The first time I ever signed my name digitally was on a UPS deliverer’s handheld computer, and it seemed amazing that it would actually work. Years later, we sign our names on strips of plastic on credit card scanners in stores all the time, and it somehow doesn’t seem so magical any more.
Then, tax season comes, and we have to print out forms, sign them, scan them, find where the scanner decided to save them on the computer, and finally email them back to the accountant.
Wait, what? Surely with all the advances in computers, we should be able to file anything we need without resorting to a paper copy. Your iPad is the perfect device to make your computing more paper-free than ever. Keep reading to see how you can fill out PDF forms, markup and annotate documents, sign any document, and then send them anywhere you need all from an iPad.
PDF + iPad = Really Portable Document Format
Apple has included robust PDF viewing support in iOS, and viewing PDF on iPad isn’t a problem at all. You can view them directly in Safari, Mail, and many other apps, while iBooks makes a great free solution for reading your longer PDFs. Many apps, including Apple’s iWork apps, even let you export your files as PDFs so you can easily share them with anyone.
The only problem is, you can’t edit or markup PDFs natively in iOS. In fact, you can’t even fill out PDF forms. That’s where PDF Expert comes in.
While there are many apps for viewing and marking up PDFs, most do not support PDF forms. PDF Expert, on the other hand, lets you fill in Adobe PDF forms just like you would in Adobe Reader on your computer, complete with menu selection and quick tabbing between form fields.
Then, you can save your changes and email the form directly from the app. It’s an all-in-one PDF form solution, and works great!
When you open a new form in PDF Expert, any fillable fields will be highlighted light blue. Tap them, and the virtual keyboard will open, with a small toolbar above that lets you tab between fields and clear them with a tap.
If the form contains menus, tap the arrow to choose the option you want, or select Custom and enter your own entry.
It’s quick, simple, and works just like you’d expect.
Going Beyond the Form
PDF Expert is not only great for filling out forms. It’s also a great PDF reader, and loads large PDFs faster than iBooks. It also includes a scroll bar across the bottom that you can use to quickly skip to a later section in the PDF. Links, bookmarks, and Table of Contents are all supported, so you’ll be able to navigate your documents and save your place easily.
Then, you can use PDF Expert to help you give feedback on PDFs. Along the top of the app, there’s a small toolbar with a highlight and editing tool to let you add annotations.
Alternately, just tap and hold anywhere in a PDF to highlight, underline, strikeout, or copy text. Tap and hold in a blank area, and you’ll have the option to insert text as well. This is a great way to fill out PDF forms that are simply scanned in paper forms without active fields.
You can also insert notes into a PDF, or view existing notes that have been added in Adobe Acrobat or other apps. Again, everything you add works perfectly with other standard PDF programs on computers, though the annotations may not display on other iOS apps that don’t support forms or adding annotations.
Another nice feature is the Stamps tool. This lets you add standard stamps such as Draft or Final to your documents, which are great when you’re reviewing or editing documents for your business or team. You can also insert your own images, such as a logo, from the Custom tab.
If you’ve used PDF Expert to fill out a form, you likely don’t need the extra editing options. What you do need is a way to sign and send your form. To add your signature to a form, just tap the pen icon in the top toolbar, or press and hold anywhere in the document and select Signature. PDF Expert will open a full-screen signature bar where you can sign your name using your finger or a stylus.
On the top of the screen, you can choose from black, blue, or purple ink, adjust the thickness of the ink line, or start over on a clean screen with the new document button. When you’re satisfied with your signature, tap Save and it’ll be inserted into your document. You can now move and resize it on the document to get it to look perfect on the signature line.
This works perfect with any PDFs you have on your iPad, and can even be used to sign letters you’ve written in Pages and other apps. Pages doesn’t let you send files to other apps, but you could email a document as a PDF from the app. Even if you’re offline, you’ll find the document attachment in your email outbox. Tap the PDF there, and you can open it in PDF Expert to sign it just like you would a paper letter.
You don’t want to keep your filled out, annotated, and signed document on your iPad, so just tap the Export button on the top to send it by email. You can choose to send the PDF just like it is, or you can flatten the file first to prevent others from editing your changes.
Since most iOS PDF apps, including the default PDF viewing in Safari and Mail, do not support PDF annotations or forms, a flattened document is the best option for sharing with other iOS users.
PDF Expert also lets you include a summary of the changes to the document in the email, which is a very valuable feature if you’re collaborating with others on a document and want them to quickly see the changes.
So Long, Computer
Often, though, you won’t want to just send one form. Recently I needed to email 3 signed PDF forms along with a signed letter to my college. So, I saved the forms to PDF Expert from Safari, then wrote the letter in Pages, imported and signed it as above. Now that my documents were ready, I needed to email them all to college in one email.
That’s when I decided PDF Expert was a real lifesaver. From the main document organizer in PDF Expert, you can select multiple PDFs to copy, move, or email all at once. To do this, tap Edit in the top corner, then select the documents you need.
If the files are too large to email together, you can first zip them and email the zipped file. Or, you can add your online storage accounts, including FTP, Dropbox, iDisk, WebDAV servers, and more, and bulk upload your documents. This covers the ways most of us need to send and share documents daily, in work and at home, and PDF Reader has made it incredibly simple.
Now that you don’t have to print out documents to sign them, and then scan and email them, you’ll be filling out forms faster than ever. PDF Expert brings the features most of us need from a basic PDF editor to iPad, and even for most business uses, you won’t need to go to a PC to finalize your documents.
We’re increasingly amazed how much real work we can do from iPad. Every time I find something I need to do on my iPad, it seems there’s a new app ready for the task. It’s truly impressive to be able to do this much from a screen that’s thinner than my desktop LCD monitor!