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Sunday, December 27, 2009
iPhonetunes review: Good Reader
iPhonetunes review: Good Reader

As has been mentioned in other articles, I like to read on my iPhone. Unlike the general populace, I actually prefer reading in a digital format if for no other reason than it means I can have multiple items ready and available at any given time.  To do the same with paper books, I’d have to drag a shopping cart behind me.  So, when Good.iWare came to us and asked us to review some of their offerings, I scooped up GoodReader for myself.

GoodReader is often found referred to as simply a PDF reader, but the fact is it can view so many different file types that I can’t imagine a need for much else.  Not only does it do PDFs, but also TXT files. Using the built-in iPhone rendering engine, you can use one tool to view Word, Excel & Powerpoint files.  And that’s just the non multimedia stuff.  You can also use it to listen to MP3s or watch videos!

iPhone apps | Good Reader

While GoodReader can be used as a Swiss army knife for viewing tons of file types, it’s primary strength is in the PDF rendering that’s proprietary to the app. If you’ve ever tried to read a large (more than 10-20M) PDF, you know that the iPhone’s rendering engine just isn’t up to the task. Assuming it doesn’t continuously crash on you, switching pages is way too slow to be usable.

I started my testing by just playing around with various small file types, and Good Reader really does handle a LOT of files. I pretty much got bored and gave up trying to confuse it. Everything I threw at it, it opened. I was also impressed with how easy it is to get files into it. The app not only handles a lot of file types, but also a myriad of options to get them into itself from the basic “hit a button and it turns into a webDAV service” which you find on most apps, but also includes browsing to files on the web to get them directly, being able to save from within Safari (by replacing the http in the URL with ghttp) and even grabbing attachments to e-mail. All of the methods work slickity-slick!

For my own purposes, I wanted to try GoodReader as I’m a role-player (even though I haven’t gotten to play in years). I have a large quantity of games and supplements in PDF format that I’ve collected over the years. I also like having technical manuals at hand when I can. So, I figured I’d try a couple of files that I’ve never been able to get the native reader to view. Each of these files is fairly large, as you can see from the screen shot. All of the big files loaded just fine and were navigable. The two files shown that are over 20M would load in the native reader, but it would crash soon after.

iPhone apps | Good ReaderiPhone apps | Good Reader

All in all, GoodReader lives up to its marketing hype and does so very well. Large files that didn’t work at all in the native reader can be read easily in this app. For PDFs that are a little more graphically intense, switching pages is a little slower, as can be expected, but they WORK. That’s something you can’t say about the native app. GoodReader also offers Reflow, which will extract just the text from a reviewed before. Reflow works very well, but not with heavily formatted text (such as the programming book shown in the screenshot) or with graphic heavy books (like the astronomy book). But, for mostly text PDF files, Reflow is the way to go!

In terms of complaints, I don’t really have many. First, the documentation is extensive and detailed. Unfortunately, the documentation is extensive and detailed…it’s difficult to navigate, especially on the iPhone. The authors did try very hard to segment information and make it a bit more compartmentalized, it just ends up being too much so. Perhaps a quick start guide to get someone up to speed on the basics first?

Secondly would be the location of the tap zone for “next page”. It’s too close to the tool bar at the bottom, so I find myself bringing up menus or switching into Reflow mode over and over again. And, finally, zooming. If I’m viewing a page in Safari, for example, and I double-tap on an area, it brings up that area. It zooms in just enough so that section fills the page. But, with GoodReader, if I double-tap an area in a PDF, it zooms in to what appears to be a pre-set amount so that some of the text is off screen. The last screenshot will show you what I’m talking about.

iPhone apps | Good Reader

But, those are relatively minor issues in a really well-designed product.

Features - 4.5
Appearance - 5.0
Usability - 4.5
Value - 5.0
Overall: 4.75 stars out of 5


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