Web to PDF for iPad

iOS includes decent support for viewing PDFs. However, unlike Mac OS it doesn’t provide the ability to create PDFs. Surprisingly you’re on your own to use 3rd party apps if you want to create PDFs. While I have great PDF Apps for my iPad like PDF Expert for viewing/managing/PDF forms and even Adobe’s own Create PDF for creating PDFs from various file formats, there was one glaring omission, the ability to create a PDF from a web page. Just the other day I wanted to send a colleague my travel itinerary that was on TripIt.com. TripIt allows you to share itineraries, but only if the person you’re sharing with creates an account/logs in to see it. In this case it wasn’t really necessary for this person to have a TripIt account. A simple PDF would have been fine. No luck from the TripIt App. Also no luck even from viewing the itinerary in Safari on my iPad. Ultimately I ended up emailing a screen shot from my iPad and I thought to myself, “there must be a better way.” I figured that there had to be either an App that looks like a printer to iOS, but makes PDFS (that would be ideal) or at least an App with a built-in web browser that you could use to get to the webpage you wanted to make the PDF from and then make it from within the App. The latter is what I found…

Web To PDF for iPad is exactly what I was looking for

The concept is simple. Web To PDF has a built-in web browser (many apps do). You navigate to the page you want to make the PDF from within the browser and then tap the Create PDF button and your PDF is generated within the App. You can even navigate to multiple sites/pages and continue to build a multipage PDF (nice plus). Once your PDF is built, you can email it directly from the App or use the Open In command to open it in your PDF app of choice. Of course unlike a screenshot, Web to PDF will grab all the pages of the webpage you’re viewing even if they scroll past the current view.

I’m stunned that iOS doesn’t do this natively. However, I’m happy to have found at least one App that does it.

Web to PDF for iPad iTunes

Web to PDF for iPhone iTunes


iAnnotate PDF


Over a year ago, I wrote about a product by Aji, LLC, iRead PDF. At the time, this sweet little free PDF reader, along with its sister product iAnnotate, were the only iPad apps that used tabbed viewing to navigate through open documents. Aji LLC understood early on the importance of using tabs instead of having you open/close documents to get from one to the other. Easier to use and the options of having more than one file open at a time was priceless, especially to my teaching workflow.

Shortly, after my iRead PDF review, I switched over to the full-featured iAnnotate PDF, because I realized that I also wanted to (pardon the pun) annotate my PDF files on my iPad. I’ve been happily using it ever since. iRead PDF has since been discontinued.

Timing is everything and in the past year, iAnnotate PDF has seen two major revisions that have made it an even more indispensable app to use. How important is this app to me? Well, it’s on the first page of my iPad and not in a folder.

Just this month, one of those major updates occurred. The entire UI was updated, so I had to discard the images that I was going to use for this article. But, I forgive them. :)

So, let’s take a look at some of the many features iAnnotate PDF has to offer. Let’s start with the feature that won me over, tabbed viewing. As many as eight tabs can be open at one time. The reason I say tabs and not documents is because any one of those tabs can be additional views of one document. This is great so that I don’t have to flip through a long document to get from one desired page to another.

The iAnnotate interface allows quick access to pages in the Navigation Panel by:

Document thumbnails

Document Table of Contents

Markup Annotations

Search Criteria

The Navigation Panel is accessed by a swipe to the small drawer pull at the left middle edge of the UI. Faster than the previous flow of clicking on a small icon the top left of the screen.

A multitude of Tools are accessed by swiping a small drawer pull at the right middle edge of the UI. You can add as many Tools or Toolbars as you like (double arrow icon at bottom of Toolbar) and show or hide them with just a swipe.

Previously, in a few cases, having many Tools on the screen would get in the way while working with the files, this new change takes all of that way.

The Tools used to display in full color, but now only colorize when they are selected. I didn’t think that I would like this. It feels too much like the Lion UI with its monotone look of the Sidebar, which I’m not a fan of. But, I found this pleasing with iAnnotate. They seem to have found the right balance of monotone/color to keep the focus on task.

When a Tool is selected, a tooltip panel also displays a description and other attributes of the selected Tool. Depending on what Tool you are using with text, you may even see a magnification glass display on the document.

In addition to marking up the document pages with features such as highlighting, bookmarks, stamps, lines, quick document navigation, shapes, callouts, text; you can delete pages or even add blank pages to the open PDF. You can add photos (existing or taken with the iPad camera) and audio clips. I hope creating or adding movie files are next. See the accompanying “All Tools” image to see other features not listed here.

An annotation like a signature created with the pencil tool can be turned into a custom stamp, directly within iAnnotate, to use over and over again. I can also connect my iPad to a projector and place iAnnotate in presentation mode to work in real-time during a training session.

In the Library Panel files can be sorted into appropriate folders and files filtered when searching for documents. The accompanying images will give you insight to some of the other features available while in the Library Panel.

Getting files into iAnnotate is relatively easy.

Web download



And Aji PDF Service

While I have used Dropbox and Web download for getting documents, I’ve exclusively used Aji PDF Service (a free app for your computer) for processing my PDF files into iAnnotate. Files I typically transfer to my iPad are book size and going through AjI PDF service processed them better and just seemed easier. But I understand that this service will be gradually phased out for a more direct sharing service in the future.

My only feature request is that text alignment in the notation tools be set to left justified and not center justified. Or at least give the options to set which alignment we prefer. Center justified is really awkward when entering multiple lines of text.

iAnnotate is a fantastic app to use for PDF use and annotation on all levels. I find it to be indispensable to my workflow and I’m sure, once you use it, yours too.

You can get iAnnotate PDF for $9.99 here from the iTunes


Adobe Reader for iOS is Here

Although iOS supports PDFs natively (just like Mac OS X) there are features in the PDF spec that aren't supported in iOS or may never be. One of the things that has made the Portable Document Format (PDF) a success is that with the Adobe Reader of Mac, Windows and other platforms you get to have a consistent experience no matter where you view them. Now that Adobe has officially released the Free Reader for iOS and Android, "rich" PDFs can now be shared across both desktop and mobile platforms with a consistent viewing experience once again!

Here's what the Adobe Reader lets you do:

View PDF files:

• Quickly open PDF files from e-mail, the Web or any application that supports “Open In…”

• View ePortfolio (PDF Portfolios), PDF Packages, annotations and drawing markups

• Read text annotations such as Sticky Notes

Access encrypted PDF files:

• Open and view password-protected PDF files

• Access files secured by Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management, which helps protect sensitive documents

• Supports the highest grade of PDF encryption, up to AES256

Interact with PDF files:

• Search text to find specific information

• Use bookmarks to jump directly to a section in your PDF file

• Select single page or continuous scroll modes

• Easily zoom in on text or images for a closer view

• Quickly navigate through large files using thumbnails

• Select and copy text from a PDF file to the clipboard

Print and Share files:

• Print wirelessly with AirPrint

• Share PDF files with other applications using “Open In…”

• Email PDF documents as attachments

Watch this video for a quick overview of the app. 

Get the Adobe Reader for iOS for FREE here from the iTunes

And, Adobe released Adobe Reader 10.1 for Android, offering many of the same great features for fast, high-quality interaction with PDF files on your Android smartphones and tablets.

What You Can Do with Adobe Reader 10.1 for iOS


How Does iBooks Stack Up for PDF Viewing?

One of the pleasant surprises of the iOS 4 launch was that Apple decided to build in Adobe PDF support into the iBooks App to provide PDF viewing outside of Mail attachments and without having to use a 3rd Party App. I had already pretty much settled in on ReaddleDocs and GoodReader as being the two BEST PDF viewers for the iPad, so I was curious to see how iBooks would stack up? After all iBooks is FREE and I do believe in having less Apps if one can do the work of two. Since iBooks is going to be there for viewing ePUBs and iBookstore downloads, why not use it for PDF viewing too if it will do the job?

Just the basics here folks

I wasn't expecting any miracles. However, I guess I was expecting a little more than what's there in this version. First off the PDF support in the iDevices (iPod touch, iPhone and iPad) is limited compared to what's possible in the PDF spec. For example, things like form fields in a PDF are ignored in the iOS itself. So I wasn't expecting to see anything that I hadn't seen before, but I guess I was expecting a few more bells and whistles. You can add PDFs to iBooks either via an iTunes sync or directly from other Apps like Mail. If you receive a PDF in Mail on your iDevice you can tap the "Open In" iBooks button. Visually Apple did a great job providing a thumbnail of the first page and putting it right on the bookshelf. However, once I view the PDF it seems that all you can do is "view it!" You can swipe to change pages. You can pinch to zoom in and out and you can bookmark pages. You can also do keyword searches (a must have for me) and it displays the page thumbnails at the bottom of the screen (nice touch). However, there is not much else. You can't share the PDF outside of iBooks once it's in there. There doesn't appear to be any way to select/highlight text for copying. All of these features and more are in the dedicated Apps like ReadleDocs and GoodReader


The Bottom Line

iBooks is FREE and therefore hard to knock! It does give you basic storing and viewing of PDFs outside of Mail. This is good because it means that you can keep all of your PDFs in one spot on your iDevice. If you need more than the basics, then I'm still going to recommend that you check out ReaddleDocs (my favorite choice) and GoodReader

You can get iBooks 1.1 as a FREE download here from the App Store: iBooks



ReaddleDocs gets it right for PDF viewing on the iPad

Although eBooks are great you give up a lot when it comes to formatting. That's why I think Adobe PDFs are a better alternative for content rich documents. The problem is that although the iPad and iPhone both support PDFs natively, they don't have a built-in dedicated PDF viewer. Sure you can view PDF email attachments and PDFs in Safari on the web, but what if you just want to load up a bunch of PDFs on your device and view them whenever you need to? That's where an App like ReaddleDocs comes in. Now of course ReaddleDocs is not the first App of this type I've reviewed and quite frankly I wasn't even sure that I wanted to take a look at yet another one. However, I'm glad I did because I'm very impressed by what I've seen so far. My goal is to have all of my reference manuals for my photography gear in PDF on my iPad. The beauty of this is that the equipment manufacturers already provide downloadable PDFs of their manuals online. So I have them already. Now it's just a matter of choosing the ultimate "Best App" for carrying them around and viewing them as needed. So the things that are important to me are ease and flexibility of getting the PDFs onto the iPad and into the App. I want to be able to do keyword searches. If the PDF has bookmarks (a table of contents), then I want to be able to pull it up and tap to goto a section that I want to read. Also since I help out other people from time to time, it would be great to be able to select text in the PDF and copy and paste it into an email to send to someone. 

ReaddleDocs does everything I want

I wouldn't even be reviewing this App if it didn't nail everything I want or at least 90% of it, so YES! ReaddleDocs does a great job matching features up against my requrements. First you can load PDFs into the App/iPad either via iTunes and a USB cable or via WiFi. Once the PDFs are on your iPad you can choose them from the list and view them. I really like how uncluttered the user interface (UI) is compared to other Apps in this category and I really like the scroll knob on the right side to quickly scroll through the pages. It's very unobtrusive. Yes, there is a search feature (a must have for me) and yes you can view the Bookmarks and tap to go to a chapter. You can even add your own bookmarks. So if there is a particular page that you are constantly going to you can bookmark it yourself to make it easy to jump to from here on out. Another cool feature that makes me love this App is that you can configure it with your email account info and it can pull in PDF email attachments that you've received. 

Turning pages – One thing about these apps that always throws me is that I expect be able to flip the pages left to right. However, they act more like your computer and you "scroll" or flick up and down. This is not necessarily a bad thing in the App, but it's just not the behavior my brain expects.

Other document support - Just like the iPad itself ReaddleDocs can view Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents as well as iWork documents. 

Video Support! – A nice surprise. When I connected to my iDisk, I saw a video there in the App so of course I tapped it. It seemed to download the video as it took a couple of minutes and there was a progress bar. The next thing you know my .MP4 was playing. Sure enough when I went back to the documents list I now have a "Movies" section with one movie in it. Speaking of which another feature I like is that you can enable a Password via the settings. This is great for people who are carrying sensitive documents around that they don't want just anyone who picks up their iPad to be able to view.

Although the App is GREAT and definitely serves the bulk of my needs I am slightly disappointed in a couple of areas. Copying text is possible, but it wasn't obvious to me. I had to ask the developer. Instead of tapping to bring up the selection function you actually choose "Copy to clipboard" from the Share menu first. Then it will display a selection rectangle for you to choose the area you want to copy. It works great, just not the UI I expected. The next thing that all of these 3rd Party Readers suffer from is that they don't quite offer "full" PDF support. In other words although PDF is an open standard, Apple doesn't fully implement all of its features on their devices or Mac OS X. So for example, if you have PDF with form fields and that PDF has data in those fields, that data will NOT show up on screen in ReaddleDocs. So I imagine that Readdle Docs is using the built-in PDF render engine, which has always lacked this function. Lastly, although you can grab PDFs from your email accounts (very cool), MS Exchange email support isn't offered. On the plus side: in addition to grabbing document attachments ReaddleDocs can also grab PDFs from your MobileMe iDisk, Dropbox, GoogleDocs and others as well as any WebDAV server.


The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a GREAT PDF viewer, this is it! Is it the best one? Hmmm, I'd have to say of the ones I've tried to date… YES! Why? Because I like the UI better than the others that are out there.


You can get ReaddleDocs for iPad here from the App Store. You can also get the iPhone/iPod touch version here.