One of the things that has irritated me about iOS ever since its inception on the iPad back in 2010 is Apple’s seemingly lacking support for PDF files. Sure, you can open and read them from, say, an e-mail message, but without the use of third-party software, there’s absolutely no way to store them locally or edit them. This bugs me quite a lot: Preview in OS X is actually a pretty powerful program and I find myself using it on a daily basis to annotate PDFs and it even has iCloud support, so why haven’t Apple brought out a version of Preview for iOS yet? There was no mention of it in the grandiose WWDC announcement a couple of weeks back and nothing has been spotted in the developer previews as of yet, but time is the best healer and we may see something amalgamate come September-time.
Until then, iPad owners have to rely on third-party software to read and annotate PDFs, of which there is a great number — go to the App Store and type in the search box, “PDF” and you’ll see what I mean (by my last count, the search returned 2,035 results). And PDF Max Pro, by developers Mobeera is one of those. At an RRP of $9.99 (though it’s currently running a 50% off promotion) it is certainly one of the pricier offers, so let’s dive straight in and find out whether it is the go-to PDF reader for your iPad.
Upon launching PDF Max Pro, you are greeted with all your PDF files that are currently stored on your iPad. You can create new PDF documents and folders by tapping on the + button in the top left-hand corner and PDF Max Pro also integrates with a number of different web services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and Box.net, along with iTunes files management to help you grab all your PDF files and import them into the app.
You can also add files via the in-app browser (this is the reason why the app received a 17+ rating in the App Store) — simply navigate to the page containing your PDF and it will be automatically downloaded.
From the home screen you can also share PDFs (in either annotated, flattened or original forms) via the web services mentioned above (Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and Box.net) as well as via e-mail and iTunes. There is support for iCloud within the app, allowing documents to sync between all your devices with PDF Max Pro on them (the app is universal and also works on your iPhone), and a Mac version is coming along in July (according to the developer’s website).
The interface of PDF Max Pro is nothing special and to be perfectly honest, it gets the job done well. I am a sucker for beautiful interfaces but I wasn’t that bothered about the lack thereof in this app. If it works well, then that’s all I care about. Let’s see if that’s true.
PDF Max Pro features everything you’d expect from an iPad PDF reader. On the left and right-hand sides of the screen are little toolboxes which can be hidden via a single tap. The one on the left-hand side of the screen shows you a thumbnail preview of each page in your PDF document and by tapping on the Manage button, you can reorder, add or delete pages, which I thought was a pretty impressive feature.
You can also view an overview of your document and you can also tap to jump to a particular section in your PDF file. There’s also a list of all your annotations within the document and you can also quickly search within your document for keywords and phrases.
Annotating documents was actually fairly straightforward. You can highlight passages of text, insert text boxes, draw lines and other doodles using either a pencil or pen and add a variety of stamps (my favourite being, apart from the Top Secret and Not Public Release, the Revised, Received, Reviewed and Approved stickers which not only give the user but also a timestamp showing the date and time the stamp was created. One bug I did notice was the time format — in my case it was shown as 17:34 PM, a combination of both the 12 and 24 hour clock.
Another nice little feature was the ability to add audio snippets to my PDF file. All you have to do is tap on the little microphone icon from within your toolbox and PDF Max Pro will allow you to record a short audio file, which you can then review after recording is finished. You can also add songs from your iTunes library — useful if you want to add any audio notes synced with your library from your iPhone, or if you want to add your favourite tune to a document (though why you want to do this is beyond me, frankly).
PDF Max Pro is a shining example of a well-executed and thought-out app, though I would question paying nearly 10 bucks for features that are pretty much replicated in similar (and cheaper) apps. Performance-wise, it was pretty impressive — I was a long-time user of GoodReader and although this was packed with more features than you could shake a stick at, it was a bit jumpy and temperamental when it came to reading large PDF files. PDF Max Pro didn’t display these tendencies, and it worked nice and smoothly even when it came to reading and working with a 50 MB PDF document.
The app’s range of features and smoothness (I tested it on my third generation iPad) earn it a very well deserved 8 out of 10 rating, and the upcoming Mac version this July should provide people with a bigger incentive to purchase PDF Max Pro, especially given the iCloud document synchronisation between devices. For now, though, the developer could brush up slightly on the interface — it’s looking a little tired and out-of-date — but don’t let this put you off the app: it’s pretty decent.
PDF Max Pro could certainly become your go-to iPad PDF reader and as it’s currently on a 50% promotion at a mere $4.99, there’s no time like the present to go ahead and grab it. And do let us know what you think of it, especially if you’ve migrated from another similar app, in the Comments section below!