Interactive pdf readers

It turns out there are a lot of options out there when choosing a pdf reader for interactive pdfs and none of them are foolproof.

From reading I’ve done, PDF Expert ($10.49AU) is the most reliable when it comes to playing video embedding in a pdf, but different readers (e.g. Goodreader, Acrobat etc.) all have their strengths and weaknesses. Some will drop the video but keep the buttons, some will drop out hyperlinks but keep form fields etc. It’s all about doing a comparison based on what sort of pdfs you intend to create.

A recommendation from Steve Werner at

For interactive PDF files which are to be viewed on a tablet device, you need to reduce your expectations that interactivity will be able to be viewed by every viewer. I’d keep things simple, and don’t make your presentation depend on showing all the interactivity. But Adobe Reader for iOS is very disappointing, and I cannot recommend it. GoodReader ($4.99), ezPDF Reader ($2.99) and PDF Expert ($9.99) are well rated and support many more features.

As my pdfs will be reader on different operating systems I’m going to trial PDF Expert. I’d like to be able to maximise interactivity where possible so we’ll see how this goes.

It seems to be a case of timing here – digital publishing, even though it’s been around for a while, is still relatively young and the many bugs which come up along the way are all indicators that more time and development is needed across the board in this area. From a designer’s perspective I guess it’s a case of working with what I have, doing the research, and waiting until new updates start to solve these problems!

Concluding Notes

Areas I would have liked more time to experiment with include sound: specifically being able to link sounds to animation and edit fade in, fade out and trim sound to the specific length of the animation. I did a little experimentation with some stock sound effects using adobe audition but didn’t have enough time to fully explore this.

Another area I’d like to explore further is interactivity with regards to pop-up balloons or boxes where the reader can enter in an answer or select an option. This would tie in with activities they might have completed or responses to questions that might pop up. There could be a way of changing which page will show up next in relation to their answer, adding an extra dimension of interaction.

I’d also like to investigate the ‘scavenger hunt’ idea of setting the reader a task such as photographing certain objects around the house with their iPad which they could then upload as a way of completing an activity. This could serve as an album/sticker book which they could add to over time.

I still haven’t managed to fully research horizontal versus vertical swipe capabilities or trialled designing for multiple orientations, platforms or renditions for different iPads. I purposefully reduced the scope of my task because of time, however these are all areas which I have partially explored and would have to explore if I were to publish this as an app or e-book with Apple.

As my work currently stands, Apple would not publish this as an App as it lacks sufficient interactivity. They would class this as an e-book rather than selling it through the App Store. If the previously mentioned capabilities were added in, I think Apple would most like consider this sufficient for recognition as an App.

The relative youth of programs such as Adobe Edge Animate and DPS means a lot of research has been necessary to overcome teething problems such as the transparency bug I found when importing my animations. These things are likely to be ironed out in subsequent versions but at the moment, the time involved in addressing these issues as they are discovered is very time consuming and, consequently, expensive. This process has revealed to me the complexity of the undertaking in designing an interactive e-book whether destined for Apple ibooks or the App Store. This would need to be addressed through working in a design team in order to create quicker workflow as having someone who knew coding would definitely speed up the process. As a freelancer, I would not be willing to take on a project like this for a client unless it was more of a traditional e-book (text with illustrations and basic swipe functions). Perhaps as the software gets refined I would be more willing to take this on.

I do hope, nonetheless, to continue developing and fine-tuning the work I have started to complete the e-book as I think it has a lot to offer as a project. The cost of publishing it is a major factor, however, so it would need a lot of time and energy invested in it before submitting it to Apple and paying the Apple Developer fee.

Overall, I feel this project has really stretched me and it’s been very satisfying to combine past areas of knowledge (experience with Adobe InDesign, Ilustrator, Photoshop and Flash) into one project while exploring the capabilities of new programs such as Adobe Edge Animate and Digital Publishing Suite.

Preloaders – how to do them (just for fun)

Read up final chapter on adding animate content for smartphones and tablets – showed preview process but not sure if this is the best option for my app.

Edge First Look Preview 6 – final sections

Making a preloader

Preloader (not necessary for ebook but interesting all the same!) Preloader clip art gives animation of object to show app is ‘thinking’. Edge/ Preloader under properties.