PDF Expert 3 or iAnnotate 2? A Review

Update 06/04/2012: For those looking, I have just recently compared PDF Expert, iAnnotate & Goodreader here. It’s more indepth than this review.

As promised, here is a comparison between the two infamous PDF Editing apps for the iPad – PDF Expert and iAnnotate. I also wrote about them briefly in my earlier post here.

iAnnotate Screenshot - Preview on the left side (Can be hidden), right side is toolbar (Customisable), multiple documents can be open at once (tabs up the top). Interface isn't as clean and nice as PDF Expert's.

PDF Expert Screenshot - Toolbar up the top. Interface is clean and nice. Small toolbar open appears above an annotation you select is very practical. Note: Thumbnail preview is not available while looking at main document, can't open multiple documents at once

I know it has been a while since I have last written – I feel as though I can unbiased-ly (couldn’t think of the correct term for this) compare PDF Expert with iAnnotate now, after having used iAnnotate and PDF Expert for an equal period of time. Let me quickly list the pros and cons of each so it’s not so tediously long for either of us!



  • Can convert pptx/ppt or docx/doc to pdf files when importing
  • Side toolbars are especially useful (editing tools on right, preview page tool on left)
  • Highlighting tool really sensitive – highlights what you want easily (option to extend or reduce your highlighted phrase can also be achieved/adjusted)
  • Resizing the page is fast, without the couple of seconds lag time
  • Scrollable pages (down) are smooth and fast
  • Ability to drag and drop files into folders
  • Integrated web browser
  • Every editing tool is highly customisable
  • Tab feature – open multiple pdfs and switching between pdf documents is easy


  • Typing (I do a fair bit of typing in lectures, taking down notes) can be annoying – it doesn’t remember your last font size
  • Although the customisable toolbar allows you to preset your own icon (where you can choose your font size, colour, font type), it can look messy with a whole heap of tools on the right hand side – confusing also since all the icons for each presetted typewriter are the same, and you have to remember which icon is which font size
  • Need to preset everything if you want specific colours for highlighters, text colours, pen tools etc
  • Customisability can lead to messy side toolbars
  • Adding and deleting new pages can lag (can end up adding a couple of pages before it actually responds)
  • Mirrors synced folders in Dropbox only – can’t add or delete files or move things around



  • Undo/Redo button!!! Especially when you are using the pen mode and accidentally make a mistake – don’t have to delete it and start again!
  • Seamlessly syncs to Dropbox – allows you to add, remove, move files or folders around
  • Changing colour, font, size text is easy – type what you want, tap to increase or decrease size and tap to change colour font – iAnnotate does this as well but somehow they manage to making something so simple look so bulky and complicated. PDF Expert have this down pat. After typing something, if you tap on it again to edit it, a small toolbar also appears just above the writing (Like in Microsoft Word (remember that program?)) that allows you to quickly/easily change colour/size/font as well if you didn’t do it at the start when you were typing.
  • Remembers what your last settings were (and what you last used) for all your editing tools eg highlighter colour, font size, colour, pen thickness, colour etc
  • Pen palette tool is fantastic – Variety of colours are all preset, with pen thickness and opacity – all set out nice and neat;
  • Day/Night & brightness mode
  • Easy to add/delete extra pages
  • Simple layout – sometimes less is good
  • Can upload documents through iPad’s IP address – handy to know, but I upload everything to Dropbox so I don’t use this function at all
  • You can add and store your signature for forms – could be a disadvantage if someone got a hold of your iPad?!


  • Highlight tool is not as sensitive – it won’t always highlight what you want; and you can’t adjust this either – have to delete and try again or highlight more to add (annoying as it can be fiddly)
  • Need to zoom in close for it to be sensitive – be it highlighting or writing in pen mode
  • Doesn’t convert pptx/ppt or docx/doc to pdf format (I need to do this in iAnnotate and export it over to PDF Expert)
  • Scrolling is not smooth – lags greatly, especially if there is colour
  • Can’t scroll from one page to another continuously, thus changing pages can be a hassle
  • Preview of pages is not possible on same screen – need to actually tap on thumbnails to view all pages in document

I am sure there are other advantages and disadvantages for each app, but those are the main ones I found, after using both for a few weeks. Although there are some things I find really good in iAnnotate (highly customisable toolbars on left, preview thumbnails, pen/highlighting sensitivity), I found it lacking in other areas. These are picked up by PDF Expert. Yes, I do have to convert the file first in iAnnotate to pdf, but I can easily export it to PDF Expert.

However, if I had to choose 1 program, I would choose PDF Expert – it is more efficient to use (sitting in a lecture, trying to listen and take down notes on a laptop/ipad is harder than using pen and paper (since you can’t scribble all over the page effectively) so when you have to keep adjusting and readjusting colours and fonts and sizes, it is just too much time wasted). Like I also said, its layout is clean and simple – less is more – I don’t want options for changing a font colour or size to hog up my whole screen – the iPad’s screen isn’t that big! I know I have said in my previous post my favourite PDF editor was iAnnotate – it was, until I started using PDF Expert!

Having said all this, when I am at home reading notes and highlighting or underlining information, I use iAnnotate (more sensitive).

If however, you are looking for an app for note taking specifically (if you scribble on your notes in class like I used to do, or if you have to work with lots of mathematical or physical equations, or even drawing chemical structures and reactions, I wouldn’t use either – they are not very good for this purpose (notability works well – I might do a review for this later). They are purely effective in annotating/typing in your notes. Pen tools are not sensitive enough to pick up what you scribble – it will just be a mess.

Again, hopefully these findings help decide which app you should buy. These are just my opinions after using the program for a few weeks. I would love to hear others’ thoughts and opinions on the program they use when they’re on the run.

Until next time, have a good weekend!

Update 20/03/2012:
I have just purchase the goodreader app – I have heard lots of great things about it (so far it’s cheaper than iAnnotate and PDF Expert, so that’s a good start! $5.49AUD vs $10.49AUD for the latter two). I will use it for the next couple of weeks and post a review up later – I am curious as to what the hype is! Come back in a couple weeks to see what the outcome is!
– Have a nice day!


3 responses to “PDF Expert 3 or iAnnotate 2? A Review

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