Goodreader on the iPad is one of my all time favorite apps on any platform. It’s an amazingly powerful PDF reading app, handling multiple tabs of thousand-page documents as it if were displaying text files. I’ve spent countless hours in the app, doing everything from reading product catalogs and comics, to studying and grading papers. Read, highlight, annotate, add notes, search, it does it all, and very well. With one exception: PDF-embedded file handling.

For those who haven’t dealt with this particular aspect of PDF files, it’s possible to embed files directly into PDF files, as a type of annotation. This is a widely supported feature that can be read and edited by most PC-side PDF programs, and it can be extremely useful. Before my last exam, a friend of mine had created a brilliant summary of the material, listing each topic with a detailed summary. I took that document, turned it into a PDF file, and then embedded relevant lecture notes and other documents as files where they belonged in the summary. That way, instead of having 20-30 documents that were all named almost randomly, we ended up with a single document that had every relevant document embedded in it, where it belonged. Once you read the summary for a topic, you could just open the relevant documents right from within the PDF, and close it back into a singe file to keep track of. No searching around a folder for the files, no mental sorting of files into topics, no messes of multiple sub-folders; just one document to rule them all.

This was a pleasure to use on my PC, but in Goodreader, things really hit the fan quickly. Instead of just opening the file from the PDF file, Goodreader insisted on extracting each file to the current directory first, and then opening it from there. That meant that by the time you have read each attached file, you have a copy of that file in your Goodreader system. I sync all my files via Dropbox, and love how Goodreader lets me sync entire folders that way. Unfortunately, this means that unless I now go back and change directories after opening a file, it extracts them to where it found that file, meaning the files end up in Dropbox as well. The only way around this that I’ve found is to manually delete the files that have been extracted afterwards. This isn’t exactly an ideal solution, as things quickly get messy in your once clean folder:

Image: Same folder before and after reading some of the documents embedded in the file.

I also wish that Goodreader supported embedding files itself. It has a very powerful built-in file manager, and it would be great to be able to insert files as annotations. It already has excellent hand written annotations, notes, text highlighting, and so on- but it’s missing the ability to embed files. That means that you still have to drag your feet back to a computer to do that specific operation, which is something I really don’t want to do. I of course don’t know if there are any technical limitations that makes it hard or impossible to do this on iOS, but I hope not.

I don’t know if better support for this part of PDF files will ever come to Goodreader, but I can always hope. I love working with PDF files in it, so having a single thing like this not work properly is a bit of an issue. I can understand that there’s no built in OCR (Optical Character Recognition, image-to-text) feature in Goodreader, which is another thing I still have to use a computer for, because that’s a very resource-intensive task. Embedding and extracting files, however, doesn’t seem to be in the same category.

If nothing else, I hope that an option can be added to always extract embedded files to a special folder, one where you can delete the files without having to sort them first. Right now the only thing you can do is to go back to file management and browse to another folder manually before extracting any files, thus placing them in that directory, and that’s not the most intuitive of methods.