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PDF Files on iPhone: The Complete Guide

In today's digital era, PDF files have become an integral part of our daily lives. From e-books and business documents to invoices and legal contracts, PDF files provide a convenient and reliable way to share and preserve information. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices like the iPhone, it is essential to understand how to work with PDF files on this platform. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on opening, working with, and saving PDF files on an iPhone.

Jun 20, 2021

What is a PDF File?

PDF, short for Portable Document Format, was developed by Adobe Systems in the early 1990s. The main objective was to create a file format that would preserve visual fidelity of documents across different platforms and operating systems. PDF files are known for their ability to encapsulate text, images, fonts, and formatting into a single file, making it easy to share and view documents without worrying about compatibility issues.

The benefits of PDF files are abundant. Firstly, PDFs are platform-independent, which means they can be viewed and printed on any device, regardless of the operating system. Additionally, PDFs preserve the original formatting of documents, ensuring that the visual elements and layout remain intact. Another advantage of PDF files is their compact size, which makes it easier to send and store large documents. Lastly, PDF files are highly secure and can be encrypted with passwords or digital signatures to protect sensitive information.

How to Open PDF Files on iPhone

Opening a PDF file on an iPhone can be done in a few simple steps. The most common methods include opening the file through email or accessing it from a website. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Opening PDF Files through Email:

    • Open the Mail app on your iPhone.

    • Navigate to the email containing the PDF attachment.

    • Tap on the PDF attachment to open it.

    • The PDF file will open in the built-in iOS PDF viewer, allowing you to read and interact with the document.

  2. Opening PDF Files from a Website:

    • Launch the Safari browser on your iPhone.

    • Visit the website that hosts the PDF file.

    • Locate the PDF link or button on the webpage.

    • Tap on the link to open the PDF in Safari's built-in PDF viewer.

It's important to note that the process of opening PDF files may differ slightly depending on the iPhone model and iOS version. However, the general steps mentioned above should work for most devices.

Working with PDF Files on iPhone

Once a PDF file is opened on the iPhone, there are various actions and features that can enhance the reading and editing experience. Here are some common functionalities:

  1. Reading and Navigating through a PDF:

    • Use swipe gestures or scroll to navigate through the document.

    • Pinch and zoom to adjust the size of the content.

    • Tap on hyperlinks or bookmarks to jump to specific sections within the PDF.

    • Access the table of contents (if available) to quickly navigate to different chapters or sections.

  2. Editing PDF Files:

    • The built-in iOS PDF viewer allows users to highlight text, add notes, and draw freehand annotations.

    • To access additional editing features, third-party apps such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Notability can be installed from the App Store.

    • These apps provide advanced editing tools like adding or deleting pages, filling out forms, and digitally signing the PDFs.

By utilizing these features, users can effectively interact with PDF files on their iPhones, making it easier to review, annotate, and edit documents on the go.

Read More: Use PDF Files

How to Save PDF Files on iPhone

Saving PDF files on an iPhone is a straightforward process. Here are the steps to save a PDF from an email or a website to the Files app:

  1. Saving PDF Files from Email:

    • Open the PDF attachment in the Mail app.

    • Tap on the share button, usually represented by an arrow pointing upwards.

    • From the sharing options, select "Save to Files."

    • Choose the desired location in the Files app to save the PDF file.

  2. Saving PDF Files from a Website:

    • Open the PDF file in Safari's built-in PDF viewer.

    • Tap on the share button at the bottom center of the screen.

    • Select "Save to Files" from the sharing options.

    • Choose the destination folder in the Files app to save the PDF.

The Files app on the iPhone acts as a central hub for managing all types of files, including PDFs. Users can create folders, organize PDF files, and even access third-party cloud storage services within the Files app for seamless file management.

Read More: How to Save PDF Files on iPhone

Best PDF Viewer/Editor Apps for iPhone

While the built-in iOS PDF viewer offers basic editing capabilities, there are several third-party apps available in the App Store that provide advanced features. Here are some popular PDF viewer/editor apps for iPhone:

  1. Adobe Acrobat Reader: The Adobe Acrobat Reader app offers extensive PDF editing features, including the ability to create, edit, and sign PDF documents. It also integrates with Adobe Document Cloud, allowing easy access to files from multiple devices.

  2. Notability: Notability is a versatile app that enables users to annotate PDFs, take handwritten notes, and create digital sketches. Its intuitive interface and powerful editing tools make it a popular choice among students, professionals, and creatives.

  3. GoodReader: GoodReader is a feature-rich PDF viewer that supports various file formats, including PDF, TXT, and image files. It offers advanced annotation tools, text-to-speech capabilities, and cloud storage integration, making it a comprehensive option for managing and reading PDF files.

  4. PDF Expert: PDF Expert is a reliable app for viewing, editing, and organizing PDF files on iPhone. It provides features such as text highlighting, bookmarking, and form filling. PDF Expert also supports cloud storage services, allowing seamless synchronization of files across devices.

These apps offer enhanced functionalities beyond the standard iOS PDF viewer, allowing users to customize their PDF reading and editing experience.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

While working with PDF files on an iPhone, users may encounter some common issues. Here are a few problems and their potential solutions:

  1. PDF Not Opening: If a PDF file fails to open, try restarting the iPhone and then opening the file again. If the issue persists, check if the file is corrupted or incompatible with the iOS PDF viewer. In such cases, third-party PDF viewer apps can often handle problematic files.

  2. Slow Performance: If PDF files are taking longer to open or load, it could be due to limited storage space on the iPhone. Ensure there is enough free space by removing unnecessary files or apps.

  3. PDF Layout Issues: In rare cases, PDFs may not display correctly due to formatting or compatibility issues. Converting the file to a different format, such as Word or Pages, and then re-saving it as a PDF can help resolve layout problems.

By following these troubleshooting techniques, users can overcome common challenges when working with PDF files on an iPhone.

Transferring PDF Files from iPhone to Other Devices

Transferring PDF files from an iPhone to other devices can be done using various methods. Here are two common approaches:

  1. Transferring PDF Files to a PC/Mac:

    • Connect the iPhone to the computer using a USB cable.

    • Open the file explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) on the computer.

    • Locate the iPhone in the list of connected devices.

    • Navigate to the PDF files on the iPhone and copy them to the desired location on the computer.

  2. Transferring PDF Files between iPhones:

    • Enable AirDrop on both iPhones by swiping down from the top right corner of the screen and selecting AirDrop.

    • On the sending iPhone, open the Files app and locate the PDF file.

    • Tap on the share button and select the receiving iPhone under the AirDrop section.

    • Accept the transfer on the receiving iPhone, and the PDF file will be sent wirelessly.

These methods ensure seamless transfer of PDF files between the iPhone and other devices, allowing users to access their documents across different platforms.


In conclusion, mastering the art of working with PDF files on an iPhone can significantly enhance productivity and streamline document management. From opening and reading to editing and saving, the iPhone offers a range of features and apps that cater to all PDF-related needs. By following the steps outlined in this article and utilizing the recommended apps, users can confidently work with PDF files on their iPhones, ensuring seamless access to important documents wherever they go.

Remember to bookmark this article for future reference and share it with others to help them unlock the full potential of PDF files on their iPhones.


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