PDF Expert 5 Leapfrogs the Competition

One of the reasons I own a full-sized iPad is because it’s closer to the size of an 8.5“x11” sheet of paper. That has a lot of advantages: photos blown up to that size won’t look as clear as they will on an iPad mini with Retina display (not just because of the pixel density, although that does play a role, but largely thanks to the physical size of the screen), but they will appear closer to how they’d look if they were printed. That’s one huge improvement for me, particularly with clients.

But the other big reason for me to go for a full-sized iPad was so I could view PDFs. I use my iPad to keep my business as paper-free as possible. Although clients are often passing me paper to work on and I work with print layouts all the time, there are other times when the iPad has revolutionized the way I handle PDFs. This is largely thanks to apps liked PDF Expert 5, the successor to my most-used PDF app that came out recently. Read on to find out why it’s a must-have for both new users and upgrades.

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A Redesigned Interface

It’s worth talking a little bit about the redesigned interface, if only to point out that not much has changed. This is still the same old app as before, but instead of having beveled and embossed buttons, that bit of excess ornamentation has been removed. Honestly, it looked a little much on iOS 6 even — I find Readdle apps to be particularly heavy-handed — so I’m glad to see it go.

The interface has been "flattened," but in reality, it looks like Readdle is finally starting to catch up with itself here.

The interface has been “flattened,” but in reality, it looks like Readdle is finally starting to catch up with itself here.

Otherwise, though, I’m fond of the PDF viewer. There’s not as much Chrome when you’re looking at documents, and smart uses of transparency really help make it clear what you’re looking and where you’re looking at it. Prior to the update, I was reviewing PDFs of several slideshows for a course I was taking. It was difficult for me to know — did I need to scroll down or swipe to the next page for the next two slides? With PDF Expert 5, that becomes a little bit clearer. Thanks to transparent chrome, it’s easier to see where you are and how much space is left in a document.

The new interface looks better when you're reading too.

The new interface looks better when you’re reading too.

The toolbars have also been moved and are a little more similar to the way they function in Reeder 2. You bring them in with a swipe from the right hand side of the display. I’m not sure if I like this or dislike it yet; I’m one the fence. On one hand, it keeps the app looking clean when you don’t need the toolbar. On the other hand, I’ve triggered the toolbar accidentally a ton of times, and there’s no easy way to get rid of it. You can’t swipe it away like you can in Reeder, and that means that you need to tap the tiny X in the box. Even on a full-sized iPad, that button is miniscule.

Some Under-the-hood Improvements

If you use the old iPad app and still have it on your tablet, you’ll be in luck. Popping open the new app asks if you’d like to transfer all your existing content over. It does it fairly easily, and if you’re familiar with the iOS Share Sheet (which you likely are), you’re going to get through it in no time. It’s an easy transition that works almost better than it should.

Tags are a nice new feature to the app.

Tags are a nice new feature to the app.

The app also comes with all the tools you’re familiar with before, including all the annotations and such. If you spend a lot of time with the built-in documents browser, you’ll be thrilled to know that all of the old cloud sync options remain. Not only that, but the option now exists to start tagging documents — just like you can on a Mac. Sadly, these tags don’t sync over to your computer, but they’re nice to have if you find your documents are getting cluttered in PDF Expert.

Of course, this makes PDF Expert 5 an even better file manager. If you’re looking for both the best file manager and PDF reader in the App Store, well, this is it.

This is a whole new feature, though, and it's called Review Mode.

This is a whole new feature, though, and it’s called Review Mode.

You can still fill in forms, sign contracts with fingers, highlight and make notes, build tables of contents, and all the like, but the only difference now is that you’re doing it in a reimagined interface. While the main toolbars are a bit of a pain if you don’t need them, when you do, they’re better to use than they were before thanks to their placement. I’m fond of them in use.

Review Mode

Beyond that, the major change that I’m most impressed with is Review Mode. Review Mode is simply incredible. For people who use PDFs all the time, it’s a must-have.

Review Mode is amazing.

Review Mode is amazing.

Let’s say you’re reading a PDF, but want to make some changes. Well, you have annotations. That’s a given. You have highlights. You can even make notes, of course. But with Review Mode, now you can actually edit blocks of text. With a single tap, just make the changes that you want to make. Then hit Done. It’s that simple.

When you're done, it will look like this.

When you’re done, it will look like this.

When you’re done doing that, you can preview what the text will look like with your changes made, take a look at the Markup, and then send it to friends and colleagues for their perusal. It’s a really smooth system. I haven’t been able to test it with any clients yet, so I can’t say if it works across devices, but I’m glad to say that it doesn’t actually alter the text of the PDF itself. That all stays intact, and Readdle only treats these as specialized annotations. It’s brilliant.

The Final Word on PDFs

Readdle has earned themselves something of a reputation, and at this point, it very much precedes them. PDF Expert 5 is no exemption from this rule. It’s a fantastic app that’s at the top of its class. As a document manager, it’s nearly unparalleled. As a PDF reader, it’s one of the best. As a tool for handling PDFs, managing their location, and making notes on them, it’s absolutely the best.

With a new design and the new Review Mode, though, Readdle have again stepped it up to the next level. In fact, it’s hard to see anybody in this category topping PDF Expert 5 for a long time. They keep leapfrogging the competition. With PDF Expert 5, the only people that Readdle are competing with are themselves.


PDF Expert 5 leapfrogs the competition with a great new interface and stellar new features like Review Mode that make it more than worthy for first-time users and upgrades alike.


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