- Editor's Rating
GoodReader is intended to be a Swiss Army Knife document reader for the iPad, able to display almost any file format at will. Does GoodReader deliver on the promises, or is it just a Meh-Reader. We break it down in this review.
This app is designed to read, show, and/or view just about any file you might want to access on your iPad, including PDF, text, Microsoft Office/iWork, audio, and video. You can transfer files directly from your computer via Wi-Fi or cable, or connect to any of several popular online document storage services.
GoodReader is currently available for the special introductory price of 99 cents in the App store.
There are three main ways to get started with GoodReader. The first, and arguably the simplest, is to use the file-sharing feature in iTunes. When you connect your iPad to your computer and then click on the Apps tab in iTunes, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see a list of apps that can accept file transfers from your computer. Click on the Add button and choose the files you want to transfer; everything you choose will appear on your iPad after the next sync.
The second option is to use Wi-Fi transfer to wirelessly send documents from your desktop computer. A set of detailed, fully illustrated instructions is available at the GoodReader web site, but in essence it boils down to starting the Wi-Fi transfer service on your iPad and then typing the IP address shown in a new browser window. This is handy if you need to quickly grab one or two documents, but isn’t too efficient if you want to transfer a lot of files. You can also map the iPad as a network folder if you like, which is better for bulk uploads and gives you some additional features, such as renaming files.
The final method is used if you need something more advanced, or if you are regularly on the road and don’t always have access to your home computer. You’ll want to set up an online file service such as Box.net or Dropbox, or use Google Docs if you already have a Google account and are using it for file storage. Once you set up one or more of those online accounts, you can choose the Connect to Servers option in GoodReader and tap the Add button to choose the particular service you want to use and then put in your login information. Once you do that, you can download any files you may want to use directly to your iPad, and of course you can access them anywhere you have an internet connection.
Features and Controls
There are two main portions of GoodReader: My Documents, and the actual viewing window. The My Documents screen is divided into two halves. The left side shows a listing of all the documents you currently have, while the right side shows all of your available options. You can preview, find and manage files, track web downloads, and connect to servers such as Box.Net and Google Docs.
The document listing has icons to help you quickly determine what kind of files you have, in addition to offering file sizes and dates. For files downloaded directly from your computer via iTunes file-sharing, the dates are the creation dates; for files obtained from a web service, the date is the date that you downloaded the file.
The preview function is off by default, but a single tap will activate it so that you can see a thumbnail view of each file as you tap on the file name. The find function is useful if you have a great number of documents; normally there is room for 14 file names in portrait view or 11 in landscape.
The file management function is quite comprehensive and includes just about anything you might need, from copying and pasting files to zipping them up and emailing them to friends and business associates. Files can be marked read or unread, and you can star the most important. You can also choose to open particular files in other compatible apps you have installed, such as opening a Microsoft Word document in the Pages iPad app.
Web Downloads can be used in two ways; if you have a direct URL for a file hosted by a particular site, you can type in the URL to download it to your iPad. You can even browse the web from within GoodReader if you like, since there’s an integrated browser function. You will also find a quick reference listing of files you’ve downloaded in the past, which is very handy if you delete something and then find that you need it again later. Instead of connecting to the download service, looking for the file, etc. you just tap the blue button next to the file name and download it again.
The Connect to Servers function does exactly that — you can add accounts for each of the services you use, from MobileMe to Google Docs, Dropbox, Box,net, FilesAnywhere, and others. The process is simple and straightforward — just enter your login information and you’re ready to go. You can choose to have GoodReader remember your login credentials if you like, but it isn’t required. You can also connect directly with an email server, optionally showing either all messages or just those with attachments, which can be a real lifesaver when you’re on the road.
The icon bar at the bottom is for Local Servers; you can use it to add photos from the Photos app to GoodReader, start the Wi-Fi transfer process from your computer, access the comprehensive program settings and help files, and lock the screen orientation if you like. It’s a nice touch, because depending on the type of case you’re using, it can be difficult to use the actual screen orientation lock switch on the side of the device.
Within the actual viewing window, the controls and features are easy to find and use. You advance the page by tapping in the middle of the screen; at the top to go back and at the bottom to go forward. The progress bar at the left of the screen allows you to move quickly back and forth through large documents.
On the bottom you’ll find an icon bar for all the controls. The half-moon turns down the contrast for more comfortable viewing in low-light environments, and the arrow starts the autoscroll feature for hands-free reading. There’s a find feature for text files, in addition to bookmarks and a “go to page” feature for PDFs. The screen orientation lock button is available here, as well as a horizontal scroll lock. Standard controls work too, so that you can use the handy pinch-zoom feature to get a closer look at the action when viewing PDFs and photos.
Performance and Ease of Use
GoodReader is most definitely fast! Even when I tried it out with test files such as PDFs over 7 MB in size, there wasn’t the slightest hiccup. It worked great with zip files downloaded from Box.net as well, asking if I wanted to unzip the file and then putting everything into a folder for me. The PDF reflow feature is great, allowing me to extract the text from image-laden PDF files for much faster reading.
Video and audio playback was a real surprise. I had no problem watching the trailer video for LittleBigPlanet 2 that I transferred over from my computer via Wi-Fi, not iTunes. I was also able to listen to an MP3 file that had been emailed to me as an attachment. When I tried that in the Mail app, it wouldn’t work, but a simple tap-hold allowed me to open up the attached song in GoodReader.
Aside from a slightly difficult initial setup process with either a local Wi-Fi connection or logging into online file storage accounts, GoodReader is very easy to use. All of the buttons and controls are laid out clearly, though it may take a little trial and error to figure everything out. Everything is pretty much self-explanatory — if you’re smart enough to use an iPad, you’re smart enough to figure out this app.
In every way, GoodReader is solid and dependable. I wasn’t able to get it to crash, and when you combine that with blazing fast speed you can see why I can give GoodReader an excellent recommendation.
At an introductory price of just 99 cents, it would be very hard to argue that GoodReader isn’t a great value. It can handle just about any sort of file you throw at it, from PDF and text files to images, videos, and Microsoft Office documents.
You can’t edit anything of course, aside from basic text files, but sometimes all you need is a good viewer — like when you’re in a potential client’s office and you need to access the latest price list without shuffling through your briefcase for ten minutes looking for the file.
The zip feature alone is worth the price of admission — being able to quickly zip up several different documents and photos and email them instantly can be “priceless” depending on the situation, and certainly makes up for one of the largest shortcomings of the built-in Mail app on the iPad.
If you want to use it on your iPhone or iPod Touch as well, you’ll have to purchase another version for another 99 cents. A small annoyance perhaps, but GoodReader is certainly worth the price.
GoodReader is one of those apps that you just need to have on your iPad — cheap, versatile, and you never know when you’re really going to need it. It would definitely be a must-have even at $5 or $10, so at under a dollar it’s a complete no-brainer. Get it now, and it will be waiting for you when you need it — which will probably be even sooner than you think.