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Choosing a PDF Reader: iPad App Guides and Reviews

written by: KennethSleight•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 3/15/2011

The iPad can become more than an adequate PDF reader. iPad applications for all types of PDF reading are available from free to $9.99, but which ones are worth their salt for iPad PDF docs? This guide will help to sort them out.

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    Rating Average

    iPad PDF Reader GoodReader for iPad currently retails for $4.99. As it is one of the absolute best PDF readers available, it will be the standard that is used to judge all others. This reader was the number one non-Apple app downloaded in 2010 (at that time it’s price point was only 99 cents).

    The reason for its massive appeal was the support for extremely large TXT and PDF files as well as the ability to support .DOC, .PPT, and .XLS documents as well as iWork 2008 and 2009. But its utility doesn’t stop there, the GoodReader also supports audio and video files and Safari HTML archives. The interface allows hyperlinking within the text of a PDF to allow a reader to quickly jump back and forth between sections, a 50x zoom feature that is great when dealing with large maps or drawings, and a text search option that allows iPad PDF docs to be scanned for only the information that is needed.

    Transferring files on the GoodReader can be done via WiFi or USB connection and with the most recent update GoodReader has gotten even better, now allowing an Annotation mode that offers text boxes, sticky notes, lines, arrows, and freehand drawings on top of a PDF files and the ability to sync with iDisk, Dropbox, SugarSync and any WebDAV, FTP or SFTP server.

    This amazing app is a must have for anyone using the iPad as an eBook or PDF reader. Printing is a breeze and the annotation mode will be great for executives (or anyone who needs a signature page printed) as most older readers didn’t incorporate this into their releases.

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    The price for iBooks couldn’t be better. A free PDF viewer that includes the iBookstore (and currently offer a free copy of A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh) looks more like an interface for the bookstore than a PDF reader but it functions as both. It allows you to organize all of your PDF files (and books) into specialized folders. The reader also allows you to adjust the screen brightness, font size and type face to make reading more conducive to your particular environment and personal needs.

    Like GoodReader, iBooks comes with a text search that allows you to jump to a particular word or phrase and offers a highlighting mode for marking important passages. The iBooks app is compatible with the AirPrint system so you can print out documents with your notes on them.

    This is a capable reader, but many iPad users will note that it is obvious that the PDF feature was an afterthought and there aren’t too many features that are designed into it. This is primarily an eBook reading app with PDF support thrown in for good measure – but it's free, and will be adequate for some users.

    More PDF Readers for iPad on Page Two.

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    Choosing a PDF Reader: iPad App Guides and Reviews: GogoDocsPage two of the Choosing a PDF Reader: iPad App Guides and Reviews including Gogodocs, FastPDF and Cloud Readers.
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    ReadPDF is a free PDF reader. IPad owners will see this is a simple, straight forward program that opens PDFs either from email attachments or imported as files from another source. The auto bookmark feature will remember where you left off in your reading and automatically return you to that page when the document is opened again.

    One of the nicest features of ReadPDF is that the PDFs are formatted to read like books so instead of scrolling down for countless pages you can flip them like you would in an eBook. You can either tap on the margin to change the page or hold it down to enter “scrubbing” mode where the pages flip quickly. This reader also syncs with iTunes so all of your materials are readily accessible without having to upload them individually.

    A very competent iPad PDF docs reader without all the extraneous stuff, ReadPDF does exactly what it says it does.

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    Fast PDF can be downloaded from the iTunes store for $2.99, which isn’t bad for a PDF reading app. It claims to be the fastest PDF for the iOS but it didn’t seem to load pages discernibly faster than either GoodReader or GogoDocs. It does offer a nice interface for organizing your documents, quite similar to the iBooks system. It offers the ability to look at PDFs in either a one or two page view in landscape mode. This makes the document feel more like a small paperback book. With a simple pinch of the fingers the zoom is activated (alternatively you can double tap for the same effect). This reader also allows you to edit the file names directly in folder selection screen if this is something you care to do.

    For $2.99 I expected a bit more from this particular PDF reader. It doesn’t do more than some of the free readers and the speed difference is negligible – don’t fall for the marketing on this one. FastPDF is simply a standard reader in a fancy box.

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    If you use Google Docs then GogoDocs is likely to be your favorite PDF reader. iPad readers don’t generally sync well with Google Docs but this one offers both background syncing capability and a very fast viewer. The intuitive interface is designed with Google Docs users in mind as all of the controls are very similar if not exactly the same. This one is only $2.99.

    GogoDocs features automatic bookmarking, filtering and sharing so you can use your iPad to network with everyone in your Google Docs group. GogoDocs reads more than just PDFs and TXT files. It can also view audio and video files from MS Office and iWork as well as several other audio and movie formats. GogoDocs offers a landscape dual page viewing option similar to that of FastPDF.

    For a Google Docs fan this is the best choice of PDF reader.

    For More of PDF Readers iPad see page three.

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    Choosing a PDF Reader: iPad App Guides and Reviews: iAnnotatePage three of the Choosing a PDF Reader: iPad App Guides and Reviews including iAnnotate and Readdle.
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    ReaddleDocs is essentially the same as GoodReader and at the same price point, $4.99, doesn’t really stand out in any major way. It opens large iPad PDF docs, has a text search feature, is able to use multiple bookmarks, unpacks zipped files, has a brightness control, and is compatible with MobileMe, iDisk, Dropbox, GoogleDocs and several other online interfaces.

    Transfers are done via WiFi or USB just as in GoodReader. There is also an annotation mode and it is print compatible with AirPrint and other iPad printing apps. Really it’s the same as GoodReader with significantly less press and a less causal feel. If you like GoodReader but are looking for something slightly more professional this is the PDF reader for you.

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    iAnnotatePDF is the choice of executives around the world. At $9.99 this comparatively pricey app merges flawless functionality with a very polished feel. According to the iTunes iAnnotate page it can “open email documents, fill out forms, sign and send out contracts, enter notes for edits, sketch diagrams, copy text, and add highlights or underline with the drag of a finger!”

    The major difference that sets this PDF reader above the rest is that is completely integrates the annotation feature into the existing PDF instead of just writing over it. The complete annotation system allows text notes, drawing, underlining, highlighting, bookmarking, stamping and viewing of the edits without having to leave the document. The PDF reader allows switching between documents and the choice of a single continuous scroll or a paginated view. It also converts web pages, .DOC files and Powerpoint files to PDF format.

    iAnnotate has an easy transfer system that allows the sending and receiving of PDF files through email, internet programs like Dropbox and iTunes sync, or through a direct PDF link. There is also the ability to “flatten” a document to make any annotations (especially signatures) permanent fixtures on the document. The iAnnotate program was designed with AirPrint in mind and prints with ease.

    This might be the best available PDF reader, and iPad users have consistently put this in the top five eReader application downloads.

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    Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/FHKE