8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta ReadersBy C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted on April 4, 2014.

Many self-publishing authors use beta readers to get feedback on a book before publication. You don't have to work on paper; you can use a computer or a tablet to "mark up" or make notes on an author's manuscript.

Below is a list of tools for beta readers. An author may send you a manuscript in a variety of formats, so I've included options for several file formats.

File Formats

Sometimes it will make sense to convert the author's file to another format. Many of the proofreading tools below will read PDFs. You can save an .rtf, .doc, or .docx file as a PDF with Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (free). If you have a stylus for your tablet, you may be able to mark up text like you would on paper.

This table will tell you which tool will read which file format. I summarize the features of the tools below.

Tablet Apps

Adobe Reader (free)

  • Reads PDF files
  • Available for Android and iOS
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs, and comments
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Works well with a stylus
  • Search function, so you can search all instances of an error

iAnnotate

  • Reads PDF files
  • Available for Android (free) and iOS ($9.99)
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Works well with a stylus

WPS Writer (free)

  • Part of the WPS Office suite
  • Available for Android and iOS tablets and phones
  • Reads .doc and .docx files
  • Track changes
  • Comments
  • Find and replace
  • Voice search
  • Syncs with desktop version so you can alternately work on a computer and a tablet

Computer Apps

WPS Writer (free and paid)

  • Part of the WPS Office suite
  • Reads .doc, .docx and .rtf files
  • Track changes
  • Comments
  • Robust find and replace
  • Wildcards
  • Pro version can run proofreading macros
  • Syncs with the tablet app version so you can alternately work on a computer and a tablet

Adobe Reader XI (free)

  • Reads PDFs
  • Used by professional proofreaders
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Allows you to load PDF stamps into the software (see below), so you can mark a variety of proofreading errors with symbols instead of with comments
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Robust search function
  • Read-aloud feature so you can listen for mistakes that your eyes might miss

PDF XChange Editor (free)

  • Reads PDFs
  • Used by professional proofreaders
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Allows you to load PDF stamps into the software
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Robust search function

Adobe Digital Editions

  • Reads epubs
  • Use ADE if the book has already been professionally formatted for e-readers
  • It's not possible to mark up in ADE, but you can copy sections of text into a word processor and mark up the changes there—procedure explained by Rob at 52 Novels

Kindle E-ink Readers and Apps

App or Desktop Version?

Computer software tends to have more robust search functions than tablet apps, but it can take a while to figure out how to use the drawing tools to mark up the text with a mouse.

Proofreading stamps are a shorthand for proofreading errors, and tend to make the proofreading process faster. Use them if the author knows what they mean (or provide the author with a glossary of symbols, if you like).

Note: As far as I know, stamps tend to only work in the desktop versions of proofreading software.

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers
Wiley Publishing stamps in PDF XChange Editor

If you want to imitate the pros, you can import* proofreading stamps into your proofreading software or design your own. Louise Harnby of the Proofreading Parlour offers a collection of British proofreading stamps for free, and you can find American proofreading stamps on the Wiley Publishing website.

Do you have a favourite proofreading tool not listed here? Tell us about it in the comments below.

*To learn how to import proofreading stamps into Adobe Reader XI or design your own, see this video by Adrienne Montgomerie.

Image by Alan Levine

6 thoughts on “8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers”

    1. You're welcome, Bob. It was also kind of Wiley Publishing and Louise Harnby to produce and share them. They are indeed handy.

  1. Thanks! These are handy tips and tools. Haven't done any beta reading or proofreading for anyone in a while, but you never know when a project will come along.

    Also, just downloaded WPS 2013 on both my laptop and my husband's desktop. My laptop came with Office Home & Student 2010 and my husband is using an outdated, no longer supported, version of Office. We have difficulty sharing documents and opening each other's docs, so this will be a tremendous help. How can I thank you enough??????

    1. I'm glad you found WPS Office to be helpful. It's a nice piece of software, and a great substitute for Word! Be sure to let me know how you get on with it.

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