There are lots of great iPad apps that let you work with PDF documents, but if you need to work with two documents at the same time, your options are more limited. There are some great apps like iAnnotate that include tabs so you can quickly tap at the top of the screen to switch between documents, but you are still not looking at two documents at the same time. Easy Annotate is a PDF viewer and editor app that has one unique feature: you can view two documents at the same time, side-by-side. The developer sent me a free review copy of this $2.99 app, and I've been trying it out for the last few weeks. (The app is currently $2.99, but the developer says that this is just an introductory price and that the app will eventualy sell for $5.99.)
The easiest way to get a document into Easy Annotate is to use the standard iOS "Open in..." command. So if a PDF file is attached to an email, just open it in Easy Annotate and it will appear on the left side of the screen. Or from within the app itself, tap the folder icon — there is one on each side of the screen — to open a document from Dropbox or to open a recent document.
Once you have two documents open, you can read them both at the same time. Simply swipe left and right to move through pages, or you can use the page thumbnails at the bottom to quickly move through pages or jump to a specific page.
There are a series of icons, duplicated on both sides of the screen, that let you perform actions unique to the document on that side of the screen such as open a document (e.g. open from your Dropbox), search for text, export the document, undo and redo.
At the top middle of the screen are two icons which apply to both documents. The icon on the left lets you select annotation tools: highlight, underline, strike-through, note, pencil and add text. It is an interesting that you see different buttons for each possible color, so unlike other apps where you first select a pen and then choose the color, in this app you click directly on the blue or the red pen icon.
The second icon at the top middle is a gear icon. From here you can connect the app to your Dropbox account, view the User Guide, switch to a night mode that reverses the colors, choose whether you want to look at one or two documents at a time (more on that below) and swap the documents so that the one on the left appears on the right and vice versa.
Although the marquee feature of this app is the ability to view two documents at once, that isn't always easy. On my iPad Air, 12 point text in a document is rather small and hard to read when the document it shrunk to fit only half of a screen. It is still legible, thanks the iPad's Retina display, but it isn't ideal. You can pinch to zoom, but because only half of your screen is devoted to that document, you end up seeing only part of a line and you need to scroll back and forth to read the entire line.
But if you want to get a better view of a specific document, Easy Annotate provides a quick and easy solution. Simply turn your iPad to portrait mode and the document on the left will fill the screen. This makes it easy to read the document on the left, turn my iPad when I need to see both documents again, and then turn my iPad back to see a larger version of the document on the left. Or better yet, if you tap twice on the screen using three fingers, you swap the left and right documents, so using that gesture in portrait mode will instantly show you the other document. The gesture is a fast way to swap between the two documents.
Read the Users Guide to learn other useful gestures, such as tapping with two fingers on the right side of the screen to jump forward 10 pages or on the left side of the screen to jump back 10 pages.
If you want to see just one document when you are in landscape mode, then as noted above, one of the gear icon choices is to switch to a single document mode. When you do that, you see one page on the left and the next page on the right, or you can pinch to zoom so that one page of the document fills the entire screen. Even in this mode, you still have two documents open at a time, and tapping a button at the top right lets you quickly switch back and forth between the two documents.
Over the last few weeks, there have not been many occasions when I needed to view or edit two documents at the same time, but when there is a need, the app works well. You can look at a Complaint on the left side of the screen and an Answer on the right side of the screen. You can look at a brief on one side of the screen and an exhibit (such as a contract being discussed in a brief) on the right side of the screen.
While the app has worked well on my iPad Air, I don't like using it on my first generation iPad mini. The screen is just too small to read a document with 12 point text when it only fills half of the screen, and because my iPad mini does not have a Retina display, the text is too hard to read. If you have a second generation iPad mini with a Retina display, and if you have better eyesight than me, then perhaps you'll still find this app useful on an iPad mini. For my tastes, I will only use the app on the larger screen of my iPad Air.
Easy Annotate doesn't include all of the features found in sophisticated PDF apps such as iAnnotate, PDFpen or PDF Expert, but it includes the basic features that you are most likely to want to use when reading a document and making simple annotations. And when it comes to the one feature unique to Easy Annotate — working with two documents at the same time — this app handles the task extremely well. The developers of this app had some clever ideas and did a very nice job implementing them. If you ever find the need to work with and view two documents at the same time, Easy Annotate is a fantastic app.
Click here to get Easy Annotate ($2.99):