GoodReader isn’t specifically an e-book reader; it’s a fully-featured general purpose PDF reader. These additional features, and the fact that its developer doesn’t make money from selling books, means that of all the e-readers I am discussing in this series it is not free. It costs $4.99 in the US Store. But if you already have it, GoodReader is an attractive app to use to read e-books in PDF format and that is how I am going to treat it here.
As with all PDF readers, what you see is (or should be) an accurate reflection of the document which was used to create the PDF. So all of the layout here, the margins, the font, the line-spacing, etc, are in the original document.
However, one great feature is that GoodReader supports pinch and zoom, so you can readily enlarge or shrink any area. Double-tapping in the text will also zoom, and repeated taps continue zooming.
Touching the right or left margins turns the page in that direction. So does touching the top or bottom of the page. The page transition is a simple cut, but you do get a brief flash of the page number, which helps reinforce the fact that a change has occurred.
Controls and Settings
Touching the center of the page brings up a heap of controls both at the top and bottom and at the right of the screen:
At the top we get a button to return to ‘My Documents’ – the Library View in other e-readers. We also see the page number indicator, with progress through the book. With a PDF file, this is a no-brainer, and of course you get accurate page numbering. But it would be nice if there were a setting to leave this indicator visible while you are reading.
At the right we have a heap of tools which allow you to add various kinds of markup such as highlighting, underlining, adding notes, drawing arrows, and so on. Most of these tools are of course designed for working with office-type documents and would not be very useful when reading a work of fiction, though a student studying a work of literature would no doubt find them helpful.
I won’t go into detail about what all of these do, except to say that the pin at the top allows you to force these controls to remain visible in normal reading mode. The next button down allows you to place a bookmark on the current page. I like the fact that you can give a name to this bookmark.
At the bottom we have Brightness / Go Back / Pure Text Mode /Rotate the view / Double-Page Layout / Crop Margins / Bookmarks / Go to Page / Search / Horizontal Scroll Lock / Actions / Orientation Lock. Some of these are self-explanatory, but a few need a bit more description.
‘Pure Text Mode’ attempts to extract text from the PDF and display it in a plain vanilla format. It doesn’t have much value when reading a work of fiction, but I’m sure there are cases with some documents where it would be valuable.
‘Crop Margins’ essentially lets you zoom into the page and crop out unnecessary white space around the text. Functionally, it’s like a font size increase, or a margin decrease, in some other apps.
‘Bookmarks’ not only pops up a list of the named bookmarks you have created, but also gives access to ‘Outlines’, which turns out to be essentially the Table of Contents, as well as any annotations you have made.
‘Horizontal Scroll Lock’ basically locks horizontal movement of the screen when you have zoomed in to a particular column or article, say. Useful with some documents, but not when reading most e-books.
The ‘Actions’ list has some features not relevant to reading e-books, but does include Email and Print. Presumably these don’t work with a DRM-protected PDF file.
With controls showing, you see a progress slider just above the bottom controls. As you slide it to move through the book, you get a nice little call-out with the current page number. You can go direct to a particular page by using the dedicated control at the bottom, or by touching the page number display at top left of the screen.
With a PDF file, of course, there is no issue about ‘real’ page numbers. What you see is what there is.
Touching the Search button brings up a huge panel which is presumably where you see a long list of saved previous searches. It’s a bit big for my taste!
Search is not progressive – you type your search term and then touch ‘Search’ on the keyboard or on the panel. And it doesn’t give you a list of found results with context, just jumps to the next instance. There is a little call-out dialog on the Search control to take you to previous or next instances, or clear the search.
Table of Contents
This is accessible via the ‘Bookmarks’ control, and just pops up in a small dialog. Simple but effective.
GoodReader’s ‘My Documents’ view is comparable with other e-readers’ Library Views. But because of GoodReader’s orientation, it’s really a fully-featured file manager. You are able to create folders, move files, delete files, etc. But the Preview mode does give you the covers of documents in the library:
As mentioned earlier when I was discussing the wealth of controls available, there are a whole bunch of tools in GoodReader for highlighting or annotating text. There’s no dictionary lookup, however, which is probably understandable given the PDF-document focus of this app.
You probably wouldn’t use GoodReader for preference in reading a novel, but if an e-book you’ve bought or borrowed is only available in PDF format, it would be a better choice than the PDF mode of iBooks, because it includes features such as search, better navigation, highlighting and annotation tools.
Previous article in this series: Stanza
Next article in this series (still to come): Calibre E-Book Viewer