iPhone app review: GoodReader

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do with my smartphone — whether it was my original Palm Treo 650, or my current iPhone — was to read books while on-the-go. Unfortunately, the screens on these smartphones have all been way too small to make reading comfortable for anything more than a screenful or two. Even reading long email messages can be a strain on my eyes. It doesn’t help that many e-books are formatted for a full screen, so they require vertical and horizontal scrolling to read. Thankfully, GoodReader exists, and only costs a buck.

GoodReader is a PDF and text file reader. I’ve been using it for awhile now to enjoy reading books during my commute, and I’ve found it almost perfectly adequate. The biggest selling point for me was the reflow feature:

With the PDF Reflow feature, reading your documents is a pleasure because it extracts pure text from PDF files and automatically wraps words. This amazing feature fits all of the text to your screen perfectly. That means you never have to scroll left and right to read the text.

The only problems with reflow are that 1) images are lost (not a problem in the works I’ve been reading, but could be an issue in some instances), and 2) page formatting is lost, which means that heavy dialog can be a bit more challenging to follow in some works.

When displaying a reflow-ed document, GoodReader can automatically scroll the text for you, making a completely hands-off reading experience. It’s basically like watching a teleprompter. It’s a great idea, but I’m too slow of a reader to really make use of this feature.

The integrated document library lets you easily import files from online services like Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. And it includes a WebDAV server so that you can easily transfer files from your PC or Mac directly into the GoodReader library.

For a buck, you get a lot of functionality. Extra functionality is available through paid add-ons, which seems like a nice balance: if you don’t need ’em, don’t buy ’em.