Ever since I became a happy iPad owner, I've been on the lookout for an app that could approximate the same PDF reading, annotating, and markup features I've become accustomed to on my Mac. I've tried a lot, and found some come close, but until PDF Expert 5, I always felt something was missing.
Readdle's PDF Expert 5 ($9.99 on the App Store) introduces some quite innovative features not seen before on iOS, and others that have never before been available at such a price point. Among the most interesting features are the ability to directly edit text in a PDF file, much like you would in a word processing document. Underlining, highlighting, shape-drawing are all there as well. The free-form editing tools are intuitive, powerful, and make PDF editing on-the-go effortless.
In our digital age many documents come to us needing a signature with a request to email them back to their sender. Some folks still print these out, sign them, scan them, and email them back. PDF Expert allows you to sign a PDF directly, either with your own stored signature or a new signature, perhaps that of a client or customer. This is the sort of workflow improvement that can save most people lots of time and hassle. A three step process (print, sign, scan) is reduced to one step: tap and hold on the screen to insert signature.
PDF Expert could be useful to share draft documents back and forth between colleagues for review, with the ability to enter comments and notes, highlight or circle portions, or suggest new text. There are a number of stamps available, such as x's and tick marks and "DRAFT", "FOR REVIEW", and so forth, as well the built-in facility to create your own stamps. A "Preview" mode shows exactly what the document will look like with your changes incorporated, whilst the "Markup" view mode shows the changes.
Filling in forms could not be easier. Where other apps only allow text entry in discrete data entry fields that have been so-designated by the form creator, PDF Expert solves the problem we've all encountered from time to time: PDF forms where the data entry field is obscured, too small, malformed, or otherwise not suitable for input. PDF Expert allows you to tap and type anywhere on the document, and you can easily adjust font and font size for entered text. If a form gives you a too-small box in which to write your name, you can easily decrease the text size till it fits, which most PDF forms do not allow you to do. PDF Expert also expertly handles standard form fields and calculations where the document has enabled such, as well as date and time entry. PDF Expert has become my go-to app for PDF form filling.
Getting documents into and out of PDF Expert is super easy. It interfaces with most major cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Box, Office 365, Skydrive, and many more. When you've got the document the way you need it for good, PDF Expert makes it easy to flatten it (apply all the form data, markups, and signatures permanently) and get the document where it needs to be. You can save a copy of the altered document, keep it stored in PDF Expert, which has full file management capabilities, email a copy, print, or open it in other supporting apps on your iPad.
Among PDF Experts neat tricks are the incorporation of audio playback of text. Have your document read to you aloud, whether its a legal brief, a report, or an ebook in PDF format. You can directly control the reading speed and designate the language of the text: many are available, including Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian, and dozens more. I love this feature. And much like Apple's iBooks app, PDF Expert can format PDFs for viewing in either sepia or nighttime mode, which can be very useful to make long documents easier on the eyes than reading 100 pages straight of black on white.
Another neat feature is the ability to create bookmarks, and build a table of contents in your PDF documents right within PDF Expert, meaning that PDF Expert can be a very powerful editing tool to finish up documents. Pages can also be rearranged quickly and easily.
PDF Expert comes with a complete user guide, nearly 50 pages long, explaining how to use each feature, though most features are quite apparent without the need to study the documentation.
I've got a few other PDF reader-editor apps on my iPad, but after just a few weeks making PDF Expert 5 part of my workflow, the Adobe Reader app is getting awfully lonely. In summary, PDF Expert 5 brings desktop-class editing tools to a mobile app at an unparalleled price. Sure, you could spend $200 on Acrobat Pro for your computer, or you could spend $10 for probably the most-used 80% of its features that are present in PDF Expert on iOS. PDF Expert is iOS 7 compatible and has been redesigned to neatly match the iOS 7 aesthetic.
Get it here:
PDF Expert 5
iBank 5 was released last month as the latest entry into the Mac personal finance software world. iBank 5 is a strong follow up to the previous versions, and with a companion iPad app, is a mature, stable money-management platform for any Mac and iPad user.
iBank had its beginnings in a post-Mac OS Classic world in which Quicken had all but become abandonware on the Mac, with Intuit leaving the market wide open for a bright newcomer to move in. IGG rose to the occasion and with each successive release of iBank has gotten only better. iBank 5 builds on its past successes (including an Apple Design Award) and offers features that allow it to breeze past its competition.
If you are a current iBank user, iBank 5 adds a number of compelling features to complete your experience. If you are using Quicken Essentials, iBank 5 is such a huge leap ahead in functions and features, you'll hardly believe it. Upgrades from version 4 are half-price ($30, purchased through the software itself), a nice reward for faithful iBank users, but even at full price of $60, it’s a great deal. Now, all inside one window and one app, you can manage your checkbook, investment accounts, credit cards, download banking statements and data, and pay bills online, while also offering check printing capabilities. If you connect to your bank by OFX, you can pay your bills directly from within iBank 5, which is very cool!
Other new features include improved handling of scheduled transactions, with reminders to help you never miss a payment. Back in the “old days” I used to write a bunch of checks and keep them, along with addressed envelopes, in a folder and mark on my calendar when to mail each one of them. iBank 5 allows me to use the same concept by allowing me to schedule payments in advance, and then remind me in time to send them (either by sending online or printing the check) and enter them. As a big fan of organization and planning ahead, this feature suits me well.
Many folks have lately adopted the envelope method of budgeting that has been promoted by financial gurus in recent years. Envelope budgeting has long been my favored method. Envelope budgeting is used by first setting up a budget through iBank’s setup assistant and creating categories that correspond to envelopes of your choice, then creating virtual envelopes and funding them with existing cash or scheduled deposits from future paychecks. Then, when you get paid, money will automatically go into your virtual envelopes, and when you spend money and enter the transactions with the appropriate category information, money is automatically removed from the corresponding envelope. You can see, through detailed bar graphs, how much of your money is left and how much has been spent from your envelopes. iBank has incorporated envelope budgeting in an easy to use manner, which very much replicates the simplicity and visual appeal of the envelope method of budgeting.
If you’re the sort who loves to keep data synced across your Mac and iPad, the combo of iBank 5 and iBank for iPad along with IGG’s Direct Access service (by subscription) keeps all your banks’ downloads updated constantly and across all devices (fixing what I found to be a shortcoming in the former version when I reviewed iBank for iPad last year). If your bank is one of the very few that doesn’t support Direct Access or OFX—or if you just prefer to do it manually and not pay for the Direct Access service—you can use the integrated browser to download your banking data directly into your account files. This simplifies the process, which previously would involve going into your web browser, downloading the file, finding the file in your downloads folder, and importing it into your finance app. iBank simplifies that substantially.
Part of any serious financial management is reporting and analyzing data to find trends, spot problems, and plan better for the future. iBank’s reporting tools are capable and I appreciate how reports are generated in a format that prints easy, yet also is viewed within the app window. Building a budget is an easy process, which iBank conveniently walks you through, setting up the different income schedules you might have, recurring bills, and also allowing budgeting for one-time or sporadic expenses.
Aside from these new or improved features, all the usual needs are met in a finance app as well: a familiar register view, which allows for categorization and subcategorization of expenses, split transactions, and account reconciliation. I’ve not started on my taxes yet, but iBank very easily prepared a report with all my taxable transactions and deductible expenses. TurboTax export is also available for fans of that software.
Though I do love iBank 5 and its new features, I was sorry to see that the new design aesthetic in iBank 5 has removed almost all color from the majority of the interface. I was also disappointed when Apple went to monochromatic Finder sidebar and Home folder icons, as well. I realize that iBank has just followed Apple’s own lead to smooth out and flatten the interface a bit, but I really liked the colorful icons in iBank of old. I also miss the coverflow view of transactions (yes, I also complained when iTunes got rid of coverflow). I’d love it if iBank could provide an option for colored icons in the source list (accounts, reports, etc.). Oh well. The individual transaction icons are still colorful, even if not cover-flowable anymore. In the end though, these are minor details, that don’t really detract from the functions and usefulness.
For anyone who wants to manage their personal finances, including cash, bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and budgets, iBank is a solid choice, and one that I can easily and happily recommend. The video tutorials and user guide available provide a level of support that a lot of software developers have forgone in recent years, which is a nice touch, and adds to the user’s confidence that iBank will be around for a while and that its developers care about the software and its user base.
Get it here:
iBank for iPad
Ronald C. Schoedel III is an attorney, former broadcaster, student of Welsh, and Sinophile. He has lived in Alaska, Wales, and China (Hong Kong specifically), and presently calls Utah home. He has been teaching and training Mac users for nearly a decade, and started blogging as a software reviewer in 2004.