GoodReader for iPad: An inexpensive, powerful app for the enterprise

Paul Strobeck takes an introductory look at GoodReader for iPad, an inexpensive app that's become a primary tool in his enterprise.

Every day, there are hundreds of new applications added to the various app stores. As enterprise tablet users, where do we start? Historically, our Windows PCs have come to rely on the Microsoft Office Suite as one of our primary tools for creating and viewing knowledge work. Tablets are great for consuming content, and it's recently coming into its own as a creative tool, but what will become our primary apps for tablet computing?

One of the challenges we've worked to overcome is determining which apps we should purchase and roll out across the iPads in our enterprise environment. In a previous article, I described how we use the GoodReader app and the Cisco AnyConnect VPN app to connect to our WebDAV server to get documents onto the iPad. In this way, we're basically using our WebDAV server as a private cloud.

You can also use GoodReader to connect to other cloud storage providers -- Box, Dropbox, Google Apps, SugarSync -- and other types of connections, including FTP/SFTP and AFP servers. The GoodReader app has become the Swiss Army knife of apps for some of our users, and so I wanted to share some of the capabilities of this software tool.

GoodReader for iPad

The GoodReader app is available for both the iPad and IPhone for $4.99 (USD). As of this writing, the current version is 3.14.2. I've personally been using GoodReader since 2009. This app, in addition to connecting to multiple remote server types, can sync single files or entire folders to the iPad -- and it's fast!

GoodReader is a file viewer but also much more. The app supports PDF and TXT files and can handle most other file types: MS Office -.doc, .ppt, .xls,(.docx, pptx, .xlsx), iWork ‘08/'09, HTML, and Safari webarchives, images, and audio/video files. One of its best features is the ability to annotate PDF files.

After you've purchased, downloaded, and launched the app, it displays a split screen (Figure A). On the left is the My Documents pane, which can be sorted -- and it changes, depending on the option chosen on the right side. On the right side of the screen are five different options for working with files: Preview, Find Files, Manage Files, Web Downloads, and Connect to Servers. Figure A

GoodReader app main screen.

There are some additional tools in the bottom right corner, including:

  • The camera icon (Figure B) links to the Photos app
  • The Wi-Fi Transfer icon allows you to connect your iPad via Wi-Fi
  • The Settings icon allows you to customize security, viewing, audio, and various other settings for the app
  • The question mark icon accesses the built-in help file, which is quite concise, and we've come to rely on it for discovering how to utilize this app to its full capabilities
  • The padlock icon allows you to lock a file for protection, as necessary
Figure B

GoodReader links to the Photos app.
Once you've added documents to your My Documents pane, the true power of this app begins to shine through. When you set the Preview toggle to the ON position, you'll see a thumbnail in the Preview pane. Depending on the type of document you're previewing, you can click the Open In... button (see Figure C) and select another app to import, copy, and open that file. The original file in GoodReader will not be affected by any changes you make in the other app. Figure C

You can open the file in other apps that are installed on the iPad.
The Find Files pane allows you to search your My Documents folder and sub-folders to locate files. It can search by name, recently read, recently added, and starred (files you've added a star to by using the Manage Files pane). The Find Files search capability is quite fast and efficient. As you begin to add more files to your My Documents panel, the Find Files pane becomes an important tool in your use of the GoodReader app. The starred option is definitely a value-add, especially if you are frequently reviewing a specific file (Figure D). Figure D

The Find Files pane makes it easy to locate specific documents.
The Manage Files pane is where you work with the files at the highest level without opening a file directly. First, you have to select a single file or multiple files in the My Documents pane on the left side of the window. You'll then have the following options (Figure E):
  • Copy
  • Move
  • Zip
  • Mark the file with a star
  • Protect the file
  • Mark it as read or unread
  • Create a new folder
  • Create a new text file
  • Email the file as an attachment (which launches the Mail app)
  • Rename
  • Create a link (copies it as a URL to the clipboard, and then you can paste into any app and open the link back to GoodReader)
  • If the file is a PDF, you can add it to a PDFPortfolio
  • Open the file in another app
  • If you have a third-party app, you can add a file as a Todo Task
  • Delete
Figure E

The Manage File options in the GoodReader app.
The Web Downloads pane allows you to download files to GoodReader from the Internet, either by entering their URL addresses or by browsing the web with a simple built-in browser (Figure F). There's step-by-step instructions in the help file for creating a bookmarklet for the Safari browser, which can automatically send a web page into GoodReader. You can then use the built-in browser to view that page from GoodReader. This is a very slick feature. Figure F

You can download files to GoodReader.
From the Connect to Servers pane, you can add various types of storage and file synchronization servers and services (Figure G). My organization uses WebDAV for file synchronization. Figure G

You can add various types of storage and file synchronization servers and services.

For the purpose of the this article, I've created three servers: Dropbox, Box, and a WebDAV server named DAOBOX.

Figure H

Here are three servers that I've created for GoodReader.

In my next post, I'll dig deeper into opening and working with different file types and discuss some of the specific features and ways that we are using GoodReader to work with files in our enterprise environment.

Do you use GoodReader in your organization? Please share your experience in the discussion thread below.

By Paul Strobeck

Paul Strobeck is an IT Manager for a local government in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has worked in the government IT sector since 1985. As an advocate for tablet computing, since the arrival of the iPad, Paul enjoys discovering new uses and soluti...