Paperless on iPad is not a difficult goal to achieve. But where do you start? And how? Do you throw the printer out the window or force yourself never to use paper again? Sometimes it feels like those are the only options left when you want to make the transition from paper to digital. But are they?
Going Paperless On the iPad
With my experience, I never set out on a holy crusade to go paperless, it just happened. One day I notice that placing a second monitor next to my laptop was more valuable than a printer.
But more importantly, as soon as the printer went out, I opted to go with a cloud-based storage solution to manage my digital documents. It was a no-brainer. My goals revolved around working mobile so; the iPad became my go-to device in my paperless office.
Features such as the Markup Tools in iOS, have also made it easy to manage my PDF documents on-the-go. For example, it’s quicker to annotate a PDF in Mail then to go through the hassle of printing, signing, scanning, and sending the file.
So Yeah! I don’t miss paper.
If you feel the same?
To create a paperless routine on the iPad — start by taking control of the PDF documents that arrive in your Inbox. And then set up a folder somewhere on or off the device where you can send and retrieve the files, (quickly and without a problem).
To lay down the groundwork for a successful paperless PDF workflow here are seven essential Mail and PDF tutorials – that show how to work more efficient with PDF files on the iPad. These seven tutorials will give you an overall understanding of the features and options in Mail to optimize your paperless routine on-the-go.
What Will You Learn In This Article?
In this tutorial I’ll explain:
- How to open PDF Documents in the iPad.
- How to use the Markup Tools in Mail.
- How to sign and annotate PDF in Mail.
- How to send PDF files to apps using the Share Sheet feature in iOS.
- How to save PDF Documents on the iPad to Dropbox.
- How to share PDF files in Dropbox.
- How to make PDF files available offline in Dropbox.
iOS Mail: The Springboard To Our Paperless Routine
There are many PDF management apps and productivity shortcuts that will allow you to open a PDF on the iPad. But for this tutorial, we’ll use iOS Mail since it’s the place where you’re likely to receive most of your PDF documents in your paperless workflow.
Getting around the Mail app
To understand how to navigate inside (iOS) Mail, let me give you a brief explanation of how things work.
When you open Mail, the page is divided into two vertical columns.
- The left column displays a list of the emails in the Inbox.
- The right column previews the content of the selected email.
In the above example, one email sits in the inbox. If the email includes an attach file, a Paperclip image shows up next to the name of the sender.
- In iOS (or the Mobile Operating System that runs the Apple iDevices) a paperclip icon is used to show an attached file was send embedded in the email.
How To Open a PDF File On the iPad
To open a PDF file embedded in the content body of the email, TAP ON the PDF file. Usually, files are placed after the sender’s Signature.
Navigating around the Preview Window
- Once the file opens, swipe up or down to scroll and read the document.
- If the PDF has multiple pages, use the page menu located on the right side near the edge of the preview window to go to the desired page.
- To scroll through multiple pages, swipe (up or down) inside the menu area.
How-To Use the Markup Tools in Mail
When viewing a PDF, the Markup features in iOS will allow you to annotate or add information to a document before sending off the email or tapping reply.
For example, using the drawing tool to markup your document is an excellent way to explain an adjustment to someone, just draw and arrow, a circle or square inside the adjustment area to show your input.
To bring up the Markup Tools:
- Go to the upper right side of the page and tap on the image that resembles a toolbox or briefcase.
- Then go to the bottom of the page to select the tools from the toolbar.
Use the following tools to add notes, illustrate your thoughts or bring focus to a selected area of the document.
- Draw tool
- Magnify tool
- Text tool
- Signature tool
- Color style selector
- Line style selector
- Font and Alignment selector
How To sign and Annotate a PDF Document in Mail
One of my favorite features in the Markup Tool is having the flexibility to add my signature to a document; this is extremely easy to do and one of the advantages of going paperless on the iPad.
And by-the-way your fingers can do the job just fine, no need for a stylus.
Watch the video below to see how quickly you can add your signature and annotate PDF in Mail.
Here is the video link if you prefer to watch the video later: “How to Sign & Annotate PDF in Mail.”
How To Open a PDF in Other Apps
A great example that shows why the iPad (or iOS) is an effective platform to manage a paperless workflow is displayed by the intuitive method in iOS to share files between applications.
For example, let’s say that you start out using the Markup tools in Mail and later need more advanced editing from another application. Or perhaps you need to forward the file via a Text Message. All these types of functions (plus others) can be done quite easy using the Share Sheet feature.
Here is how to bring up the “Share Sheet” menu in Mail to send a PDF to a list of compatible Apps.
- To open the share menu go to the upper right side of the page, (next to the Markup Tools) and tap the Share icon.
- Once open, scroll through and select other compatible applications to open the file.
Ways to Save Digital Documents On and Off the iPad.
After viewing your PDF, I don’t recommend leaving the file in Mail and go through the trouble of searching and opening the attachment every time you need to see your document.
But instead, I suggest a storage solution (on or off the iPad) to collect, sort and organize all your PDF files together — this is an essential part needed to optimize your paperless routine. The good thing is that there are many available options to choose.
Flash Drives For the iPad
If you wish to go with a (more) hands-on approach solution, I recommend looking into a USB flash drive for the iPad. The idea here is the same as connecting a USB thumb drive to a laptop, where you save your digital files externally to the drive, and take them with you.
The two main advantages that I see with this type of storage solution is that drive is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, and don’t require a lot of technical know-how to use. Plus, flash drives are perfect solutions for backing up all types of digital stuff on the iPad like music files, photos, videos and, of course, all your PDF documents too.
Dropbox: A Paperless Filing Cabinet on-the-Go
Here is why I recommend using Dropbox:
- Works just like a physical hard drive, but it’s online.
- Access your stuff 24/7.
- Saves all types of Digital files, i.e., MS Word, Photos, Videos, Music, and PDF.
- Work offline. No internet required.
- Share files with non-Dropbox users.
- Set Private settings to files
To show just how quick and easy you can incorporate Dropbox into an iPad paperless routine here are three essential things you’ll need to learn how to do.
How To Upload a PDF File to Dropbox
Access Dropbox via the Share sheet
To upload a file to Dropbox just follow the same procedures to bring up the share menu in Mail (as shown before) and then select the Dropbox app.
Just know that you’ll need to have the Dropbox app install on the iPad (first) to see it on the menu.
Once all that is said and done and before you tap “Save” — the next step is to choose where to save the file. You have two options, either select an existing folder or create a new one.
After a successful upload, your file can be read or downloaded just about from anywhere that Dropbox has a home, i.e., from a PC, a Mac, from Android and iOS tablets and smartphones and the Amazon Kindle readers just to name a few. And when in doubt there’s always connecting via the Dropbox Web app.
How To Share Files in Dropbox
If you want to share a file with someone that’s also easy to do, but how about if the person doesn’t have a Dropbox account. Not to worry, you can still share your documents with them. Just send them a link to the file, and once clicked, they’ll be able to view it.
Sharing your digital documents this way also bypasses any file size restrictions that your email provider might have, because you’re not attaching anything to the email. The link just points back to your account.
Pretty nifty, right? I think so.
Let me show you how to share files using the Send Link feature in Dropbox.
- Go to the file
- Tap on “(∨)” and select “SEND LINK.”
- Scroll through the list and choose one of the share options.
How To Make a File Available Offline in Dropbox
The introduction to making files available offline is another serious reason to include Dropbox in your paperless office. This feature has drastically changed not only how I manage my everyday productivity tasks, but also how I connect with my personal content during my leisure time too.
For example, when wi-fi is not available or unreliable, having offline access means that I can still enjoy reading long form PDF content like books, watching a movie on an airplane, or listening to my favorite music playlist in the car.
To make files available offline in Dropbox follow these steps:
- Go to the file
- Tap on “(∨)” and select “Make Available Offline.”
- Or Tap on the Offline icon (located on the upper right side as shown above).
Productivity Tip: A quick way to get your files offline is by marking them as favorites for offline access.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to lay down the ground work to maneuver your paperless workflow on the iPad adding a signature and annotating a PDF in Mail just be a breeze. And just think, the trees will love you more for it too.
How do you use the iPad in a paperless office?
What’s the best advice you would give to someone starting out.
Or what are your frustrations in creating a PDF workflow?
Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.