PDFs are quite common in everyday life. Be it books, papers, manuals and what not, you probably find yourself reading PDFs at least once every day. If you own an iPad, you already know it’s an excellent reading on-the-go tool which can save you quite a lot of time, and even spare your back if you’ve been sitting in front of the computer all day.
There is a built-in way to read PDFs on the iPad, but it’s not a very good one. But there are lots of free PDF readers in the app store, so how can you know what’s good? Here’s a list of the best PDF readers for the iPad that are totally free and will upgrade your reading experience.
Adobe Reader is a simple yet useful PDF reader. Open your PDF file either through e-mail, Safari, or any other app with an “open with…” option (Dropbox, for example). You can’t do anything but read and search with this app, but there are two reading modes: continuous and single page.
The former is a vertical smooth scroll through the document, and the latter lets you turn pages horizontally by tapping the edges. This method skips to the next page rather than scroll through it.
If the PDF has bookmarks, tap the bookmark icon on the bottom right to browse them. You can also create some yourself while you read.
neu.Annotate, as the name suggests, is a strong PDF and image annotating tool that is absolutely free. You can’t control how you turn pages here, you can only scroll vertically or tap the arrow buttons at the bottom, and the page doesn’t take up the whole screen which renders the actual PDF somewhat small. But the strong annotating tools make this easy to forget.
With neu.Annotate, you can add text, stamps, shapes and even draw freely directly on your PDF. You can choose from 30 different colors, adjust opacity and choose from 9 different pen widths. You can use the app to open any saved picture on the iPad and annotate it as well. You can even add and delete pages from the file.
If you need annotation, this is the app for you; if you’re just looking to read, try one of the others.
CloudReaders is a solid reader which can also open CBZ, ZIP, CBR and RAR files. The reading experience is smooth and done by tapping the right or left side or by sliding your finger on the screen. The page is almost full-screen which makes it easy to read.
As for controls, you can control brightness, lock screen rotation from within the app and switch the entire file to read from right to left, which is a really cool feature if you’re reading in RTL languages.
You can add files by opening through other apps, through iTunes and even through Wi-Fi.
PDFMate is another extremely simple reader which still managed to surprise me with one unique feature. But before we get to that, PDFMate is a full-screen reader with vertical scrolling only (sliding or tapping buttons), which also features brightness controls and the ability to jump from page to page using a scroll bar.
The thing that makes it slightly different is its lockable horizontal position. This means what whatever file you’re reading, you can adjust the zoom to have it full-screen and then lock the horizontal position. The file will stay exactly the way you want it and only vertical scrolling will work.
Load files into PDFMate using iTunes, e-mail or other apps with “open with…” function.
If you need your reading experience to be just right, Stanza is hands down the strongest PDF reader of the bunch. Files are truly full-screen which gives an awesome reading experience. Page turning is very smooth and immediate, done by tapping the sides of the screen.
And this is only the beginning of what Stanza can do.There are multiple themes to choose from, night mode reading, search, social sharing and much more. There is, however, no way to annotate a PDF.
If you’re looking for a simple app, this is not it, but with Stanza you can get that perfect reading experience if you just put some thought into it. It might be well worth it.
pdf-notes is a useful reading and annotating app. It’s interface is somewhat non-intuitive, but once you jump over that hurdle, pdf-notes is quite fun to use. To start, I couldn’t open my file to pdf-notes directly from Dropbox, but I could link Dropbox to the app. If you do this, you’d have access to your entire Dropbox from pdf-notes. Once you open a file, the pages are big and readable and you turn pages by swiping left and right.
There are several types of annotating tools: pens, markers, colorful sticky notes and an eraser. You can switch colors, control pen width and undo/redo your steps. The interface, as mentioned, is not very intuitive, and at times you’ll find yourself stuck with a tool and unable to get the toolbar to appear again. In this case, find the tool icon at the top left corner and tap it to disable the tool. You will now be able to get your toolbar back.
pdf-notes also lets you control brightness, lock screen rotation, save in multiple formats, easily browse your files’ chapters/bookmarks and tweak multiple other settings. The free PDF reader app is ad supported but the ads are very small and do not disrupt reading.
Ready for some reading action? Head over to the App Store and try some of these out. If you’re wondering where iBooks is in this list, well, it certainly can be used for PDFs, but it’s very well known and doesn’t offer anything that these apps don’t. If you’re interested, you can read Bakari’s Best Tips for Using the iBooks as a PDF Reader on Your iPad or iPhone.
Do you know of some more free PDFs readers that were not included? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: Shutterstock
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