Update Onyx Boox Tab X with NeoReader

«The first thing that reading teaches us is how to be alone.»
Jonathan Franzen

I have already written about the Boox Tab X e-ink reader, which is surprisingly good. I do not trust it fully, given the Chinese company behind it, but for reading and annotations — yeah, it’s brilliant. Or rather, it’s easy on the eyes.

Seriously, it’s fun to read on an e-ink display in that size. Articles in DIN A4, reading without zooming, yeah. While I used another PDF reader in the previous posting, I only use the device’s reader: NeoReader.

The main reason I did use another PDF app was the difficulty in doing highlighting and annotations. It turns out, NeoReader is very well suited for it. Just disable the handwriting (top bar, pen in a square icon to the right of the OCR icon, see the following image). You can then highlight text in a PDF (that has selectable text, e.g., if you have scanned it, you need to run OCR first).

Even better, once you have highlighted text, you can add text annotations. You can do it with the virtual keyboard, but I found that the handwriting recognition works really well. Just switch to the mode where you can write in a field at the bottom of the screen and — after two or three seconds — the handwriting is added as text to the note (see the next two images). You have to actually wait that time until the text is recognized. If you close the annotation first, you might lose what you wrote. And make sure you have the correct language selected (you might install the necessary language pack first, English was preinstalled, but for a note in German, I had to install and then select that language).

After highlighting text you can press on the icon marked in red (image below) to add annotations directly to the highlighted text.

You have different options of writing annotations.

I prefer this writing mode over the virtual keyboard. Press on the icon next to the keyboard icon (a), then write in the bottom-right area (b). The text will appear in the annotation box (c) a few seconds after you stop writing. Note that the device uses the selected language (here EN(US), see button at the bottom-left). You can press the button to select other languages (you might have to install them).

And of course, once on the Mac, you can export the highlighted text, e.g., to Markdown via PDFExpert (but check that all text is actually exported).

Other Functions

NeoReader also comes with a few other nice functions, among other:


If you highlight a word, you get a dictionary explanation of it. If you have installed the necessary dictionaries (stardict dictionaries are available online, work semi-well).

Reading Overview

I do not use the account (why would I willingly share data?), but the status screen of NeoReader is interesting nonetheless. A bit off, given that it apparently counts every PDF as book — including articles and the like. But still, nice counting. BTW, I religiously press the power button when I make a break, so the device goes into screen saver mode. So the device is still quickly available (it is not off), and this way the amount of time should be accurate.

You get to it by opening the NeoReader app itself (book-like Icon) …

and then press the line-diagram icon:

Reduced Margins

If you read a book that has a smaller page size, it pays to display two pages at once. To have somewhat larger text, you can reduce the page margins.

Quite useful.

Writing is a Joy

After writing on it for a while, yeah, writing is a joy.

Caveat: If you use an USB Stick you should manually eject it

I thought that was a thing of the past, but apparently, you better eject an USB stick manually. I use the stick to transfer data (mostly PDFs and screenshots) from and to the device. Just press on the tiny USB Icon next to the time and then on «EJECT». Give it a moment to display the message that you can safely remove the device.

Takes a moment for the USB stick until it is ready to be removed.

Concluding Remarks

So, yeah, regarding reading on an e-ink device, I think getting the Onyx Boox Tab X was a good idea. It works very very well when it comes to reading (in greyscale). And NeoReader is surprisingly good. I still think the device is a bit sluggish due to the display, but when it comes to reading, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.