iPhone Life magazine

PDF Reader News & Updates

This is an update to my previous all-in-one PDF iPhone / iPad reader roundup published HERE.

I haven't elaborated on some subjects in the original article. Let's take a closer look at them.

1.) JPEG2000 images embedded in PDF files with aren't supported – they simply aren't shown.

To quickly fix this issue, before transferring the file to your iOS device, just open it in OS X's Preview and select File / Save As.

An example of this showing the page of Building iPhone OS Accessories Devices by Apress with the missing images (click the images for the full-sized version of much better quality):



and after fixing the problem:



2.) except for BookShelf and readMe, all iPhone-compatible PDF readers support rendering the PDF books on the small screen of the phone without having to convert them into text, even iBooks. These PDF readers all seamlessly(!) support the retina screen of the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch 4G. This means crystal-crisp rendering. Nevertheless, don't expect for example double-paged rendering in GoodReader, unlike on the iPad – while the 1024-pixel wide 10” screen of the iPad is just sufficient, let the 3.5” screen of the fourth-generation small-screen devices, while it is 960 pixels wide, would result in letters of microscopic size.

3.) The following major changes have been made / major new versions have been released in the meantime:

a.) the most cost-effective reader, GoodReader, has received, among other things, full (!) annotation capabilities on both the iPhone and iPad with the 3.0.0 (on the iPhone, 3.0.1), just-released version. Note that, while GoodReader is still priced at $1, the developers mentioned they would raise the price to $3 because of the added functionality.

Annotation support is full in both versions: freehand drawing, ovals, lines, highlighting, textual notes etc. It even allows for standardized inserting / replacing. This is shown in the following screenshot (made on an iPod Touch 4G with a retina screen):




Of course, the annotations are saved to the PDF file and can also be synced back to the desktop or other apps. As with iAnnotate, you can zoom into a page

It has also received on-page text selection capabilities, which was also painfully missing from the 2.x versions. That is, you no longer need to switch to reflown text mode and, there, tap fourth icon at the bottom to copy entire(!) pages but do exactly the same to select (and copy) text as done in, say, Safari.

An example screenshot showing all this (in-text context mmenu with previously added freehand an other notes) on a Retina screen:



With all these changes, I can only recommend GoodReader, which should be the first application you check out. It's nice to see a full PDF reader / annotator app on iOS that only costs 1/30 of the price of a Windows Table PC-based PDF annotator application! Note that the application still can't search for a word in more than one PDF file and there still isn't a way to open more than one PDF file at the same time. In this regard, iRead PDF and iAnnotate PDF are still better.

b.) Speaking of the iPad-only iAnnotate, it has received the long-awaited folder support with the currently-released version 1.3. It even offers dragging-based(!) moving of PDF files into / between folders and folders inside other folders. To help organizing documents, it lets for displaying the contents of a folder in another split view. GoodReader doesn't support any of these functionalities – its folder support is considerably less intuitive than that of iAnnotate PDF.

An example screenshot of having made a folder inside another one and in the process of dragging a PDF file from the root folder into the one at the bottom of the folder hierarchy:



The application also received a lot of updates, mostly related to annotating (and not, say, generic presentation of PDF files, which is still UIWebView-based with all its drawbacks).

Unfortunately, it still is unable to search for consequent words, which has always been one of the biggest problems of the app. As with previous versions, iRead PDF (the free version not capable of annotating pages) is still lagging behind iAnnotate PDF; that is, it still hasn't received the above-explained new features.

All in all, while GoodReader should be the first PDF (and, in general, generic file) reader, you may also want to give a try to iAnnotate PDF if you need the unmatched capabilities (even more advanced annotation capabilities, very fast searching for a word in even more than one book etc.) I really hope the devs come out with a “lite” version only allowing for, say, keeping one or two PDF's on your iPad so that you can test its functionalities without having to fork out $10 for the app.

c.) the free(!) BookMan, which was one of the better titles even in the past, has also received a lot of welcome additions: rotation and cropping, support for document exchange in iPad, screen brightness setting, customizable tap zones, bookmarks, pretty nice thumbnails, history etc. An example screenshot of it showing double-page mode (in Landscape) along with the thumbnail and quick scrolling overlay:



While I still don't think you should prefer it to GoodReader (or even iBooks, if you can live with the missing functionalities of the latter), you might want to give it a try – after all, it's free.

d.) PDF Reader Pro 2.2 by YUYAO has received text searching, (for small and/or low-resolution screen) reflowing capabilities and VGA out. (Speaking of VGA out, I'll also introduce a new row in the chart discussing this as soon as my already-ordered VGA output cable arrives.) Text searching supports switching to both the previous and the next occurrence, with searching support for more than one word at a time. It, however, doesn't support for any kind of search history, in which GoodReader excels. An example of searching for a word (with displayed thumbnails on the left):



The built-in Web browser (also usable to download PDF files) has been greatly enhanced. Now, it supports multiple tabs (with on-screen tabs, which are available even on the small-screen iPhone / iPod touch – this is not very common with iPhone browsers) and even in-page text search:



However, the latter doesn't even support “Next” (let alone Previous), which means, should you want to have a better in-page search engine, you'll want to stick with either the built-in Safari Find in page support in the forthcoming iOS4.2 version or, even better, iCab Mobile, which will release previous/next support in the near future. (I've been using a developer beta of it for some 2-3 weeks and find it wonderful!)

Unfortunately, the app still doesn't support for example external links. Because of this (and its other disadvantages), I still don't think you should prefer it to GoodReader.
e.) Fast PDF 1.3(.1) received, most importantly, folder and iOS 4 fast restart support. Otherwise, the other enhancements are rather minor (and about the half of them are plain bugfixes). That is, I still don't think it's worth its (quite high, particularly when compared to GoodReader) price.

f.) Smileydocs 1.7 received some major updates; for example, external link support, (file-specific) margin cropping, annotation. With all these and taking the low price ($1) into account, it has become a decent reader; nevertheless, I think GoodReader is still a far better choice.

g.) ReaddleDocs has also received some goodies in 1.6(.1), e.g. (S)FTP and VGA output support and a better PDF engine, making it even better. (Nevertheless, I still prefer GoodReader to it: it's cheaper and is still more featureful.) Note that the Readdle folks have also introduced another, separate PDF reader in the meantime; it'll be the subject of the next bullet.

4.) the above-mentioned new Readdle title, PDF Expert (AppStore link http://itunes.apple.com/app/id393316844?mt=8 ) , seem to be an enhanced version of ReaddleDocs. Just like ReaddleDocs, it has a separate iPad and iPhone version, the latter somewhat less-featured than the iPad version (the current version still doesn't support annotations). Unfortunately, it's one of the very few applications / games that don't run under 4.2 beta 2 so I couldn't test it. I'll surely elaborate on it in my next update.

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Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.