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iOS 11 wish list: Better PDF creation and sharing

When Apple introduced AirPrint to iOS, they made it incredibly easy to send files right from your iPhone or iPad to any compatible Wi-Fi printer in the vicinity. What the original version was lacking, though, was Print to PDF. Apple recently fixed that by adding "Save PDF to iBooks" to the Share Sheet, but it forces iBooks into the process and offers barely any options. Here's hoping iOS 11 can make it better!

State of the PDF

You don't hear about Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) files very often these days. Originally meant as a way to digitally render printed pages, they never proved dynamic and flexible enough for the web. But for many professions and many industries, they remain a staple. And for many people, PDF files are something they have to deal with all day, every day.

iOS makes it possible now, and with App Store apps, it even makes it powerful. But for casual use, the built-in support is still cumbersome.

Here's how the current Save PDF to iBooks feature works:

  1. Go to the content you want to save as a PDF.
  2. Tap the Share button.
  3. Tap Save PDF to iBooks.
  4. Go to the PDF in iBooks.
  5. Tap the Share button.
  6. Choose Email.
  7. Email the PDF to yourself.
  8. Open Mail.
  9. Open the email containing your PDF.
  10. Tap the Share button.
  11. Choose the share option you want to use.

If you have an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 with 3D Touch, you can do it much faster.

  1. Go to the content you want to save as a PDF.
  2. Tap the Print button.
  3. Press firmly (3D Touch) on the preview to pop it into a full-screen PDF.
  4. Tap on the Share button.
  5. Choose the share option you want to use.

It saves a lot of steps, but it's not at all intuitive, and it's not available to anyone with any other iPhone, or any iPad at all.

A better PDFuture

iOS was built on macOS which, in part, was built on PDF. As such, PDF should just work. With that in mind, here's what I'd love to see:

  1. Go to the content you want to save as a PDF.
  2. Tap the Share button.
  3. Tap Create PDF.
  4. Tap on the Share button.
  5. Choose the share option you want to use.

With that you could still get "Send to iBooks", but also "Copy", "Send to Notes", "Mail", or anything else available from the Share Sheet.

No intermediation, no lack of discoverability. Just easy, first-class PDF creation on iOS the way we've had it on Mac for years. The circle, complete.

Your PDF wish list?

How would you like to see PDFs handled in iOS 11? Let me know your wish list.

I've filed this feature request with Apple. Anyone with access can view — or dupe! — at rdar://28766039.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

9 Comments
  • Rene, there are times I would like the links in an article on the internet to be enabled when I save a PDF. Currently the only way I can accomplish this is to open the article on my Mac and 'Export to PDF.' The format of my PDFs are set on both my Mac and my iOS devices (iPhone 7 Plus, iPad Pro 12.9", iPad Air 2) using the Mac application Printopia. However, saving the PDFs using my iOS devices does not preserve the links. Suggestions? However, this is the feature I would like (Export to PDF capability on iOS devices as currently available in Safari on MacOS Sierra) Sent from the iMore App
  • 'It saves a lot of steps, but it's not at all intuitive, and it's not available to anyone with any other iPhone, or any iPad at all." Not true anymore! With iOS 10 you can pinch to zoom on print view to access the full screen PDF view with share sheet on non 3D Touch devices. :)
  • My iOS wish list doesn't have anything to do with PDF's. Actually, it's probably not an iOS issue either. I want Apple to match 2 features that Google provides to Pixel owners. First, I want a VPN service for iOS. I want whenever I'm on public WiFi, that I'm automatically connected to the Internet through an Apple secured VPN tunnel. And no, I don't want to have to pay extra for such a service. The second thing is that I want Apple to provide more free iCloud space. Pixel owners can store ALL of their FULL RESOLUTION photos and videos for FREE in the Google cloud. I want Apple to match this.
  • I can't see Apple doing the VPN thing, it's not Apple responsibility to fix someone else's problem. Besides, most websites use HTTPS these days which means any data sent and received is encrypted so no-one on a public Wi-Fi can peer in. Being able to store full resolution photos/videos in the cloud would be extremely welcome though
  • Google only did the full resolution thing to tempt you away from your current device. There are quite a few solutions to having unlimited full resolution photo backups, including OwnCloud. With Google, nothing is ever really free, but it does give users a fairly good illusion of it. As far as Google's VPN, they are basically telling you that all of your traffic is being routed through them. Think on that.
  • "Think on that." Thought on it. Still want the VPN service. Still want it through Apple. I believe that Apple will be more circumspect with my data than will Google.
  • I want the ability to store files. Then I can email them out as attachments without having to go through ibook, dropbox, etc. I get Apple wants to secure things, but it would be great to let the user define say 5 gb to use as a flash drive and general purpose storage. If I click the download link on a .dwg file, I can download it to the phone and then email it out to people that need it. I don't regret switching from Android to iOS again... just miss the file manager of android. :(
  • My iPhone takes 4K video. My TV plays 4K video. I know of no way to play said videos through my TV. I have to put them on my Mac, transfer to a USB stick then insert that into the TV. The YouTube app currently allows me to select my TV for streaming. I'd like that facility. Sent from the iMore App
  • There is a way to "Print to PDF" at least in iOS 10. In the App which contains the content you want to PDFfy access the Share (or in Mail.app the reply arrow) sheet and choose "Print". Now instead of printing you will “pinch” on the print preview as if you are zooming in on a picture. Now you have a PDF which has it's own Share Sheet where you can then transfer it however you want.