A Guide to iPad PDF Support

A Guide to iPad PDF Support
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For users with basic needs, the built in iPad PDF support functionality will suit your needs. There are two main methods of opening PDFs on the iPad without downloading any additional apps.


To view PDF files using the Email app, follow these steps.

  1. On your laptop or desktop computer, find the PDF you wish to read on the iPad
  2. Email the file to your own email address.
  3. On your iPad, open the Mail app, find the email you sent to yourself and open up the attached PDF file.

Note: If you wish to read a particularly large PDF file, it is recommended to download the file over a WiFi network.


  1. Open Safari
  2. Open a link to a PDF file
  3. Read a PDF file through Safari

The downside to using Safari or the Email app is the limited functionality of these methods. You will not be able to make notes, highlight text, place bookmarks or work with the file.

Reading PDFs using Apps

For students, researchers and others that need to work with PDFs in a more active fashion or in greater quantity, using a PDF reader app is likely a better option than using the iPad’s built in PDF support. The apps discussed in this section can be used to read PDF files, manage a library of PDF files or annotate the files depending on the user’s needs. Fortunately, there are a number of PDF readers available through the iTunes Store, both paid and free, that can better manage PDF files.

Good Reader

GoodReader Icon (Image Credit: https://www.goodreader.net/)

This paid app ($2.99) has the ability to open PDFs, Microsoft Word files, TXT files and an assortment of other file types. The app comes with a built in library function so you can sort your PDF files into different folders (e.g. “English Class,” “History Class” and “Tax Forms”) to suit your needs. Good Reader also has the ability to highlight text, make marginal notes and other advanced functions.


Stanza is a free app that is dedicated to reading text files, including PDF readers. While it does not have the same annotation and editing abilities of Good Reader, Stanza does have a library tool that can be used to manage PDF files. Copying files with Stanza is easily done - simply open a PDF file in the Email app or Safari and you will be prompted to save the file into Stanza.

iAnnotate PDF

This paid app ($9.99) is the best app for users who love to make notes, mark up documents and read documents deeply. If you learn best through note taking this app may be the best one for your needs. Annotations can be saved into the PDF file and shared with others - a helpful feature for those that need to share complex PDF files with friends or co-workers.


To view screenshots, current prices and other information about apps that can be used for iPad PDF support, consult the references provided in this section.