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Mobile PDFs – 4 Ways to Read PDFs on your BlackBerry

March 10th, 2009

From the Cloud Computing Blog.

Today’s post is a little bit different than my normal fare. In my quest for mobile productivity, I have been looking for a way to carry my technical library with me where ever I go. While I can upload my PDFs to various Cloud OSes, and I do, I still have a need to access my documentation while disconnected. Plus, I still have to view those documents when I may not have a computer available (although with my EEE PC 1000h, that is rare these days). That leaves me with my phone.

I recently upgraded to a blackberry bold. I’m running the BB OS 4.6.0.167. I also have it fitted with an 8GB SDHC card. The bold allows me wifi access if available and 3g access when it’s not. The CPU in the bold is decent but doesn’t compete with a netbook. Whatever solution I choose needs to be usable from a reader’s perspective (as in flipping from page to page) as well as actually readable.

In this post, I am going to be reviewing 3 native PDF viewers for the BlackBerry: PDF to Go, Repligo Reader and BeamReader. I am also going to add the MobiPocket mobile ebook reader. While it doesn’t do PDF, it does convert from PDF to its native format. Finally, I am going to throw in ShortCovers. While not exactly in the same class as MobiPocket or a PDF reader, it is a way to read ebooks and it runs on a blackberry.

NOTE: The images in this post are actually smaller than what is displayed on the blackberry. To see the original resolution, click on the image. The BlackBerry Bold as a resolution of 480×320.

pdf2go-about Repligo-about

beamreader-about Mobi-loading

PDF To GO

PDF To Go by DataViz is the current market leader for native PDF viewing on Blackberries. The more recent versions of BlackBerry come with the standard version of Documents To Go, a native MS Office compatible toolset that let’s you view and edit MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on your device.

pdf-to-go-icon pdf2go-trial-license

pdf2go-menu pdf3go-competitor-warning

If you upgrade to the premium version, you get the ability to create new documents in those office tools and you get a native PDF viewer, PDF To Go. The upgrade is not cheap. $49.99 for a 1 year license or $69.99 for a perpetual license.

PDF To Go has a decent interface. It’s a pretty standard interface for a BB; pick a file from a file manager, load it up, render the page.

pdf2go-file-manager pdf2go-rendering

PDF To Go renders faster than any of the other tools I tried. It is followed very closely by Repligo but just edged it out. I was loading a very large document. On smaller documents, there was no noticeable difference between Repligo and PDF to Go. Render time is important when reading. As you navigate from page to page, you don’t want a long wait. Even though PDF To Go was the fastest, it was still a slow process going from page to page. When going back to a previous page, it had to re-render it (as if it is not caching the rendered pages).

Once the page is rendered, it is very small. That is because the PDF is maintaining fidelity and is meant for a much larger screen. All of the tools allow you to zoom in and out. PDF To Go has the ability to zoom to various predefined levels.

pdf2go-toc pdf2go-zoom-menu

pdf2go-toc-25-pct

The main purpose of a PDF is to maintain the fidelity of layout and graphics. A PDF view MUST be able to view documents as meant by an author. PDF To Go does a very good job of this, even at various zoom levels. The final image below is also a special mode called Word Wrap. In word wrap mode, you will lose fidelity and graphics but it is easier to read the text.

pdf2go-25-pct pdf-to-go-width

pdf2go-50-pct pdf2go-word-wrap-mode

PDF To Go has some basic help. Select help from the menu and you can view key shortcuts as well as some simple documentation on using the reader.

On the downside to PDF To Go, besides how expensive it is, is the fact that it does not support book marks, nor does it support a Go To Page feature. For small documents, that might not be much of an issue but for larger documents one or the other is a must. I don’t want to (slowly) render through a couple of hundred pages to get to what ever it is that I am interested in. PDF To Go does save your last location so that when you reopen a PDF, you will return to the same page where you left it.

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  1. May 4th, 2009 at 09:19 | #1

    have you already noticed: Nokia N97 is already available for Pre-Order in Spain for 450? without contract…!

  2. Chris
    July 28th, 2009 at 07:56 | #2

    I have been researching pdf readers for the blackberries for a large company. I have found the BeamReader will work, but you have to purchase different versions for the different phones. ReplicaGo Reader will run on all the blackberry devices I have and therefore is easier to purchase since I just have to buy one version.

  3. November 9th, 2009 at 10:58 | #3

    This blog is so informative. Great work!

  4. April 7th, 2010 at 02:09 | #4

    its really helpfull for me :) i use it so many times in my blackberry
    thaks for sharing

  5. franc
    September 14th, 2011 at 01:24 | #5

    Pdf2Go is nice but there is another big drawback: the zoom is just in 25%, 50% steps and so on.
    When I try to read a pdf on my Curve 8900 it is either too small to read or it is too large, then I have to scroll horizontally each line.
    This is not a reading pleasure, it is a stopgap.

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