The iPad and PDFs — conclusions for now

Several comments have asked for my recommendations. After two days of tinkering, here is what you should do if you’d like to use your iPad to read and annotate PDFs.

* get the “iAnnotate”: app. Its UI needs a lot of work, downloading and uploading are clumsy, but it does a fine job of letting you read PDFs and annotate them, and those annotations are usable back on your Mac/PC.
* install the “iAnnotate PDF service”: on your Mac or PC. This is a lightweight server that passes PDFs back and forth between your desktop and the iPad. Just point it at the directory where you have your PDFs on your desktop.
* on the iPad now in the iAnnotate app, you can connect to the desktop machine and download PDFs. Unfortunately one at a time. Please Ajidev, add batch transfer capability. UPDATE…hmm batch transfer seems to be happening now. Something I did wrong? Updated app? Either way, awesome.
* Annotate away on the PDF. Personally I use the highlight tool to mark a section, then select the highlight and add a note.
* When done annotating, upload the annotated version back to your PC. This is where the UI really blows. With the doc open in iAnnotate, hold your finger on the doc name in the upper left for a while. You will get no visual feedback. Lift your finger and a properties dialog will appear with an upload option. Upload away.
* Back on your mac/pc, your annotated doc will be in your pdf directory with the words “annotated” appended to the name.

This isn’t bad. It is all very functional. I’ve done 15 papers already and it is becoming natural. How can it be better?

* Integration with Web of Science or other paper sources. The Papers app on the iPad promises to let you download papers directly from WEb of Science and others (tho I can’t make it work with the UW ezproxy settings). This would be very nice.
* Integration with endnote??? I don’t know about this. I use Endnote Web within Web of Science and that works fine, I don’t know what else I need.
* Integration with Pages. Would be awesome to be able to slurp annotations and citations into the Pages app.
* Integration with Papers on the Mac? Don’t know, I’ve just installed Papers, and while I like its organization features, the lack of annotation capabilities makes me wonder if I will ever bother with it.

11 thoughts to “The iPad and PDFs — conclusions for now”

  1. What if I just want to read a PDF?
    Like the iPad User’s Guide (which doesn’t come pre-installed on the iPad)?
    Thank you,

  2. PDF reading is integrated into safari and mail, so if the PDF comes in that way, you can read. There must be 50 PDF reader apps in the store if you want to read outside these environments. Goodreader seems to get good reviews and is cheap

  3. Has anyone tried SmartNotes or PadNotes? My google search looking for PDF annotation apps turned up these (in addition to iAnnotate). Both SmartNotes and PadNotes look promising but, alas, I am without iPad and will probably not purchase one until the pdf annotation problem finds a solution. If you have tried these and find them promising please respond.

  4. GoodReader doesn’t have annotation but it has everything else, including batch transfer, and the ability to download from numerous cloud sources (Dropbox, Google Docs, etc). For $.99, it’s a no-brainer.

  5. For all the great things on the iPad, file management is currently a disaster. I’ve got two different apps that can connect to my ftp server and my iDisk, but neither one can get the downloaded documents to Pages or iAnnotate. I have to use to get files into Pages, and the desktop app for iAnnotate. If we can’t have a complete Finder on the iPad, we at least need a set of common folders that can be shared between applications.

  6. You are dead right, I was muttering about this to myself last night. It is completely lame that i can’t share docs between iAnnotate, Pages, Papers, maybe some future version of Endnote if it existed. I’d pay for MobileMe/iDisk if it was the answer but I don’t think it solves anything, it is just another app on the iPad with its own file store. Grrrr.

  7. I use Papers for Mac and am also wondering if the iPad can replace printed academic articles. I currently use Mac’s default annotation in Preview in conjunction with Papers. Alt+Command in Papers to open the selected PDF in Preview (by default), read and annotate, save before closing PDF in Preview. Annotations will show up in both Preview and Papers. It’s one step from being streamlined into Papers, but it aint so painful and having Papers organize everything else is totally worth it. Now if only I can do the same with the iPad…

  8. Awesome article. I would by an ipad if the integration with a PDF library / citation software was optimized. Ideally I would like en Endnote app that could run on the ipad such as I suggest on the Endnote forum here:

    Having a library and a citation software together is optimal if you are reading and citing a lot when writing a paper.

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