Canvas Release: Canvas DocViewer

Document created by Erin Hallmark Employee on Jun 12, 2017Last modified by Erin Hallmark Employee on Jun 23, 2017
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This document introduces Canvas DocViewer as noted in the Canvas Production Release Notes (2017-06-24) 


Information regarding known behaviors will be updated as made available by our engineering team.

Canvas DocViewer automatically converts common documents types into web-viewable and interactive learning experiences. This feature replaces the current Box previewer and Crocodoc annotation tools in Canvas and provides improved performance.



Release Schedule

Canvas DocViewer will be released according to the following timeline:


Beta Environment: Friday, June 2
DocViewer will apply to all courses in all beta environments ([yourschool]


Free-for-Teacher: Monday, June 5
DocViewer will apply to all courses in our Free-for-Teacher account (


Production Environment: Monday, June 19, through Friday, June 23

DocViewer will apply to all courses in all production environments for paid accounts, including all international regions. Admins will be notified about production availability from Canvas Support.


Supported File Types

The following documentation and image types are currently supported in DocViewer:


  • Fixed Layout Formats: PDF
  • Microsoft Word: DOC, DOCX
  • Microsoft PowerPoint: PPT, PPTX
  • OpenDocument Formats: ODT, OTG, ODS, ODP, ODF, SWX, SXC, SXI
  • Text: TXT
  • Zip Files: ZIP


In SpeedGrader, supported file types are rendered as PDFs and support annotations.


DocViewer Annotations

While the submission details page and SpeedGrader both allow users to create general comments about a submission, annotations allow users to create and highlight specific comments within a submission. Both assignment graders and students can add annotations to a supported assignment file; however, annotations are not supported in anonymous peer reviews.


DocViewer includes a one-hour session limitation in SpeedGrader. A DocViewer session can be restarted at any time by refreshing the submission page.


Annotation Types

DocViewer includes a modern interface that looks and feels like Canvas and supports a variety of document and image types. The DocViewer toolbar displays the number of pages for a document, zoom in and out of the file, and use one of six annotation types for commenting: point, highlight, free text, strikeout, free draw, and area.


DocViewer Interface


Users can create an annotation by clicking an annotation type. All annotation types support a variety of annotation colors.

Annotation selection is persistent, so the toolbar retains the current annotation type until another is selected.


Annotation Comments

Point and area annotation types require a text comment with the annotation. Once one of these annotation types has been selected, a comment text field displays immediately in the sidebar.


The free text annotation type places a comment field wherever the annotation is placed in the document. Hovering over the annotation displays the name of the person who made the comment.

Highlight, strikeout, and free draw annotation types do not require comments. Once one of these annotation types has been selected, comments can be added with the annotations by clicking the document icon in the sidebar.

Currently, annotation comments cannot be downloaded.


Example of DocViewer comments in the sidebar


All users can reply to any comments in the document by clicking the comment. However, comments and annotations can only be deleted by the user who created the comment or annotation. Annotations can be deleted by the user by selecting the annotation in the submission and clicking the Delete key (Mac) or Backspace key (PC) on the user’s keyboard. Comments can be deleted by selecting the comment and clicking the comment’s Delete icon.


Example of how to delete an annotation or delete a comment from an annotation


Future Enhancements

DocViewer will continue to receive additional feature enhancements over future releases as indicated in Canvas Release Notes.


Upcoming functionality includes changes to text and draw annotation types and annotation downloads.


Accessibility Improvements

As originally released in Free-for-Teacher (FFT) and Beta environments, DocViewer included minimal accessibility included in all other document viewing and annotation applications.


On Friday, June 16, DocViewer released improved accessibility functionality that enables students to access annotations and comments with a screen reader, including information about the annotation type, author name, comment, and any reply comments at the end of the document. This release makes Canvas the first accessible annotation and document viewing service available.


The release of this functionality is only the first step of a larger goal to create an exceptional feedback experience that is accessible for all Canvas users. DocViewer will continue to be improved with in-document annotations and accessible author-created annotations.


Customer Feedback

Community feedback for DocViewer is welcome per Canvas Community Feedback Guidelines, which outlines general feedback, broken functionality, and feature enhancements.


For DocViewer, feature enhancements should include the DocViewer tag. Before submitting a new idea, please review all existing DocViewer feature ideas.


Known Behaviors

The following notable behaviors have been identified in DocViewer. Known behaviors are being triaged by the Canvas engineering team—feature ideas do not need to be submitted regarding their functionality.


Information in this document will be updated as made available by the Canvas product team:


File Types

  • Advanced image and advanced document file types are currently not supported.
  • Excel files do not render content outside the spreadsheet print area.
  • PDFs that include forms with content added to them are not viewable in DocViewer.



  • Annotation comments cannot be downloaded.
  • Hyperlinks in documents are not retained.
  • Free text annotations cannot be modified.
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