best pdf apps

Thanks to technological advancements like the iPhone and iPad, we no longer have to cut down as many trees in order to keep productivity going. With the features that many PDF readers have, you can download a document, sign it, and return it to the sender without having to print out a single piece of paper.

If your list of PDF files is growing by the minute, you might need a dedicated app for keeping them organized, while still allowing you the ability to annotate and edit. We’ve got a list of what we think are the best PDF management apps for iPhone and iPad that will let you edit, annotate, or even sign PDF documents.



This is my personal favorite. I love how richly featured GoodReader is. Not only can you add files, reorganize pages, annotate, and basically revise an entire document, but you can also send and receive large files using the local Wi-Fi device-to-device transfer. Send an entire novel to your friend just by setting up a Wi-Fi transfer. You can hand-write, annotate, highlight, underline, and more. Add bookmarks to individual pages and look up specific words. You can also flatten and send files through email or open documents in another compatible PDF reader. Store files in the app or in a cloud-based storage like Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. This app is available for $4.99.

Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader

For a familiar name you know, Adobe’s PDF reader lets you access PDF documents from email, the Internet, or apps with the “open in…” extension. You can annotate, highlight, and mark up pages. Switch between page flipping on continuous scroll mode and turn on Night mode for reading in the dark. Fill out PDF forms by typing into the box and sign documents using your fingertip. You can store files in the app or online using Adobe’s cloud service at With a monthly subscription, you can also create PDFs, export files to Word or Excel, and more. This app is available for free.

iAnnotate PDF

iAnnotate PDF

This iPad app specializes in markup. There is a wide variety of annotation options, including pen, highlighter, stamp, underline, voice recording, and more. You can import PDF, DOC, and PPT documents, as well as image files. Create PDFs from scratch using blank, lined, or graph paper. Organize files and documents into folders with sortable content by date or alphabet. Import and export content via Dropbox, Google Drive, and more. Share your files with others so they can see your annotations and edit them using compatible apps like Adobe or Preview. This app is available on the iPad for $9.99.

PDF Expert 5

PDF Expert 5

When it comes to being an expert with PDFs, this one’s got it in the name. It’s not just the name either. My second favorite PDF manager is this one. Frankly, if I’d have heard of it before GoodReader, it would have been my first, but I’m a bit of a loyalist. This app has all the tools. All of them. You can markup files like a boss, sign documents, and import pages in all manner of ways. The iPad version lets you track changes in review mode. It even includes a text-to-speech feature so you can add a PDF novel and listen to it on the road. This app is available for $9.99.

Documents 5

Documents 5

This app is actually by the same company that made PDF Expert 5. The difference between the two is that this one is designed specifically to be a file manager, document viewer, and music player. You can send information from the web to read offline later, store pictures, watch full movies without Internet access, and listen to music. You can store files in the app or sync them via Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and more. It works great for managing files and works seamlessly with Readdle’s PDF Expert 5 so you can work on documents in one app while saving changes in another. This app is available for free.


iBooks PDF

For those of you that didn’t know you could store PDFs in iBooks, check out our tutorial on how to save a PDF in iBooks. For those of you that already know how, you also already know how convenient it is to store your PDFs right in Apple’s stock bookshelf app. Once saved in iBooks, you can easily access your files and read them as if they were an ebook, cover and all (if it has one). Documents in iBooks are saved in iCloud so you can download them onto any device. It isn’t quite as full-featured as the rest of the apps on the list, but it is free and works perfectly for reading. I personally have a decent sized collection of PDF RPG books that I store in iBooks. It’s very convenient. This app is available for free.

Don’t forget to check out our previous best-of lists

  • Inseltraeumer

    i’ve been more than happy with readdle’s pdf expert ever since i first bought it in 2012 or so. best pdf app out there

    • Rami Tabaa

      Same here. Bought it when it was for $9.99 and it’s worth it 😀

  • Zzyzxd

    PDF Expert and Documents are both great apps. But GoodReader is like a combination of those two.

  • Damian

    iFiles is another great app. Not as good as good reader but it has some good stuff.

  • CS

    I’ve used iBooks because it’s easy, free, and syncs to all my idevices

  • Chetan

    Nice review of what I was looking for recently.. One big problem with me is though mostly I use Epubs on iBooks(Mac and iPad) and its flawless for all what I need, but when it comes to few PDF’s iBooks open it on preview on Mac to highlight and make notes and does not sync it to iPad. It was not made to sync PDF’s, so is there any app on iPad which can read Mac’s preview made highlights and notes and sync them across my devices?
    If not preview then any app which can provide the same experience which iBooks give for epub on Mac and iPad with awesome syncing?

  • A. Tasso

    all of my PDFs (and other documents) are sync’ed to Dropbox through GoodReader. The sync is a little slow but overall I’m satisfied. I also tried Readdle but the sync kept timing out.

  • QuarterSwede

    PDFpen is my favorite. It’s also the only one I could find that would allow me to delete pages from PDFs and export the result.

  • Gavin

    I personally use Documents. The thing I like about it is I can set up a share on my home server for it to automatically sync to in the background or foreground. When I’m done with that PDF I simply delete it and it removes it from the server as well. No need to manage the various copies of my pdf’s.

  • abazigal

    No love for notability? 🙁

  • Zan Zac Zac

    PDFMax Pro that i use is extremely good and they make it free from time to time.

  • sriram varadarajulu

    forgive me as i’m kinda lazy to read through all that but can someone recommend me a pdf app that lets me search as per page and / or word that i search for in it? “:D

  • Shelby69

    GoodReader doesn’t sync Bookmarks. They are kept locally. So, if I have 2 different iPads and want to sync GoodReaders’s contents, I’m screwed.
    What is also missing is a overall search for Bookmarks and Annotations.

  • mr_lu

    I downloaded Documents5, opened the app, tapped the iCloud icon – and there is nothing there. It only says “Move or Copy files here.” I thought i would be able to see the files which I ALREADY hv in the iCloud. Very very disappointing 🙁