PDF In-Depth

PDF on the iPhone: The first swipe

Product reviews

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iPhone default, OS 3.1 by Apple

Verdict: Minimum baseline for PDF handling performance on the iPhone. If you want to charge money for a PDF viewing application, it better outperform the basic iPhone itself.

Price: Free with iPhone















Feature Rating Notes
Downloads PDFs to iPhone 1 View in Safari only
Swipe to turn pages 3 Duh. Momentum in the swipe is well handled
Maintain files/folders on iPhone 0 None attempted
Pan & zoom controls 2 1 level of tap-zoom/unzoom. No panning, no closeup
PDF Reflow 0 None attempted
Address right-to-left languages 0 None attempted
Use links 0 None attempted
Find text 0 None attempted
Manage display orientation 1 No controls provided
Use PDF bookmarks 0 None attempted
Goto page number 0 No way to navigate except by flipping
Copy text to clipboard 0 None attempted
Document Information 0 No access to PDF document information
Documentation 0 None provided

GoodReader 2.3, by Good iWare

Verdict: Excellent, full-featured PDF viewing plus on-phone storage, PDF reflow and other features.

Price: $4.99 USD (I paid $0.99 USD before October 1)

Feature Rating Notes
Downloads PDFs to iPhone 3 A variety of options are provided, but not Bluetooth or support for email attachments.
Swipe to turn pages 4 Vertical only, no horizontal option
Maintain files/folders on iPhone 5 Excellent, lots of options
Pan & zoom controls 4 Supports multiple zoom levels, panning "zones"
PDF Reflow 4 Uses PDF structure if available (yay!), otherwise it imputes a structure. This feature is great, and would get a 5 if the application supported tagged PDF)
Text search 4 Includes "next" and "previous" options
Flip search string 3 Intended to address right-to-left languages (clumsy)
Use links 5 Includes "show links" and "link priority" features
Search right-to-left languages 3 Works by "flipping" the search string. Clunky, but at least they are thinking about the problem.
Manage display orientation 5 Supports reading in any position
Use PDF bookmarks 5 Supports child bookmarks, uses existing or create new iPhone-specific bookmarks.
Goto page number 4 Standard numeric keypad, reports total page count
Copy text to clipboard 1 Copies a whole page of text while in reflow mode
Document Information 0 No access to PDF document information
Documentation 5 Excellent, text-based documentation, optimized for the iPhone (hint, hint) and just a click away from any document.

LOOK:SEE 2.0, by Kristof Kowalski

Verdict: Useless

Price: $0.99 USD

Feature Rating Notes
Downloads PDFs to iPhone 2 Bluetooth and WiFi, no web downloads
Swipe to turn pages 3 As iPhone default
Maintain files/folders on iPhone 1 File list only
Pan & zoom controls 0 None beyond iPhone defaults
PDF Reflow 0 None attempted
Search right-to-left languages 0 None attempted
Use links 0 None attempted
Find text 0 None attempted
Manage display orientation 1 None beyond iPhone defaults
Use PDF bookmarks 0 Allows addition of iPhone specific bookmarks
Goto page number 1 Offers standard keypad, does not report total pages
Copy text to clipboard 0 None attempted
Document Information 0 No access to PDF document information
Documentation 1 Documentation in PDF, but in US letter page-size only serves to highlight the lameness of the application's PDF handling.

PDF Expert 1.2.1, by Readdle

Verdict: This app offers a (clunky) solution for getting emailed PDFs into the viewer, but it's no PDF expert.

Price: $4.99 USD

Feature Rating Notes
Downloads PDFs to iPhone 3 WiFi only, no direct download from the web. "Readdle storage" (an online service) provided for access to pdfs in email.
Swipe to turn pages 1 Yes, but no "momentum", which seems to reduce efficient scrolling.
Maintain files/folders on iPhone 3 File list and folders on iPhone. Files may be stored on Readdle's server, new files may be added via email
Pan & zoom controls 1 Like iPhone, but no panning "momentum" when zoomed
PDF Reflow 0 None attempted
Address right-to-left languages 0 None attempted
Use links 0 None attempted
Find text 0 None attempted
Manage display orientation 3 Allows lock to portrait orientation
Use PDF bookmarks 2 One level only, allows iPhone-specific bookmarks
Goto page number 1 Offers standard keypad, does not report total pages
Copy text to clipboard 2 Provides vertical selection zone
Document Information 0 No access to PDF document information
Documentation 1 Documentation in PDF, but in US letter page-size
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