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Adobe PDF apps coming soon to an iPhone/iPad near you?

August 30, 2011

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Adobe has released a PDF creation app for iOS, and plans to launch a pre-release version of Adobe Reader for the iPad. What can users expect? Dan Shea comments on some early feedback and offers some speculation about the future of Adobe software on iOS.

After some 10 million downloads of its Reader app for Android, it looks like Adobe will finally taking the plunge and offer PDF software for iOS devices (e.g., iPhones and iPads). The software giant has just released a basic PDF creation app, and states that it will soon launch a pre-release version of Reader for the iPad. The creation app, CreatePDF, is already available from the App Store for about ten bucks US.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the initial results are mixed, if the early feedback from customers and bloggers is anything to go by. Actually, the word used by PDFforLawyers.com's Ernest Svenson was "lame". So why is everyone so disappointed?

We have been waiting a long time for some Adobe PDF software on iOS, and the wait has left a lot of folks with pretty high expectations. After all, Adobe has had ages to work on the tech, right? I suspect that some of the discontent is due to this anticipation, combined with the fact that there is now a collection (albeit a small one) of PDF creation apps that all beat Adobe to the iOS party. Some of these have been pretty well received, too, (I'm thinking of Save2PDF here).

CreatePDF boasts a clean, simple interface, but only has a light sprinkling of features and integration with other apps. Although it apparently talks quite happily to Dropbox, some users are missing CreatePDF's lack of integration with other apps. I assume that the list of supported apps is something that Adobe can and will increase in the future, but I suppose it's a little disappointing if the creation app backed by the biggest fish in the PDF pond doesn't have broader support. To be fair to Adobe, it is harder in the iOS space, because we don't yet have the de facto standards in terms of apps that we see on the desktop. For example, there isn't a single word processing that dominates the iOS space the way that Microsoft Word does on the desktop. That said, one alternative might be to integrate the app with AirPrint via a virtual printer. That would allow users to print to PDF from AirPrint-compatible apps at least. Another PDF creation app, Print to PDF, works in just this way, and Adobe already does something similar with the desktop versions of Acrobat.

The criticism that CreatePDF is light on features is, I think, a tad unfair. Adobe has not claimed that CreatePDF is "Acrobat for iOS" -- although I'm in favor of such a product. CreatePDF basically does what it says on the box: it creates PDF files. Some of the features requested (e.g., digital signature support, bookmarking, commenting) are wonderful and extremely useful, but are more at home in a viewer/editor than a creation utility. That said, I would love to see an iOS app that offered all of those features. Most of these are already available in separate apps, but it would be nice to see them all combined in one app. You know, kind of like a version of Acrobat for iOS (hint, hint).

I haven't yet seen the pre-release version of the iOS Reader, but I for one am curious to see what Adobe includes in it. The company controls access to most functions in the free Adobe Reader, but I wonder whether it will allow iOS users to, for example take advantage of Reader-enabling. Either way, I'll watch with interest to see how it turns out. Until then, I still have my copy of the excellent GoodReader.

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