Summary

PDF Expert for iPhone is a great app, and for today is free. Get it.

tl;dr

I’m a big fan of the iOS development company Readdle because I use their apps constantly in my personal and work life. Their apps are beautiful, consistently updated, and insanely good. I’ve also bought other company’s competing apps but due to various problems, I stick with Readdle and both PDF Expert and Scanner Pro are have long-standing positions on my home screen.

I have used PDF Expert on my iPhone and iPad to study for boards, read journal articles, and complete applications for medical licensure, hospital privileges, condo rental, and private school for my son.

Today, in honor of Black Friday, they’ve dramatically cut the prices on their apps, including making PDF Expert for the iPhone free. Personally, I just bought PDF Converter.1

There is way too much to talk about with regards to how great some of their apps are, and I have several blog posts planned to discuss how I use some of their apps in my workflow, but I do want to share one small aspect of PDF Expert that demonstrates the attention to detail in these apps.

I read a lot of science articles that are in 2 column PDF format. On the iPhone, and even the iPad sometimes, the screen is too small to read more than a single column at a time. A lot of PDF readers screw up the scrolling when going from the end of one page to the beginning of the next. Most of the time, when you are zoomed in on the bottom right corner of the page, when you scroll to the next page, you are either looking at the top right corner of the next page (if scrolling to the next page vertically), or the bottom left (if scrolling horizontally). PDF Expert gets it right by going right to the next text you’ll be wanting to read at the top left of the page in either vertical or horizontal scrolling.

This is better understood with a picture:

Two other top apps for reading PDFs in my field are Papers and PDFpen both of which have versions for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Papers scrolls horizontally and goes to the bottom right of the next page–area 6 in the above image. While it is the top app for scientific article management, and I highly recommend using it, I don’t recommend using it for reading PDFs.

PDFpen’s behavior changes based if you’ve ever been on the page you’re scrolling to before. If you’ve never been there, it actually zooms out to look at the whole page. If you have been to that page before, it goes back to whatever zoom at whatever location you were at before. This inconsistent behavior is annoying. I would like it if it just zoomed to the whole page view and this was a preference you could toggle, but as it is, like most of the implementations of PDFpen, I find it unusable.2

So, if you need to read PDFs and even edit them, including signing documents and mailing them back, go get PDF Expert today.

  1. I would have bought it before today, but didn’t know it existed. Only a few months ago I was looking for exactly this kind of app and couldn’t find one I liked. 

  2. I do actually own over $100 worth of PDFpen software and use both it and other software by Smile every day, but the PDF viewing/editing software has never meshed well for me.