Posts tagged with "pdf"

Quick Review: Remarks

Readdle is today launching their latest iPad productivity app, Remarks. In some ways it is similar to their existing products such as ReaddleDocs or PDF Expert because it features full PDF annotation capabilities, but it is distinctly different because it is the first of their apps to really push the idea of handwriting and note taking as a core function. We've reviewed many of Readdle's products before and by this stage it is clear to us that they make quality productivity software for iOS, so the real question I had when I downloaded this app was what exactly does it let you do and how might it fit into how I work.

What struck me almost instantly was that this app is clearly aimed at being a PDF creation tool, it isn't like ReaddleDocs or PDF Expert which are more focused as being document management and PDF annotation apps. Remarks may have those same annotation tools but it wants you to create PDF documents, whether it be a handwritten note, drawing or diagram that you want to send to a colleague or perhaps a study note.

In its current form, PDF annotation may be useful but it's a bit of a pain to get a PDF into Remarks, unlike PDF Expert and ReaddleDocs it doesn't (yet) have support for cloud services such as Dropbox or SugarSync. Fortunately, this will only be a short-lived annoyance, Readdle plans to have an update ready within two weeks that adds support for cloud services.

Once you do get a PDF into Remarks, you won't be disappointed - the same powerful annotation functionality that is in Readdle's other apps is also available in Remarks. So you'll get the tools to add text, draw shapes and write or draw in freehand on those PDFs, and as usual it is all editable in Preview on the Mac or any other PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat.

I think for me, this app will come in handy when I need to take down study notes that also require diagrams or illustrations. Things that I can't do in Evernote, which is very much a text focused note-taking app. In the past I have sketched them down in an exercise book and then for the most important ones I have subsequently drawn them up in Photoshop, OmniGraffle or OmniGraphSketcher, importing those into Evernote. Now I could just use Remarks to make an electronic copy of all my study notes, not just those that are in plain text. I'll probably still use Photoshop or one of the Omni apps for some of my diagrams that are super important so they are a little neater - but its no longer a requirement.

Before I wrap up, I just wanted to make a quick mention of using a stylus with the iPad. The app does recommend using one and I must admit using a stylus in the context of drawing diagrams and general notes does make a lot of sense - using my finger wasn't as effective as I had hoped and it soon got tiring. So I foresee myself picking up a stylus in the near future, to make sure I can take full advantage of what Remarks offers.

If you are just looking for an app to annotate PDF documents it might be a better idea to go for PDF Expert or ReaddleDocs. But if you want to do more freeform note-taking, drawing diagrams or creating your own simple PDFs, Remarks is the way to go. Remarks is available in the App Store for $4.99.

Smile’s PDFpen for iPad Is A Powerful 1.0 Version

Released last night on the App Store at $9.99, PDFpen for iPad brings Smile's popular PDF editing and annotating tool to iPad owners, sporting features that take advantage of the native functionalities offered by iOS 5, such as full iCloud integration.

I have played with PDFpen for a few hours, and I have to say I am impressed by the amount of polish and options that went into this first release. Whilst you obviously won't find all the tools and menus from apps like Readdle's PDF Expert in version 1.0 of PDFpen for iPad (PDF Expert reached version 3.2 yesterday), Smile's latest app shows a promising future because of features it already comes with, such as iCloud storage across iOS and OS X or native Dropbox and Evernote integration via APIs.

I'll start with the exporting options. Unlike several PDF management apps, PDFpen doesn't stop at offering a standard "Open In..." menu that simply forwards a local document to other installed iOS apps; the app does that, too( and quite cleverly I might add, as upon exporting PDFpen asks you if you want to save a "document" with annotations editable by other apps, or a flattened copy), but it also directly integrates with Dropbox, Evernote, iDisk, Google Docs, webDAV and FTP. If you choose to export PDFs to Dropbox or Evernote, PDFpen will let you log in and pick a destination folder -- personally, I'd recommend storing regular PDF docs in Dropbox, and those that you want to OCR in Evernote, as the service provides great search functionalities for this.

Sharing options can be accessed on a per-document basis from the upper toolbar's sharing menu; alternatively, you can select multiple documents from the main screen and share them online (or locally, through WiFi Transfer and iTunes Copy). Overall, also considering PDFpen's support for iCloud from day one, if you put strong emphasis on sharing options for your documents, I'd say you should strongly consider a PDFpen setup on your Mac and iOS devices.

When it comes to editing a PDF, as I said earlier PDFpen doesn't sport all the options of a popular competitor such as PDF Expert yet, but credit where credit's due -- Smile has been supporting PDFpen for years and I'm sure features will come over time. Plus, it's not like the app is underpowered in this first release -- PDF Expert simply offers more because it's been around longer. As with the Mac version, PDFpen lets you annotate documents with notes (which you can export separately), various shapes and arrows, images from the iPad's Camera Roll and your own text. Images can be freely moved and resized on screen, whilst text can be entered with the keyboard, or through direct touch input. As you can see from the screenshots, the app supports different types of highlights and colors, with a toolbar allowing you to modify colors and font sizes, among other things. Personally, I'd like the developers to reconsider the organization of the toolbar menus, as I've sometimes struggled to find a particular option because it was too buried inside a popover menu with multiple choices. Perhaps contextual menus or a taller toolbar could help in this regard.

Text can be manipulated, too, either through boxes you can move on screen, or by dragging your scribbles around. What's cool about PDFpen is that it lets you tweak the opacity/fill color/width parameters of any shape, as well as re-arrange any element in the back/front of other annotations on screen. And, obviously, if you need to digitally sign PDFs, PDFpen will let you do that as well by letting you save any annotation as a template you can reuse later.

PDF Expert's editing toolbar and popup menu (above) Vs. PDFpen (below).

You may be wondering -- how do PDFpen's annotations compare to the competition? Pretty well, I'd say, except for some issues with compatibility across apps that, I assume, could also be due to different implementation techniques between developers. Highlights, notes and colors work fairly well, with colors and text styles accessible from a bottom toolbar or popover menus. What I've noticed is that PDF Expert is much more intuitive in editing annotations and highlights thanks to an enhanced iOS popup menu, whereas PDFpen can feel a little clunky in relying exclusively on the popover metaphor. Moreover, PDF Expert generally accepts any kind of PDF edited from other applications you throw at it, while I had PDFpen not properly recognizing highlights and shapes from some third-party PDF apps. Both solutions, however, exported PDFs (editable or flattened) to Preview and Acrobat just fine. I would say that PDFpen offers smoother animations and transitions (the sidebar with thumbnail previews is a personal favorite of mine) with an overall simpler approach to controls and annotations tools, whereas PDF Expert is obviously more mature because of its longer development cycle. I can't comment on other apps, as PDF Expert is the only PDF editing app I've used regularly until today.

As far as my workflow is concerned, in spite of PDF Expert offering more features with an editing toolbar that I prefer, I think I'll stick with PDFpen, for a couple of reasons. First is iCloud support, which I regard as a must-have these days for people serious about keeping the same set of documents always in sync between devices. Second, I like the idea of getting used to the same group of apps on my Mac and iOS devices -- in case you don't know, PDFpen is available on the Mac as well and it's a really powerful app. PDF Expert doesn't offer a Mac client, but it's got an iPhone version; I, however, don't read or edit PDFs on my iPhone. Last, PDFpen's excellent export capabilities allow me to considerably streamline my iPad workflow when it comes to importing PDFs (from Dropbox, Papers, or PDF Converter), annotating them, and saving them for long-term storage either in Evernote or Dropbox. I've also recently bought a Doxie Go portable scanner from Amazon, and I can't wait to test PDFpen with the Camera Connection Kit and direct Evernote uploads alongside Doxie's software. This experiment will also prove how PDFpen can handle large libraries of files and how well the renaming/combining features can work when handling a lot of files.

At $9.99, PDFpen for iPad is a fantastic first version and I look forward to seeing what future updates will bring. Get the app here.

ReaddleDocs 3 Review: Powerful Document Viewer & File Manager For The iPad

ReaddleDocs 3, the latest version of the popular document viewer and file manager for the iPad was released a few days ago and it packs a bunch of new features and improvements. The app is a little odd in some ways, because at its core it is trying to recreate the file system on an iPad — something that Apple has tried its very best to stay away from with iOS. But in reality, if you've wanted to be productive on an iPad you're inevitably going to need some sort of file system, because whilst iCloud is beginning to help with document and app sync, it isn't all that helpful for syncing between apps.

As a result, I use a few other 'cloud' services to keep all my documents in sync and available everywhere. The primary one I use is SugarSync, but I also use Dropbox (primarily for collaboration) and occasionally Google Docs. This allows me to use any of the computers I have at home, where I will have all my documents ready and available - I can even edit them and see those edits synced across to the other computers where I could access that same file the next morning with all the edits included.

But how do I deal with documents on the iPad? It's been a bit of a complicated issue since the iPad was first released, and initially I was just emailing any documents I needed on my iPad to myself and then opening that email up on the iPad - but this was messy, complicated and required advanced 'knowledge' to send that file before you could see it on the iPad. Eventually I realised I had to find a better way to solve this, and that's where SugarSync and Dropbox come in. Both these services (and a multitude of others) slowly began to be supported by various apps for the iPad and iPhone, hooking straight into the services. This was a far better way to open files on the iPad - but the apps felt very rough around the edges.

In recent months I've been using iFiles on the iPad and iPhone, it's been pretty great and it was certainly the best app I had used to date for viewing documents from my Dropbox folder and SugarSync services. Then about a month after I started using iFiles, I came across PDF Expert. Primarily I was using it for PDF annotation, but I noticed it was also a pretty great file viewer, particularly because it would also integrate right into Dropbox and SugarSync. So over the past few months I've been using PDF Expert for most of my document viewing needs and occasionally opening iFiles.

When looking at it simply, PDF Expert and ReaddleDocs 3 are nearly identical — they share very similar user interfaces and are close in functionality too. Where they differentiate is mainly in price (PDF Expert is nearly twice as much) and in annotation abilities (it is far better in PDF Expert). So before I go into too much detail, if you want to do a lot of PDF annotation on the iPad, PDF Expert is what you should purchase (even if you want to use it as a document viewer, because it is also good at that). In all other cases my recommendation is for ReaddleDocs 3, particularly if you want to do some file management - it is virtually identical and also has some annotation capabilities.

Jump the break to continue reading my review of ReaddleDocs 3.

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Adobe Releases Adobe Reader for iOS

Adobe today released its popular Adobe Reader PDF reading application for iOS devices; the software, available for free on the App Store, runs natively on the iPhone and iPad as a universal app. Back in August, Adobe released CreatePDF for iOS, a utility to turn a variety of documents into Reader-compatible PDF files that preserved quality and accessibility standards with the inclusion of links, images, and footnotes. With the release of Adobe Reader today, Adobe is giving iOS users two tools to create and properly read PDF documents, respectively.

Adobe says that Reader for iOS works with several PDF document types, including PDF Portfolios, password-protected PDF documents and Adobe LiveCycle rights-managed PDF files. Upon first launch, the app opens a document view with a Getting Started.pdf file ready to be viewed to get familiar with the app's UI and controls. A scrubber bar along the bottom lets you quickly skim through pages, which can be displayed "continuously" in the reading view, or through a single-page visualization that will let you scroll horizontally between pages. You can pinch or double-tap to zoom, and rendering performances on zoomed documents seemed fairly decent on my iPhone 4. In PDF documents, text can be selected and copied to the clipboard, or you can search using the icon in the upper toolbar; a bookmarks icon in the bottom bar enables you to quickly navigate the sections of a document. One nice touch of Adobe Reader are "tap zones", which in Single Page mode let you jump back and forward by tapping on the left and right edges of a document.

PDF files can be emailed using Adobe Reader, opened with another app using the "Open In" menu, or printed through Apple's AirPrint. According to Adobe, Reader for iOS is capable of viewing PDF Portfolios, PDF Packages, annotations and drawing markups as well as reading text annotations like sticky notes. In my tests, performances with a 350-page PDF document were similar to Apple's iBooks, which can also preview PDFs. iBooks was slightly faster at page animations and rendering text while zooming on a document -- the app has indeed been recently updated with bug fixes and performance improvements.

If you need to preview specific PDF documents that might have some compatibility issues with iBooks, Adobe Reader on iOS might be a good choice. You can download the app for free on the App Store.

Automatically Saving PDFs (And Clipboard) to Evernote Using Keyboard Maestro

Automatically Saving PDFs (And Clipboard) to Evernote Using Keyboard Maestro

Over the weekend, I posted my initial impressions on Keyboard Maestro, a fantastic assistant for your Mac that will help making your OS X workflow faster, and personalized. Today Brett Kelly at Nerd Gap shares a tip to automate the process of virtually printing a PDF from to Evernote:

Clicking this menu option will render whatever the current thing is as a PDF and shove it into Evernote. This Keyboard Maestro recipe automates the following steps that make up this process:

- Click “File” then “Print” in the current application menu

- Click the “PDF” button at the bottom left of the Print dialog

- Type “Save PDF to Evernote” to select the appropriate option (this is the only way I could do this with some certainty that it would work, though there were other options)

- Type Return

The Keyboard Maestro macro above works with any Mac app that supports the Print... menu, although, for some reason, Google Chrome Canary returns an error at the "Click PDF button" action. Safari, Mail, Sparrow -- they can all print to Evernote using Keyboard Maestro.

Alternatively, if you don't want to save PDFs to Evernote, you can set up this macro to quickly create a new note using Evernote's helper (the menubar icon), paste without style, and close the window. It'll take less than a second to perform through Keyboard Maestro, and it's a nice way to quickly get your latest clipboard entry onto Evernote as plain text.

You'll need to set title and tags later, as this only pastes the clipboard in the note's body.


PDF Expert 3.0: Redesigned UI, Page Manager

PDF Expert by Readdle is my favorite app to collect, read, and annotate PDF documents on the iPad, and thanks to a series of updates in the past months it's also become a solid alternative to iBooks on the iPhone, not to mention support for signatures and text notes. With the major 3.0 update released today, free for existing iPad customers, Readdle has completely revamped the user interface of PDF Expert, adding a new toolbar for annotations, notes, drawing shapes on screen and highlighters, as well as a "page manager" to act on single pages within a document, copy them, export them, and move them with drag & drop.

The new toolbar in PDF Expert for iPad is easily dismissible with a tap on the "x" button, so you won't have to look at it all the time while you're reading a document. Similarly, a single tap on the edit icon in the upper toolbar (the one that contains navigation buttons, the new Recents menu, search, bookmarks, and sharing options) will display the annotation toolbar again. You can manually highlight text or use the automated tools for highlights, underlines and strikethroughs; you can add shapes, notes, your signatures, and choose from a variety of free-hand highlighters with different colors. Changes can be reverted at any time, and I haven't noticed any visible slowdown when navigating annotated documents with hundreds of pages.

The new toolbar is clean and unobtrusive, but it gets better with the new Page Manager. With a tap on the pages button, you can switch to a bird's eye view of all your document's pages with live previews (that is, thumbnails include annotations and highlights). You can add a blank page between existing pages, select one and move it around -- even select multiple ones, rearrange them, rotate them, email them, and extract them as a new document in PDF Expert's main section. Live previews update fast on the iPad 2, and the "extract" function is undoubtedly useful if you need to focus on specific pages of a document.

PDF Expert 3.0 is a great update that improves both design and usability, whilst adding some other "little gems" you can check out in the app's built-in update guide. PDF Expert for iPad is available at $9.99 on the App Store. Read more

Adobe Releases CreatePDF for iOS

Earlier today Adobe added another application to its iOS portfolio with the release of CreatePDF for iOS, a $9.99 universal app aimed at letting users easily create PDFs on their iPhones or iPads. According to Adobe, "CreatePDF brings the same high-quality PDF creation as Adobe Acrobat" to iOS devices, with PDF documents that look "exactly" like the original files they were generated from; the app uses Adobe’s online services for performance and quality, creating PDFs that preserve quality and accessibility standards with the inclusion of links, images, footnotes, and more.

The app supports the following formats:

  • MS Word (docx, doc), Excel(xlsx, xls), PowerPoint (pptx, ppt)
  • Adobe Illustrator (ai), Photoshop (psd) and InDesign (indd)
  • Images – JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF
  • RTF, Text and WordPerfect
  • OpenOffice and StarOffice documents

CreatePDF works through iOS's default "Open In..." menu, which allows third party apps to communicate with each other by sending documents to other applications that support specific file types, such as PDF, .doc, or plain text. For instance, the feature was recently introduced in the Omni Group's OmniOutliner, letting the app export outlines as plain text or OPML to other iOS software installed on device. CreatePDF registers as an app capable of opening (and converting) the file types listed above, and in my first tests it's proven to be a fast and reliable solution to convert plain text documents, images and PSDs to the PDF format. From any app that supports sending files, you can choose CreatePDF from the "Open In..." menu, and wait for the app to finish the conversion process to PDF. For reference, the app took a few minutes to convert a 12 MB PSD to PDF, with good results. Similarly, a .docx document forwarded to me via email and sent from the iPad's Mail app to CreatePDF took less than 30 seconds to become a PDF.

CreatePDF looks like a solid solution to convert files to PDFs, although I wouldn't mind having more sharing options inside the app itself. Currently, CreatePDF can only "open in" other apps, send via email, or print. It'd be nice to have, say, direct Dropbox integration or more online exporting options in the future. The $9.99 price tag might be a little steep for the average iOS users, but quality of converted documents looked superior to me than other apps I tried in the past, and support for Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign documents is also very welcome.

You can get CreatePDF at $9.99 on the App Store. Read more

Apple Releases iOS 4.3.4 [Direct Links]

Apple has just released iOS 4.3.4 in iTunes. The new firmware should be available now if you check for updates, and it is supposed to fix an issue that allows jailbreaking an iOS 4.3.3 device through a PDF vulnerability. Apple describes the technical fixes in a  support document:

Impact: Viewing a maliciously crafted PDF file may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution

Description: A buffer overflow exists in FreeType's handling of TrueType fonts. Viewing a maliciously crafted PDF file may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution.

Users who have jailbroken their devices using JailbreakMe will obviously need to stay away from the update if they want to keep Cydia and other installed jailbreak tweaks -- Apple had already confirmed a fix was coming to patch the PDF security hole that could allow for other malicious exploits, not necessarily related to jailbreak.

Here are the direct links for iOS 4.3.4:

Apple has also released iOS 4.2.9 for the Verizon iPhone, which you can download here.

PDF Converter for iPad Creates New PDFs Off Webpages, Contacts, Docs, More

iOS comes with a fast and elegant built-in PDF viewer (in fact, the latest JailbreakMe 3.0 is largely based upon a security hole in the PDF display engine), but unlike Mac OS X the options to convert documents into new PDF files are limited. PDF Converter, a new app by Readdle (the makers of PDF Expert and Terra web browser, among others), aims at providing an easy to use yet powerful solution to turn almost anything on your iPad (webpages, documents, clipboard contents, even photos) into new PDF documents to save locally or send to an external physical or virtual printer.

Released earlier today at $6.99 on the App Store, PDF Converter runs as an iPad-only application for now. The interface resembles Readdle's previous works for the iPhone and iPad -- namely ReaddleDocs and PDF Expert -- with a narrow sidebar on the left side of the screen allowing to switch between the different types of content you can convert to PDF. The app supports PDF creation off clipboard contents, Address Book contacts, photos, webpages and just about any document that can be sent to third-party apps using iOS' native "Open In" menu. By opening a document into PDF Converter, in fact, the app will take care of turning it into a properly formatted PDF document that keeps pagination and line breaks (as well as layout and graphics) intact, while making the doc's text entirely selectable as you would expect from a PDF. Unlike ReaddleDocs and PDF Expert the app doesn't come with direct iDisk and Dropbox access, but the developers recommend you use the "Open In" menu in those apps if you wish to get documents into PDF Converter.

In my tests, I've found PDF Converter to perform reliably with a variety of content and clipboard contents sent from iOS apps to Readdle's utility. The built-in Address Book integration will allow you to print out contacts in a simple plain-text layout with all available fields (email, phone, address), but more importantly full clipboard integration means you'll be able to, say, copy a web address from Safari into your system's clipboard, launch PDF Converter and have the webpage you just visited available as a PDF you can print, email, or open into another app (you can't rename PDF files in the current version of the app, but Readdle says that's coming with an update soon). Furthermore, the developers have enabled a unique URI shortcut system for PDF Converter that will let you send a webpage from Safari to the app by simply adding "pdf" (without quotes) before the http:// string of a webpage, in the address bar. Change a URL to "pdfhttp://", wait a few seconds, and the webpage will become a new document in PDF Converter. I tried this by saving MacStories' and Brooks Review's homepages as new docs in PDF Converter, and then I sent them off to a virtual printer on my Mac using the amazing Printopia desktop printing tool. Not only did the PDF transfer just fine, unlike other solutions to generate PDFs off webpages, PDF Converter's engine kept the layout of both sites exactly the way I'm used to see it in Safari. For offline reading and webpage archiving (perhaps paired with Evernote on the Mac, or other apps like Yojimbo and DEVONthink), this is very useful.

At $6.99, with PDF Converter you get a powerful tool to create new PDFs on your iPad, and share them with other apps that support document interaction with iOS' built-in features. The price may be a little steep and the app definitely isn't for everyone -- it's a rather niche software that, however, addresses a common complaint with elegance, and good interoperability with Readdle's other PDF app, PDF Expert. Read more