Back in 2012, I reviewed an app called Reader HD by a company called Naverage, created by German attorney Maren Reuter and her husband who is a software designer. I was very impressed with the way that the document displayed Microsoft Word .docx documents — better than any other iPad app — but at the time (and this is still true today) so much of my practice involved working with Microsoft Word files in the older .doc format that I didn't use the app very much. Reuter has now updated her app to add a number of improvements that attorneys are going to love. First, the app now works with both .doc and .docx files, so you can use it with all of your modern Microsoft Word documents. Second, the app improved the way that it displays tracked changes, and as you will see below, I think that this is now the very best app you use to view the "redline" tracked changes in a Microsoft Word document. Third, the interface of the app was updated for iOS 7, and the name was changed as well; instead of Reader HD, the app is now called Reader 7.
Viewing Word Documents
Unlike other apps that work with Word files such as Apple's Pages and Dataviz's Documents to Go, Reader 7 is not a word processor. You cannot use this app to edit a Word document. The app only displays Word documents so that you can read them on your iPad. Of course, the iPad already has a built-in viewer for Word documents; simply tap a Word document attached to an email and you can read it without using another app. But when you do so, the formatting is often wrong, footnotes are not displayed, tracked changes are not displayed, comments are not displayed — suffice it to say that it is just a peek into the text of the Word document, not a good way to display the Word document as it was intended to be seen.
Many other apps give you more features than the built-in viewer when you view Word documents. For example, the latest versions of Pages and Documents to Go can both display tracked changes, footnotes and comments. But they still do not display documents perfectly, the same way that the document would look on a computer, and thus margins will sometimes look incorrect and you will sometimes see other quirks in the document. For example, in my 2012 review, I included some images to show you how a table of contents displays when viewing a Word file on a computer, using the iPad's built-in viewer, in Quickoffice, in Office2, in Documents to Go and in Reader HD. At the time, Reader HD did the very best job showing you the document the way that it is supposed to look, and that still remains true today. Footnotes, indents, headers, footers — everything looks the way that it is supposed to look.
For example, I created a simple memorandum that has a header at the top with a privilege statement and my firm logo. The iPad's built-in document viewer showed me the logo, but put it in the middle instead of the right where it is supposed to be, and messed up the formatting in the "TO" "FROM" "DATE" and "RE" lines. I could still read everything, but it just doesn't look the way it is supposed to look:
In Apple's Pages app, the firm logo isn't shown at all. The formatting at the top is better than the built-in viewer, but the title "MEMORANDUM" is too high.
Documents to Go just removes the header completely. Not a big deal, but I'm not seeing the document the way that it was supposed to be seen:
Office2 does a great job with the document header, but still makes some mistakes in the formatting of the "FROM" and "DATE" lines at the top, and doesn't display the line that is between the "RE" and the body of the document.
Reader 7 does an excellent job of displaying the memo the way that it was supposed to be seen:
The menu bar at the top of the screen is not very obtrusive, but if you tap the icon with the arrows you can hide it completely so that the document fills your iPad screen:
This is just one example of how a document displays better in Reader 7 than other apps, but I tested many other documents, and every single time, documents displayed best in Reader 7. Sometimes another app would be just as good, and even when I saw problems in other apps those problems were often just formatting quirks that didn't stop me from reading all of the text in the document. Nevertheless, in all of my tests, Word documents in Reader 7 looked closer to the way that they are supposed to look.
When you are reading a document in Reader 7, you swipe up and down to view the rest of a page. To go to the next page, you swipe from right to left, and you swipe from left to right to go back a page. The app includes a nice animation when you move pages; the page rotates somewhat to the bottom right.
One thing that I do not like about this app is that when you change pages, you continue to view the same part of the page. Thus, if you are at the bottom of page 4 and you swipe to go to page 5, you are first presented with the bottom of page 5, and you need to swipe to get to the top of the page. I wish that there was at least an option to automatically go to the top of a page when you move forward in a document, and automatically go to the bottom of a page when you go backwards in a document.
Back when this app was called Reader HD it did a nice job showing tracked changes, but there is a new approach to redline edits in Reader 7 that is excellent. The main part of the screen shows the document as it would look with changes accepted, with new text underlined and with a small triangle indicating where text was deleted. A panel to the right gives you more details on the changes, with the new text underlined and the deleted text struck through. Comments are displayed at the bottom of the right panel.
If you tap in the main text near an edit, the panel on the right jumps to that spot. For example, you can tap next to a triangle to see the text that was deleted. If you tap on a word in the panel on the right (either an edit or a comment), the document darkens with a highlight on the line that contains that word. This makes it easy to look at changes or comments in the right panel and then quickly see where that change or comment occurs in the document.
Reader 7 assigns a color to each author's edits. You can tap the word Settings to change the color assigned to an author. For example, Reader 7 assigned the color yellow to edits in one of my documents, and I found yellow hard to see, so I changed that author to red and another author to blue to make the changes more obvious.
You can send a file to Reader 7 using the "Open in..." option in any other app. For example, just hold down on an email attachment to get the option to open the document in Reader 7. And Reader 7 can also send a document to any other app.
If you tap the word Files in the menu bar you see a list of all files you have opened in Reader 7. Tap another file name to view that file. Unfortunately, I don't see a way to delete files from the file list. [UPDATE: Reuter tells me that an option to delete files will be added in an update.]
Speaking of files, in addition to Word .doc and .docx files, Reader 7 can also view PDF files. However, there are tons of apps that do a great job viewing PDF files and I didn't see any unique advantage to viewing a PDF file in Reader 7. On the other hand, I did like that Reader 7 can turn a Word file into a PDF file, something that not many other iPad apps can do. In my tests the PDF files that it created were often quite large — as much as ten times the file size that I would get if I created a PDF file from from the same Word file using one of the many programs that can do this on my PC or Mac. Nevertheless, it is nice to offer this feature in an iPad app.
The app currently lacks built-in Dropbox support, but it is easy enough to use the Dropbox app to open a file in Reader 7. Having said that, Reuter says that built-in Dropbox support is already in the works and should be in an updated version of the app just a few weeks from now.
If you use an IMAP mail server, Reader 7 can access your emails and display a list of emails that contain Word documents. I wasn't able to test that feature because my law firm uses Exchange.
Reader 7 gives you the ability to assign hashtags to documents so that you can later use those hashtags to find documents. For example, you might assign #smith to all documents in the Smith case, and then you can later filter the file list to only show documents with that tag assigned. I didn't test this feature much because it isn't a feature that I see myself using.
I had a few problems with the app crashing. It did not happen very much, but once it did result in a file that could no longer be opened — I got an error saying that the file wasn't closed properly. Because this is just a document viewer, this kind of crash is no big deal — just go back to wherever you got the file from and open it in Reader 7 again. I mention this only because app crashes are a pretty rare occurrence on my iPad, and apps like Pages have been rock solid for me. Hopefully the bugs will be ironed out soon.
If you need to edit a Word document, you need to look elsewhere [UPDATE: at least you need to look elsewhere for now; document editing is planned for a future, paid update to the app]. I myself currently use Pages or Documents to Go, and sometimes Microsoft Office Mobile (an iPhone app but it runs on an iPad) to edit Word files on my iPad. But if you just want to view a Word file, Reader 7 does a better job displaying Word files than any other iPad app. Virtually every time, the document on my iPad looked the same as the document in Word on my PC and the same as the printed version of the document. This alone is a great reason to use Reader 7.
In addition, Reader 7 does a great job displaying redline edits in a document created using the track changes function. Some people might prefer the way that redlines are displayed in Documents to Go in which all edits are displayed in the text itself, with additions underlined and strikeouts for deletions. But I like the way that Reader 7 focuses on how the document will look with the edits made, while also giving you the ability to quickly see in the right panel exactly what was added and deleted.
Put is all together, and Reader 7 is the very best app for displaying Word documents on an iPad, including documents with tracked changes. Considering how important it is for attorneys to read Word documents on an iPad, especially Word documents with edits in redline, Reader 7 is an app that almost every attorney will want to have on their iPad. I suppose this should come as no surprise considering that the app was created by an attorney and her husband.
The app used to cost $2.99, but it is now free. I actually wish that Reuter would charge for this app to reward her for her efforts and give her an added incentive to continue to improve the app. [UPDATE: Reuter tells me that her plan is for this to be a free reader app, and then in the future she will add the ability to edit documents as an in-app purchase.] Considering that the best Word viewer app is free, I can't think of any reason for you to wait to get this app.