If you're using the iPad in your law practice, you have probably already used it to store, read, and otherwise work on PDF files. Those PDF files might be caselaw, briefs or memos, or some other legal document - but they are the most ubiquitous document format, so having an app that can handle them appropriately is absolutely essential. In this post, I'm featuring a face-off between two of my favorite apps - GoodReader and PDF Expert. I'll cover the basics, and then weigh in with my vote on the best PDF reader of the two.
GoodReader ($4.99) is the de facto reader for just about any file you would have on your iPad, and it works especially well with PDF files. One of the things I like best about GoodReader is that you can access documents from a multitude of sources - Dropbox, MobileMe (soon to be iCloud), box.net, SugarSync, Google Docs, mail servers, FTP connections, and a couple of other options. I was able to download the document below from my Dropbox directly from GoodReader, and start working on it right away.
The formatting toolbar offers a ton of options - I can enter text directly on the page, add comments, highlight, underline, or strikeout text, and draw a number of shapes - lines, arrows, circles, and boxes.
Moving from page to page is effortless, and I can zoom in and view the text that I can't read (or I can turn it to portrait style and easily read the full page. In addition, you can view the document as single or double pages, crop the document to get rid of big margins, and even search documents that have been OCR'd.
Once you're done working with the document, you can flatten your annotations, email the file, or print it to an AirPrint-enabled printer. But you can also go back to the File Manager and GoodReader and upload the file directly to the location from which you downloaded it - in my case, I uploaded it directly to the same folder in Dropbox, where it replaced the original file and I could view all of my annotations on my other computers.
PDF Expert ($9.99) is a bit more expensive, but is still a terrific app. Earlier versions of the app did not allow access to typical cloud storage sites like Dropbox, but now you can connect your PDF Expert to MobileMe, Dropbox, Sugar Sync, Google Docs, as well as FTP, SFTP, and other WebDAV servers. PDF Expert also provides 512MB of free storage in its own Readdle Storage (my only caution here is that I don't know whether Readdle Storage connects with other apps, or it just provides storage for Readdle-developed apps like PDF Expert).
PDF Expert has the usual annotation features - comments, notes highlighting, strikeouts, etc. - actually, GoodReader may have better annotation features when it comes to the basics. But PDF Expert easily beats GoodReader with these great features:
- The ability to complete fillable PDF forms
- Add stamps, including "Approved," "Draft," "Confidential," "Void" - or you can create your own custom stamp
- Like SignMyPad, PDF Expert will allow you to sign documents. The app can save your signature for future documents, or will accept a client or other signature on a one-off basis.
After you're done with your document, you can also upload the revised file to your Dropbox or other cloud storage service.
Now that I have to name a winner for this faceoff, I find myself conflicted. I think that PDF Expert provides some key features that GoodReader doesn't provide (yet) - fillable forms, signatures, and stamps, among others. But GoodReader's basic annotation features are better than PDF Expert. Although I know this faceoff is for PDF Readers, but the fact that GoodReader can read other types of documents has to give it an advantage, especially when you consider that you're paying only $4.99 for GoodReader, versus $9.99 for PDF Expert.
So I guess if you have to choose one app, I say go with GoodReader. But I plan on keeping both of them, so I can use PDF Expert for those times when I need to fill forms or sign documents - unless GoodReader catches up and adds that functionality, too, I guess.
Follow Up: I was contacted by Irene at Readdle, the company that makes PDF Expert. She told me that there were a couple of things in my review that were not correct:
"From the very first version of PDF Expert for iPad it does allow people to connect to Dropbox, iDisk, Google Docs, Sugar sync and more cloud storages."
I stand corrected. Not having used PDF Expert from the start, I took my information from AppAdvice's PDF Reader AppGuide, which stated that "To begin getting a PDF into the app you can either use the “open in” iOS feature or you can grab files from a computer." This implied to me that cloud storage options were not available, at least at the time that particular AppGuide was written. Thanks for the clarification!
"PDF Expert does read almost all document types like: iWork, MS Office, Power Point, text files, images, even music and video files, etc. Seems enough big set of supported files :)"
That's great to know - unfortunately, none of your materials tell us that. There's a "PDF Expert Guide" that comes with the app, but it doesn't mention any supported file format but PDF. Even the PDF Expert Product Page doesn't mention it. And then there's the name of the app itself - PDF Expert - which sort of leads you to believe that it's a PDF-only tool. But I'm glad to know it has this functionality!
I hear from Twitter that Readdle is adding hundreds of new features in its next update - I'm looking forward to seeing them.