Review: GoodReader

GoodReader supports a variety of files on your iPad. (May 19th, 2010)

GoodReader supports text PDF, and image files, spreadsheets, video and audio files, as well as other types of large documents. You can load documents in a number of ways and organize them in folders.

Electronista Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Good.iWare Ltd.

Price: $0.99

The Good

  • Easy to use.
    Displays a variety of file types.
    Transfer files with iTunes or over WiFi.
    Select text from PDF files and copy into other applications.
    Dim the backlight on the screen for reading in low light.

The Bad

  • Gestures don't work as you would expect; up/down vs. left/right.
    Some movements happen when you don't expect them.
    Some delays when flipping pages.
    The PDF text extraction sometimes generates confusing text.
    New version does not support iPhone OS 2.x.

When you want to read or view a variety of documents on your iPad, GoodReader presents a popular solution. It supports text PDF, and image files, spreadsheets, video and audio files, as well as other types of large documents.

First, you need to find files to view and GoodReader gives you several options. The most familiar way is to use iTunes. In the apps section of the device, you click on GoodReader and drag files into the list shown. The next time you sync, the files are be copied to the iPad, and GoodReader shows them in its list of files.

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Loading GoodReader Through iTunes

The built-in web browser also lets you find files to download. When you click on a link to a document, GoodReader gives you the option to save the document in GoodReader's list of files on the iPad. In addition, GoodReader contains a WebDAV client, so that you can connect directly to WebDAV servers over WiFi to download files.

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Portrait View

You can also turn your iPad into a server, so that you can upload or download files using your computer's web browser, or another iPad or iPhone. Once you have a bunch of files in GoodReader, you may find that your list of files in GoodReader is unwieldy, but fortunately, GoodReader lets you create folders, so that you can organize your files into categories. For example, I put several issues of an online magazine into its own folder.

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Sample Folder

After you load and organize your documents on your iPad, you probably want to read them. Let us look at how you read PDF files. GoodReader shows you one page at a time, and you can move to the next or previous page either by a flick gesture up or down or by tapping the top or the bottom of the page. GoodReader supports pinching to zoom in and out, in case you want to look closely at part of the page. Curiously, flicking to the left and right does nothing. GoodReader actually defines seven tap zones on the page to move around.

Tap Zones

The tap zones across the top include Read backwards and Up. Read backwards scrolls to the left when you tap, except if you are at the left margin already, in which case it scrolls all the way to the right margin, and moves one screen up. This is useful to read wide documents. Up moves you one screen up, or if you are at the top of a page, to the bottom of the previous page.

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Tap Zones

The middle of the page includes three tap zones, Scroll left, Show/hide controls, and Scroll right. The side scrolls left and right, move the page as expected, unless you are already at the margin, in which case it moves you to the other side. The Show/hide controls, lets you show or the GoodReader controls or, if they visible, conceals them.

At the bottom, the two tap zones are Down and Read forwards. Down moves you one screen down, or if you are at the bottom of a page, to the top of the next page. Read forwards, which is useful for reading wide documents, scrolls to the right when you tap. If you are at the right margin already, it scrolls all the way to the left margin, and moves one screen down.


If you are reading a document one page at a time, the situation is much simpler: the "down" and "Read forwards" controls both advance to the next page, and the "Up" and "Read backwards" both load the previous page, and the "scroll left" and "scroll right" controls do nothing. If you tap the "show controls" area, you get a collection of controls at the edges of the screen.

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However, there is a bit of funny behavior in the gesture processing when switching pages. When you tap and move your finger up or down, the page slides along under your finger-until you get to the edge of the page, and then the screen flashes and the new page appears. This is quite disconcerting, and breaks the illusion that you control the movement of the pages with your finger. Also, for complicated or large PDF files, there is a delay while the page renders.

The left edge includes a slider that tells you how many pages are in the document, and the page you currently are reading. You can use the slider to move quickly to a different section of the document. The top of the screen includes a button called My Documents, that takes you back to your list of documents and a Help button that brings up a good set of help pages. Across the bottom of the screen are several icons that, frankly, you may not figure out without resorting to the help system.

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Controls Up Close

The bottom tab bar includes a number of helpful controls. The Day/Night switch dims the backlight on the iPad, which a nice feature for reading in bed. Go back, the left facing arrow, returns you to the page you just left. GoodReader remembers the previous 20 positions. PDF Reflow lets GoodReader extract the text from the current page, and show it to you with no formatting. It also wraps the text to fit on the screen. Once you have that, you can copy the text and put it into other apps. This is nice for PDF files that have lots of clumsy formatting. However, I tried this on a chemistry book, and it made a hash of the chemical formulas.

The fourth control, Bookmarks, lets you mark a spot in a book and give it a name to come back to later, just like in a web browser. Go to page advances to a page by number. It shows a dialog where you can enter a page number. The keyboard pops up automatically, which is nice, but it really should show a numeric keypad, not the full keyboard. Search lets you find text in the file. This is a classical "find/find next" kind of search, rather than a "show all matches at once" search. The Horizontal scroll lock disables horizontal scrolling when enabled, so that if, for example, one line is longer than all the others, your gestures only move the page up and down. The last control, Disable rotation, disables the automatic rotation of the content when you rotate the iPad. All this sounds really complicated, but it's not.

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Landscape View

GoodReader also supports image viewing. You can import them from the pictures you already have on the iPad, over the web, or the other methods described above. GoodReader lets you zoom in and out, and export them to the iPad photo album. GoodReader does not support ePub files, so to read those files, you need to use Apple's free use iBooks app.

GoodReader is actually very easy to use, especially if you view your documents one page at a time. GoodReader for the iPad only costs $0.99, and it is well worth it. There are also versions for the iPhone/iPod touch, and a free version for the iPhone.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Marshall Clow


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