PDF Files Are Not Showing on the iPad
By David Weedmark
Updated August 23, 2018
The Apple iPad was designed to open and store PDF files quickly and effortlessly. However, this doesn't guarantee that you will never experience a problem. If you rely on your iPad to read business documents, it's important to know how the iPad accesses PDF files and where it stores them. Some PDF files may not display properly using the iPad's native programs. This is often the case with any document designed to be used by multiple programs on different operating systems. If this happens to you, you have additional options for accessing the file and opening it.
Accessing and Saving a PDF
There are several ways to access a PDF file on an iPad. The simplest way is often to send it as an email attachment to an account on your iPad. You can also send PDFs to your iPad with cloud service apps like Dropbox or Google Drive. If the PDF is on a website, you can access it using Safari. After you access the PDF, you can tap the "Action" button, which looks like a rectangle with an arrow pointing outwards. This gives you the option to open the PDF in the iBooks app. This also saves the file to iBooks, where you can access it again at any time until you delete it.
Delays in Loading a PDF
Sometimes when you try to open a PDF, you'll find the iPad doesn't seem to do anything with it. This is often caused by download delays, due to a weak Wi-Fi signal or a slow Internet connection, particularly if you are trying to open a large PDF several hundred megabytes in size. If you are using a cloud service like Dropbox, you may find the PDF isn't visible on the iPad after you uploaded it from your computer. While cloud services are usually very fast, it's important to remember that it may take up to a half-hour for a file to be visible during peak periods when there are a lot of people using the service.
Troubles Accessing a PDF
Sometimes a PDF may not open on an iPad using one method but may open using another. For example, some users have reported that a PDF attached to a Gmail message may not always open on an iPad. If you find a PDF won't open using one method, the best solution is try another method. For example, if you can't open a PDF in a Gmail message, try using an account on your Mail app or a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive. You can also add the PDF to the iPad when you sync the device with iTunes.
Using PDF Reader Apps
Not all PDFs are created the same way. Many different programs produce PDFs, each with different settings and requirements. For example, if the PDF uses uncommon fonts that weren't embedded in the document, the PDF may not load properly in some readers but may be fine in others. This is common in computers and certainly isn't limited to the iPad. Before assuming the file is corrupt or that the PDF isn't accessible on the iPad, try using a different app. There are hundreds of apps available in the App Store that can read PDFs and even modify them. To find free apps, just type "free PDF reader" in the App Store's search field.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.