So here we are in episode 4 of 7 planned posts about basic apps a lawyer needs to outfit an iPad into a functional working rig. Nothing fancy in the app categories – just the basics. And when I think about my basic workflows, not a day goes by where I don’t spend at least some time with PDF files. I suspect I’m not alone as some of the most popular posts here at TabletLegal are those discussing PDF Annotation apps. So I decided to do this one a little differently.
There are really four contenders in this area (if there are others that I’ve missed, please let me know). In alphabetical order:
- Aji’s iAnnotate
- Goodiware’s Goodreader
- omz software’s PDF Highlighter
- Readdle’s PDF Expert
I’ve probably been a little partial to Goodreader in my coverage at TabletLegal simply because it fits my workflow really well. But, my workflow isn’t the same as your workflow. I needed to expand my horizons so I spent a few days putting all four of these apps through their paces.
Unsatisfied with a simple textual summary of my work I decided to really break it down. How better than a 4 page spreadsheet (in PDF of course) comparing and contrasting features of these four apps in over 25 categories that I thought would be of primary interest to a lawyer. The spreadsheet is linked at the end of this post for perusal at your leisure.
But I’m not sending you off to figure it all out on your own. I did come to some conclusions, but probably not the ones you are expecting. I’m not saying which app is the “best” or the “worst.” Rather, each app has its own strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that all four all handle the basics great – if you need to highlight while reading and make a couple notes, then any of these will work fine. Beyond that, the app that is best for you depends on your workflow. I break it down like this:
Aji’s iAnnotate. You want iAnnotate if you live in PDFs. The power feature of this app is its ability to have multiple PDF files open in separate tabs that you can quickly flip between. If you are a heavy PDF user, you won’t mind the nonstandard interface of this app because you can customize it to fit your workflow exactly. You’ll also be spending enough time in this app to learn and appreciate every feature described in the 36 page on-board user guide. Powerful file management tools will help you keep boxes worth of documents organized.
Goodiware’s Goodreader. Consider Goodreader if you have basic to moderate annotation needs and PDF is one part of a multi-piece workflow. A fairly standard interface for accessing annotation tools will allow you to get your work done quickly. Lowest price makes it a good place to get started while also handling the necessary file management needs for almost every other file type you might come in contact with.
omz software’s PDF Highlighter. This is the 1.0 app in the group (actually, 1.1 just released), but still a very competent offering. Use PDF Highlighter if your needs are pretty straightforward. I think PDF Highlighter may be ideal for someone referencing PDFs with unfamiliar content because of the integrated Wikipedia lookup. I can imagine sifting through a stack of depositions with medical terms or technical client documents where the ability to tap on a word and get wikipedia feedback could be tremendously useful.
Readdle’s PDF Expert. This app is almost as feature loaded as iAnnotate with a very strong organizational side and a very usable interface. If you need to fill out PDF forms, then you must use PDF Expert as it is the only app supporting forms at this point. PDF Expert’s file management tools will suit the heavy PDF user and its ease of use will appeal to even one-off uses.
You’ll see that the spreadsheet is labeled “Version 1.0.” I suspect I’ve made some mistakes which I’ll correct as I find them or folks bring them to my attention. These apps will also be updated and I’ll try to reflect those updates in the grid. I’ll refine and expand on some categories and possibly drop others as a refine my thoughts about these apps as tools for a lawyer’s workflow. I’ll also be sticking a link to this spreadsheet in the sidebar of TabletLegal so it is easy to access.
So there you have it. Let me know what I’ve missed and what is working best for you.
Here is the PDF Annotation App Shootout Summary Spreadsheet Version 1.0.
Links to App Store: