PDF is a hugely popular document format, because this file type is so universally supported. The iPad offers good support for PDFs, partly via some built-in apps and features, and partly due to a wealth of good 3rd party apps that focus on handling PDFs.
If you need to work with PDFs on your iPad, here are some of the best ways to get them onto your iPad, view them, and edit them.
Ways to Get PDF Documents onto the iPad
The mail app on the iPad will let you view a PDF attachment, and will also let you use the ‘Open In’ feature to open an attachment in any installed app that supports the format. So you can always email yourself a PDF from your desktop, or have a work colleague send you one via email when needed. Of course, this can become a tedious and impractical method when you need access to a large number of PDF documents at once.
One nicer solution for getting a number of PDF docs onto your iPad at once is to use File Sharing in iTunes. To do so, connect your iPad to your PC via its sync cable and go to the iTunes app on the PC. Look at the Devices section in the left-hand pane and click to select your iPad name underneath it. Then select the Apps tab at the top of the main window. Then scroll down the page a little and you’ll see the File Sharing section.
In the File Sharing section you’ll see a listing of installed iPad apps that can make use of this feature. You next need to select an app that handles PDFs. In my screenshot above I’ve selected PDF Expert, one of the leading apps for this purpose (more on this in a moment). Once you’ve selected an app you can use the ‘Add’ button and browse to select files to share to that app, and they will be shared to the iPad file system belonging to that app. Or you can just drag and drop files onto the document area on the right-hand side with your app selected.
Dropbox or Other File Sharing Services
The easiest way of all to share access to PDFs to the iPad is to use a good file sharing service like Dropbox. With Dropbox you get 2GB of data storage in the cloud and beautiful, effortless file sync and backup. Anything you want synced, you dump into the Dropbox folder on your PC and it does the rest. And of course Dropbox has a very nice iPad app, so anything PDF documents in your Dropbox folder are accessible within the iPad app.
In the Dropbox app you can view PDFs and you can use the ‘Open In’ feature to open them in an iPad editing app.
How To Get PDF Books into the iBooks App on the iPad
If you’ve got a PDF version of a book that you’d like to be able to read in the iBooks app on your iPad, you can simply add the book to your iTunes library on the PC and it will be available in the iBooks app once you have done a sync.
To add a book to the iTunes library you can use go to the File menu in the iTunes app and choose ‘Add to Library’ and then browse to select the file/files you want to add. Or you can just drag and drop files into the Library area of the iTunes app.
Once you’ve added files to the library and synced with the iPad, you’ll then see those PDF books in the Collections tab within the iBooks app.
A Couple Great Apps for Working with PDFs
Happily, there are a number of good iPad apps for viewing and editing PDFs. The two that are by far and away the best I’ve seen though are GoodReader for iPad and PDF Expert. Both offer a powerful set of features and very nice user interfaces for getting the most out of them.
GoodReader for iPad App Store link – Price: $4.99
PDF Expert for iPad App Store link – Price: $9.99
If any of you have suggestions for additional / better ways to work with PDFs on the iPad, please share them in the comments.