PDF Powerhouse Apps

There are two must-have apps from Readdle on my iPad that make working with PDFs a dream. They are:

  • Documents [free] – serves as both a file manager and a reader/viewer/media player for PDF, MS Office, ePub, images and videos.
  • PDF Office [$4.99/mo – $39.99/yr] – create PDF documents and fillable forms from scratch or from a scanned form, scan documents and receipts, annotate, edit and even sign PDF documents.

Here’s a quick look at the business side of PDF Office . . .

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/119929726]

PDF Office is also a powerhouse app for research. Here are some examples:

  • The built-in scanner can capture pages from books, documents and other research ephemera. Use the annotation tools to highlight interesting information and add notes. You could even use a note to create a source citation that stays with these research snippets.
  • Create your own fillable PDF forms with PDF Office and then use it to fill them in while you are researching. If you prefer a form that already exists, scan it using PDF Office and turn it into a fillable PDF form in seconds.
  • Edit text in existing PDF files.
  • Use these features to download your favorite research worksheets and forms, customize them and turn them into forms you can fill in right on your iPad, then send the completed form to Evernote, your research notes folder or even a research cousin.
PDF Office will find and create form fields for you.

How does Documents fit into the workflow? Although PDF Office has a PDF reader built into it, Documents can read all kinds of files. If someone emails you a Word file, you can open and read it in Documents. It also has an impressive file management system giving you access to your online storage (iCloud, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive and more) and even your desktop if you wish. It also has  annotation capabilities, can fill in PDF forms and it handles large files with grace.

Documents File Manager
  • Keep you forms, reference guides, user manuals and other frequently-needed research material in Dropbox folders so you can get to them from just about anywhere without overloading your iPad. With Documents, these materials are always within easy reach and it’s just as quick to return them to their online “shelf” once you have finished using them.
  • It will also manage your growing collection of PDF forms. Use it to retrieve a copy of a blank form, fill it in and then forward the completed form to the appropriate folder and/or Evernote.
  • Documents file management features make it easy to keep things organized between multiple online storage accounts. It copies/moves multiple files with ease.

These two apps add some amazing capabilities to my iPad. Not only are they useful when researching on the road, they make life a lot easier when working at home too.


Digital Storytelling with MagCloud

MagCloud is Hewlett-Packard’s self-publishing platform. What is interesting about MagCloud is that it isn’t a book publishing business. Instead, its focus is on magazine-style publications. MagCloud not only supports magazines, it’s a great place to produce and publish quarterly journals, reunion souvenir booklets, brochures, flyers, catalogs and just about anything else your imagination can create. In addition, there’s a digital option where your publications can also be offered as high-quality PDFs. And, there’s even an iPad app.

For family organizations and genealogical societies, MagCloud will not only print your publication for you, but they can even send them directly to your members. And, by offering a digital edition in addition to the print one, you may be surprised to see how many members choose it – reducing your costs even more. You can also generate additional revenue by selling back issues through your MagCloud storefront without the expense and effort of storing and shipping them yourself.

There are a growing number of templates available including 8.5 x 11 standard, 8.5 x 8.5 square, 5.5 x 8.5 digest and 8.5 x 5.5 digest. The two digest options would work well for digital editions to be read on an e-reader or tablet. Prices for full-color printed publications start at 16¢/page for the digest format publications. The saddle-stitch binding option costs nothing, but the perfect binding is an additional $1.00. Check the price calculator to see what the actual cost of your publication will be. You have several options with the digital edition: free, free with print edition or paid. If you set a price for your digital publications, 30% goes to MagCloud and you keep 70% of it. There are no upfront costs and no cost to maintain your online storefront.

Creating a MagCloud publication is really quite simple. There are template packages with instructions for each size publication and several different apps. Apps include Microsoft Word [Win & Mac], Microsoft Publisher, Apple’s Pages and Adobe’s InDesign. Download the package and start creating your own publication.

MagCloud is a good solution when you want to create a more graphical publication. And, by choosing one of the digest options as your template, you’ll only need to create your publication once to offer it as both print and digital editions. The smaller size of the digest makes it much easier to read the resulting PDF on tablets and e-readers. And, with the digital edition, your hyperlinks will function so you can include links to outside sources like your society’s web site, the article author’s site or even back to your MagCloud storefront to grab another publication.

If you have a storytelling project full of photos, fonts and fixed layouts, MagCloud offers the flexibility to do just about anything you want and you don’t need to learn a new app just to build your story project.

Formatting for Tablets

My family has discovered the joys of tablets – which has given me an easy and effective way to share our family stories. Thanks to platforms like Scribd and it’s associated mobile apps, along with apps like Documents by Readdle, I’m discovering that I can create some amazing publications full of text and graphics to share with my family. It’s all a matter of formatting.

My two favorite apps for these projects are Apple’s Keynote presentation app and Pages, the word-processing app. I am using the older version of Pages (v 4.3) because it has the layout capabilities not available in the version 5 app. Windows users can use Word and PowerPoint to do the same things. Keynote is my app of choice for publications heavy on photos and graphics. With it I can create scrapbooks, picture books and even photo documentaries – and all will fit comfortably on a tablet’s screen in landscape view. For text-heavy publications, I use Pages. I’ve created a template with a page size of 6″ x 8″ and ½” margins on all side. Combine that with a 12pt font size and I’ve got a very comfortable read in portrait view and a readable two-page spread in landscape view.

While most of us have used presentation and word-processing software for years, few of us use the features that will make a family history project extra special. Learning to use features such as styles, table of contents generation, image placement and metadata will take some time, but that investment will result in a better quality publication with less effort. If you have used a scrapbooking app to layer papers and graphic elements on a page, you’ll find that you can do many of those same things with your presentation software – it’s just the commands are different.

The Future of Memories at Scribd.
The Future of Memories created in Pages and published at Scribd.

Once a project is finished, it’s exported to PDF format and posted on Scribd. My family can use the free Scribd app to read it there or download it and read it with the app of their choice. Using apps like Documents [iOS -free], family members can read all kinds of files and move files between a number of popular cloud storage systems. I have also set up a shared folder to make my storybooks easily accessible to those who prefer that method.

One last note . . . Scribd is not only an impressive publication-sharing platform, it also has a bookstore and subscription service so you can make publications available for sale through it. I’ve found it a great place to publish my Moultrie Guides series of how to books. The 80% earnings per sale is very nice too.