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How to Read PDF Files on Your iPhone or iPad

PDFs are something of a necessary evil. Sure, they’re a handy way to preserve any document in the style you intended, and can be read on virtually any device…but if your device doesn’t have a good built-in PDF reader, finding one can be a pain.

It’s no different on an iPhone or iPad. The default method to read PDF files on these devices is using iBooks, which was included as a preloaded app beginning with iOS 8. Sure, you can view PDFs in Safari, but you won’t have very many additional options. And while iBooks is sufficient and has some nice features, there are other apps that make reading PDFs downright luxurious, and these can all be downloaded from the App Store.

Use iBooks Instead of Safari for Basic Reading

When you open a PDF file in Safari, you can read it like other web content, but you also have the option to open it in iBooks, which will appear in the upper-right corner of the page. If you have other PDF readers installed, then you could tap “Open in…” instead.

Reading PDFs in iBooks provides three main features. First, you can adjust the brightness.

If you tap the magnifying glass icon, you can search for any word or page number.

Finally, if you want to mark your place in a document or save a particularly interesting location, you can tap the bookmark feature.

If you tap the icon with the three lines in the upper-left corner, you’ll see all the pages in the document including the ones you have bookmarked.

Here you see what we mean by this, note, if you wanted to see just the pages you’ve bookmarked, you could just tap the bookmark icon.

iBooks is great for basic PDF reading. It has enough rudimentary features to make it a lot better than Safari. Still, if you want something with more advanced features, such as text-to-speech or markup capabilities, then you will want to look to other options.

Use Foxit if You Like Features

One such option (and probably the best) is Foxit Reader, available in the App Store for free. Foxit is a full-featured PDF reader that puts iBooks to shame.

Aside from giving you the ability to change brightness and search for text, Foxit also has a wide range of view modes.

Best of all, many of these views can be used together. For example, in the following screenshot, we’ve enable night mode, crop mode, and shown the document as one continuous page.

One of the best features found in FoxIt, however, is the text-to-speech feature. Simply tap on the speaker icon, and FoxIt will read the document to you. This could go a long way towards helping you be more productive. Say for example you boss sends you a long document he or she wants you to go over. You could then just have Foxit read it to you in the car ride home.

You can also read pages as a single column rather than having to pinch to zoom, which is another killer feature. When you tap the button shown in the following screenshot, the entire document will zoom to a single column making it far easier to read.

Then, tap the options at the bottom of the viewer to enlarge or decrease the size of the text as well as advance to the next page or go back to the previous.

Finally, there’s markup mode, which will unveil a host of cool options, too many to list here, but for example, you can mark certain parts of a document, highlight passages, and add notes.

FoxIt offers additional in-app purchases, most notably the ability to add cloud drive support for some of the most popular services.

There’s much more to Foxit so we urge you to check it out if you’re looking for something chock full of features without charging you a nickel.

Create and Convert PDFs with Adobe Acrobat

Finally, there’s always the old familiar Adobe Acrobat, which is also available in the App Store for free, but doesn’t have nearly the same feature set as Foxit. That said, it does allow you to create PDFs, export them to other file formats, and convert photos to PDF, which is something you can’t do with iBooks or Foxit, unless you pay for the “Create PDF for iPhone” addon.

Acrobat provides the ability to bookmark pages, change the view mode, add text markup, search, and more. The markup features are good, but not as extensive as Foxit’s.

You can also open PDFs from the Adobe cloud or you can add your Dropbox account to open and save PDFs located there.

Acrobat is suitable for users who are looking for something between the feature-rich Foxit and iBooks. You can still add markup and bookmark locations but you won’t have the luxury of text-to-speech or the nice full-screen column view.

However you choose to read PDFs on your iPhone or iPad, whether it’s using Safari, iBooks, Foxit, or Acrobat, the fact is you have options, and in fact, there are even more readers available in the App Store for you to explore. So, if you’re not exactly thrilled with reading PDFs on your iPhone or iPad because of iBook’s limited features, do yourself a favor and check out Foxit Reader or Adobe Acrobat.

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