Whether you realize it or not, many of the electronic brochures, invitations, newsletters, business letters and other documents that crop up on the Web and in your email appear in a format called PDF (Portable Document Format). There are good reasons why PDF is that ubiquitous. Whether it’s used on an iPad, a PC, or even a smartphone, PDF lets people see pages are they were originally created on someone else’s computer, right on down to the same fonts, spacing, and placement of logos, photos, and other graphics on the page.
First developed by Adobe decades ago, PDF got early use as a way of promoting better document sharing among Windows and Mac users who didn’t have the same software programs installed on their PCs. With the recent rise of mulitplatform mobile devices such as iPads from Apple and Android OS phones, PDF is more important than ever before today. The format is used for cross-device communications around everything from research reports packed with photos, to forms that need to be filled out, to legal documents requiring signatures. To let PDF work its full magic, though, you need to have the right PDF tools in place.
PDF tools are generally categorized by purpose As their name implies, PDF “readers” enable you to read PDF docs on your device. “Creators” allow you to either create files directly in PDF or convert other kinds of files into PDF. For their part, “annotators” let you “mark up” PDF docs. (You might mark up a doc by highlighting some text to remind yourself of a key idea, adding your own comments to a doc that’s being collaboratively shared with co-workers, or giving your stamp of approval to a proposal, for example.) “Hybrid” tools cross these lines, combining features from two or more of the other three categories.
Yet, the availability of PDF tools varies according to type of device, as does the quality of the tools. When it comes to iPads, some apps — such as iBooks and Quickoffice, for instance — already come with built-in capabilities for reading PDFs. Adobe also does produce an iOS version of Adobe Reader, widely regarded as the “definitive” reader software. However, Adobe does not offer an iOS edition of Acrobat, the “definitive” software for creating PDF files. On the other hand, a number of companies provide tools for converting docs from other apps into PDF — and Adobe has recently chimed in on the conversion space, too, with an app called CreatePDF for iOS.
Here (below) are some of the PDF tools — all downloadable from Apple’s iTunes App Store — which we’ve tested on the iPad. You’ll find apps in all four categories. Those marked “universal” are designed to work on both iPads and iPhones, although we’ve only evaluated the apps for use on iPads.
Some of these apps are free, and none are priced at more than $9.99. Yet as you’ll see from our descriptions and “bottom line” evaluations, we discovered some of these tools to be far more worth dowloading than others. On the whole, the “annotators” tended to be more impressive than the “creators,” for instance.
Read on to page 2 for a list of the best iOS PDF readers, annotators, creators.
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