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This quick tip may allow users to more reliably view PDFs on iPhones and iPads.

In a previous article, I reported on the lack of reliable PDF viewers, especially for portable devices such as iPads and iPhones.

The IOS operating system on these Apple devices defaults to using an app called “QuickLook” to view PDF files in emails or on web pages. QuickLook comes standard with the operating system, but has some pretty major drawbacks, including lack of support for hyperlinks and the inability to accurately preview transparent or non-flattened graphic elements – showing them as white boxes or completely failing to display them at all.

There have been reports that with the release of OSX 10.7 Lion the reliability and usefulness of QuickLook will be improved, but there is no suggestion that the IOS version will be changed yet.

For now, the following alternative procedure has been shown to overcome most of QuickLook’s shortcomings.


Assuming the file has already been downloaded to your portable device, click and hold on the icon of the PDF file you wish to view. A dialog box offering three alternatives will pop up: “Quick Look”, “Open in iBooks”, “Open in…” or “Cancel”.

Choose “Open in iBooks”. The iBooks app (also supplied natively within Apple’s IOS) will open the PDF file and most of the formatting, hyperlinks and transparencies will be displayed correctly.


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Alternatively, if you have already opened the PDF file in QuickLook, you can tap on the icon at the top right of the screen, and then choose “Open in iBooks”.

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As an added bonus, when you use iBooks to open a PDF, iBooks will automatically save a copy of the PDF to your iBooks PDF bookshelf, so it is always easy to find. These PDFs will also sync back to your iTunes Book library the next time you sync your device with iTunes.