider range of use cases.

Pricing

Pastel’s pricing structure features four plans, one of which is completely free (but with limited functionality).

The other three pricing plans vary in price by the number of supported users, number of premium projects (canvases), and billing method.

Moreover, a two-week free trial is included for each of the premium plans.

Image Source: Pastel

The prices range from $0 to $350 per month as follows:

  • The Free Forever plan: Free for 1 user for a 3-day commenting window on canvases
  • The Solo plan: $24 per user per month if billed annually; $29 per user per month if billed monthly
  • The Studio plan: $83 per month if billed annually, $99 per month if billed monthly for 5 users. For each additional user, you will pay $17 per user per month if billed annually and $20 per user per month if billed monthly
  • The Enterprise plan: $350 per month regardless of the billing method for 10 users.

3. Red Pen

Red Pen is a feedback tool designed by designers for designers.

Image Source: Red Pen

Red Pen is advocating for simplicity and is centered around the user experience (UX) rather than features. 

Moreover, Red Pen aims to make its tool an integral part of the design process through fast visual collaboration.

Let’s see what Red Pen offers in terms of capabilities.

Annotation Features Breakdown

According to the company’s philosophy, Red Pen is designed with ease of use as a priority over features. Thus, the tools’ features are limited but super easy to use.

Examples of features include:

  • Image annotation
  • Live comment management
  • Drag and drop function
  • Collaboration via shareable links

Considering its narrow feature portfolio, Red Pen would be suitable for freelance designers and small-to-medium-sized design teams.

Pricing

The Red Pen pricing structure is based on a per-project model and includes four distinct pricing plans.

Image Source: Red Pen

In addition to the four pricing plans, Red Pen offers a free, basic version that only enables users to share files that are available for 20 days upon upload.

Red Pen also features four premium plans with prices depending on the number of projects included in each plan, as follows:

  • 5 projects: $20 per month
  • 10 projects: $30 per month
  • 25 projects: $60 per month
  • 40 projects: $90 per month

4. Markup Hero

Markup Hero is a web-focused screenshot and annotation tool.

Image Source: Markup Hero

Markup Hero is a complex, feature-rich annotation software solution that gives users the ability to take screenshots and provide feedback for images, PDFs, and websites.

Annotation Features Breakdown

In addition to screenshots and comments, Markup Hero supplies its users with multiple collaborative tools that include:

  • Image, PDF, and web annotation
  • Full website screen capture
  • Sharable link-based collaboration
  • On-screen drawing

Plus, this tool can be directly integrated into users’ web apps with the help of Markup Hero’s Annotation API.

Of course, not all these features are available for all pricing plans. Let’s take a closer look.

Pricing

Markup Hero’s pricing structure is very straightforward, featuring three pricing plans based on a per-user model.

Image Source: Markup Hero

Two of the three pricing models are free. Overall, their pricing structure works as follows:

  • The Sidekick plan: Free; available without creating an account; limited features
  • The Hero plan: Free; available upon sign-up; additional features
  • The Superhero plan: $4 per user per month if billed annually, $5 per user per month if billed monthly; all features included.

5. GoVisually

GoVisually is a design and video collaboration tool with proofing and annotation features.

Image Source: GoVisually

GoVisually is suitable for designers, video editors, creators, creative agencies, and marketers.

Let’s see the features that come with the GoVisually annotation software.

Annotation Features Breakdown

GoVisually supports a wide range of file formats and provides users with multiple collaboration tools to streamline task management and content revision, including:

  • Annotation tools for images, PDFs, and videos
  • Project sharing via links
  • Private and public comments
  • Project progress status tracking

This generous tool portfolio is fully available only with the Team pricing plan. 

How much is that?

Pricing

GoVisually’s pricing structure is split into two paid plans that can be either billed monthly or annually.

Image Source: GoVisually

GoVisually doesn’t provide a free version of the software. However, a free two-week trial is available.

In terms of premium plans, GoVisually structured its pricing into two models:

  • The Solo plan: $20 per user per month if billed annually, $25 per user per month if billed monthly for individual users
  • The Team plan: $50 per month if billed annually, $60 per month if billed monthly for teams of up to 5 members.

6. Prodigy

Prodigy is quite different from the other annotation tools on this list. 

It’s a data annotation tool that leverages active learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to help data scientists analyze data errors and create training and evaluation data for machine learning models.

Image Source: Prodigy

Plus, Prodigy helps users with data labeling through multiple features.

Annotation Features Breakdown

The Prodigy data labeling tool facilitates data annotation for natural language processing (NLP) with features such as:

  • Named entity recognition
  • Text classification for things such as semantic role labeling and sentiment analysis
  • Computer vision for image classification and segmentation
  • Audio and video annotation

As opposed to the tools we’ve reviewed so far in this post, Prodigy’s data annotator is priced a bit differently. 

Pricing

The Prodigy data annotation tool offers two lifetime license-based pricing models with unlimited annotators and 12-month free upgrades.

Image Source: Prodigy

The two available pricing models are charged per user:

  1. The Personal plan: $390 per lifetime license for one user
  2. The Company plan: $490 per user, only available for packs of 5 users; lifetime license issued to the user’s company.

7. Filestage

Filestage is another annotation tool that aims to simplify the process of reviewing and approving creative deliverables.

Image Source: Filestage

Furthermore, Filestage offers multiple collaboration and project management tools to help teams share, approve, and deliver content faster.

Annotation Features Breakdown

From a feature standpoint, Filestage has a jam-packed offering. Its key features include:

  • Text document, video, image, website, and audio annotations
  • Version tracking and comparison
  • Project progress status tracking 
  • File attachments in comments

Now, let’s see how much all of that costs.

Pricing

Filestage offers four pricing plans based on a per-user model.

Image Source: Filestage

All four pricing plans can be either billed monthly or annually. If billed yearly, each plan costs 25% less.

The Filestage pricing structure is as follows:

  • The Essential plan: €9 (almost $10) per user per month if billed yearly and €12 (around $13) per user per month if billed monthly
  • The Advanced plan: €19 (almost $21) per user per month for the first 5 users, then €95 per month for each additional user if billed yearly; €24 (a bit over $26) per user per month for the first 5 users, then €120 (around $132) per month for each additional user if billed monthly
  • The Professional plan: €39 (roughly $43) per user per month for the first 5 users, then €195 (around $215) per month for each additional user if billed yearly; €49 (around $54) per user per month for the first 5 users, then €245 ( a bit over $270) per month for each additional user if billed monthly
  • The Enterprise plan: Pricing details available only upon request

8. Frame.io

Frame.io is an Adobe-owned, cloud-based collaboration platform developed mainly for video production teams.

Image Source: Frame.io

This tool offers users the ability to give and receive live feedback on video content. It is designed for high-volume creators and features multi-team management capabilities.

Annotation Features Breakdown

Being a video-centered tool, Frame.io offers multiple video annotation features, such as:

  • Sequence and frame-based video annotations, image annotations, PDF annotations
  • Drawing annotations
  • Project approval status management
  • Collaboration via shareable links

Now let’s look at pricing.

Pricing

Frame.io offers multiple pricing plans based on a per-user model

Image Source: Frame.io

The pricing structure of Frame.io is broken down into four pricing models:

  • The Free plan: Free for a maximum of 2 users
  • The Pro plan: $15 per user per month for up to 10 users if  billed monthly, $13 per user per month if billed annually
  • The Team plan: $25 per user per month for up to 15 users if billed monthly, $22 per user per month if billed annually
  • The Enterprise plan: Pricing information available only upon request

Now let’s see what tool number nine is about.

9. Annotate

Annotate is a document management, sharing, and annotation tool.

Image Source: Annotate

This solution was developed to help professionals in financial services, tech, media, marketing, and education efficiently create, share, receive, review, and approve documents.  

Annotation Features Breakdown

Annotate provides Microsoft Office integration to facilitate document annotation. Moreover, Annotate offers multiple text annotation tools and features, such as:

  • Document and PDF annotation
  • The ability to highlight text
  • Color-coded and topic-based note organization system
  • Document version control

Head over to the next section to learn about pricing.

Pricing

Annotate does provide some info about their three pricing models. However, the actual pricing of the paid plans is available only upon request.

Image Source: Annotate

But one thing we know for sure is that they feature a free version.

10. Bubbles

Bubbles is a collaboration and file-sharing tool with annotation capabilities.

Image Source: Bubbles

This tool can be used without an account for asynchronous collaboration. It aims to minimize the need for Zoom meetings and real-time messaging through screen recordings and other collaboration tools.

Have a look at the features offered by Bubbles below.

Annotation Features Breakdown

Bubbles has a very intuitive, minimalistic interface and easy-to-use features, such as:

  • Image annotations
  • Screen captures and recordings
  • Collaboration via shareable links and email

Pricing

The Bubbles annotation tool is completely free.

11. Hypothes.is

Hypothes.is is a social annotation software solution that enables users to make web annotations.

So, it’s quite atypical compared to what we’ve looked at so far.

Image Source: Hypothes.is

Specifically, Hypothes.is enables users to highlight text and take and save notes contextually while browsing the web. So, it’s more of an educational tool rather than a business-oriented solution.

However, it can be useful to individuals who do a lot of research as part of their job.

Let’s see what it has to offer.

Hypothes.is Features Breakdown

According to Wikipedia, Hypothes.is has been referred to as “a peer review layer for the entire Internet” as it encourages people to add comments to online content with the purpose of assessing source credibility.

Moreover, the solution revolves around a reputation-based system for rating users’ comments. That basically means that users can rate other users within the community to establish a user’s trustworthiness.

The most relevant features of Hypothes.is include:

  • Web annotation
  • PDF annotation
  • Text highlights
  • Public and private annotations

Let’s put this in terms of costs.

Pricing

Since Hypothes.is is an open-source software solution, it’s available for free.

Over To You

We hope that you’ve now got a better understanding of the annotation software landscape and are ready to take things further.

If your creative workflow includes feedback, comments, approvals, and everything in between, MarkUp.io can be your productivity-boosting ally.

Signup with MarkUp.io and start exploring the power of real-time, seamless collaboration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Before you go, make sure to take a look at the most frequently asked questions about annotation tools, which we’ve answered for you below. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, shoot us a message. We’d love to help!

Q1. What are the 3 types of annotations?

The three types of annotations are:

  • Manual annotation: Manually adding comments to a piece of content
  • Screen annotation: Making annotations on a screen with the help of digital tools
  • Collaborative annotation: A literacy strategy that teaches students skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and writing

Q2. What are the benefits of using annotation tools?

The benefits of using annotation tools include:

  • Being able to provide and receive live contextual feedback
  • Speeding up the project approval process
  • Improving collaboration
  • Simplifying task management

Q3. What are the best annotation tools?

Some of the best annotation tools are:

  • MarkUp.io
  • GoVisually
  • Bubbles
  • Pastel