How to Print to PDF on iPhone with 3D Touch

Mar 13, 2017 - 24 Comments

PDF

You can save nearly anything as a PDF from iPhone, all it takes is using a little known 3D Touch trick available only in Sharing action menus. Essentially this trick allows you to perform the iOS equivalent of Print to PDF like you would see on desktops like a Mac or Windows PC, except it’s on the mobile iOS world and available to iPhone users with 3D Touch devices.


You can perform the Print to PDF trick in iOS from just about any app, as long as it has the Sharing button and could theoretically print from it. This includes Safari, Pages, Notes, and other apps you’d expect to have this feature in. For demonstration purposes here, we’ll walk through this with Safari where we will use the print to PDF trick on a web page.

How to Print to PDF on iPhone with 3D Touch

This trick works the same to save just about anything as a PDF by using the print function within iOS, here’s how it works:

  1. Open Safari (or another app you want to print to PDF from) and go to what you want to save as a PDF file
  2. Tap the Sharing action button, it looks like a square with an arrow flying out of it
  3. How to Print to PDF from iPhone

  4. Now tap on “Print”
  5. How to Print to PDF from iPhone

  6. Next, perform a 3D Touch firm press on the first page preview to access the secret print to PDF screen option, this will open into a new preview window
  7. How to Print to PDF from iPhone

  8. Again tap on the Sharing action button at this new Print to PDF screen
  9. How to Print to PDF from iPhone

  10. Choose to save or share the document as a PDF – you can print to PDF and send it through messages, email, AirDrop, copy it to your clipboard, save the printed PDF to iCloud Drive, add it to DropBox, import it into iBooks, or any of the other options available in the sharing and saving actions
  11. How to Print to PDF from iPhone

Your freshly printed PDF file will be available with whatever means you shared or saved the PDF. I typically choose to print the PDF and save it into iCloud Drive, but if you plan on sending it to another person through Messages or email to get a signature on the document or something similar, or send with AirDrop from the iPhone or iPad to a Mac, you can easily do that as well.

The ability to print to PDF is very popular and widely used, so it’s a bit of a mystery as to why iOS has this feature hidden behind a secret 3D Touch gesture within the Print function, rather than available as an obvious menu item within the Print menus like Print to PDF is on a Mac. As far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing obvious to suggest this feature exists at all and it’s basically hidden, which is a little weird given how useful it is to save things like web pages or documents as PDF files. But now that you know it exists, you can print to PDF to your hearts delight, right from your iPhone. Perhaps a future version of iOS will make this great trick a bit more obvious, we’ll see.

To have this pdf printing action available to you, you will need a modern version of iOS on a device with a 3D Touch equipped display. Earlier versions do not support the print to PDF gesture, but if you do happen to have an old device with an ancient iOS release you can use a javascript bookmarklet trick instead for web pages only.

Know of any other handy PDF saving tricks in iOS? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

24 Comments

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  1. Luis says:

    I just love this trick. I believe it was just introduced with iOS 10. It’s worth noting, however that although printing to pdf does not work in older versions of iOS it does works on older non-3D touch devices such as iphone 6 or earlier, ipads and ipod touch as long as they are capable of running iOS 10 or later. On those devices, replace the 3D touch in step 4 above with a zoom in gesture (pinch open). This would be the alternate version of step 4 for non-3D touch devices, not included in the article:

    4. Next, pinch open to zoom in on the first page preview to access the secret print to PDF screen option, this will open into a new preview window

    • Sbordocj says:

      Thanks so much for this note!! I was going nuts trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. My phone has 3D touch but apparently not a recent enough iOS to use it for PDF. Without your comment I would still be pushing and pushing and pushing….LOL

  2. Luis says:

    Great feature, indeed, I use it all the time. However, the article does not mention that this feature is also available to users of non-3D touch devices such as ipads, ipod touch or iphone models prior to the 6s, as long as they are running a modern version of iOS. For those users, the 3D touch press from step 4 above can be replaced by a pinch to zoom in gesture as follows:

    4. Next, pinch open to zoom in on the first page preview to access the secret print to PDF screen option, this will open into a new preview window

    I believe this is important for two reasons: first, because this kind of feature might be extremely useful on an ipad, where people usually edit and share documents or websites more often than on an iphone. Personally, I print to pdf more often on my ipad than on my 3D-touch capable iphone 6s. Second, because even some of those of us who own a 3D-touch capable device, myself included, tend to forget that the feature is there. More than once, I have found myself instinctively accessing print to pdf by pinching to zoom instead of 3D touching on my iphone 6s. Not to mention that I almost never remember that I also have 3D shortcuts from the home screen icons of many apps.

  3. DCJ001 says:

    The PDF will be formatted in a better way if, between steps 1 & 2, you enable Safari Reader mode by pressing on the 3 lines at the left end of the URL.

    • Luigi says:

      Yeah, I usually do that when possible (not every website supports the safari reading mode). Also, in step 4 the 3D touch press may be replaced by pinching to zoom in on the first page preview for devices that don’t have 3D touch. This includes all iphone models prior to the 6s, ipads and ipod touches running, as stated above, a modern version of iOS.

    • Luis says:

      That’s true, I do that whenever possible. Not all websites allow safari reading mode.

    • Vivian says:

      Great tip! Thank you.

    • Dick Warner says:

      I haven’t yet tried it from the phone, but I frequently do it from my Macbook Pro. I find I get better results (higher resolution) when exporting to PDF from within my CAD program (Vectorworks) than I get using the print function. Is there a way to set the resolution of PDF generated in Print to PDF?

      • DCJ001 says:

        I believe that there is no way to set the resolution of PDF generated in Print to PDF. I am very comfortable with the default resolution.

  4. Dave Bartram says:

    This trick did not work for me with my iPhone 6s Plus and iOS 10.2.1. Other 3D Touch actions work, but Print in the Sharing box did not. It would be neat if it did. I use Save to Dropbox for a similar result.

  5. Roy Whelden says:

    The ‘make a pdf’ trick works on non-3D touch devices as well. Simply go through steps 1-3 above with a file x and then pinch and expand x with the fingers. This CHANGES IT INTO A PDF! Then use the share button to do what you will with the pdf version of x. Print it, export it to iBook, Mail it, etcetera.

  6. Howard Freeman says:

    I have an iPhone 6 but can print PDF to open in GoodReader or send pages to Kindle. Downloading to device when you have a signal means stuff can be read offline if you’re in the sticks without wifi or signal.
    Howard

  7. Luis says:

    Excellent feature, I always use it. However, it’s worth pointing out that this feature can also be activated by pinching to zoom in on the first page preview instead of 3D touching. This is useful on devices lacking the 3D touch feature, such as iPads.

    • Vivian says:

      Thank you for commenting, Luis! That’s exactly what I needed to be able to use the feature with my iPad.

      • Luis says:

        You’re welcome Vivian. That’s exactly why I commented, I most often use the feature on the ipad too. And even when I do use it on the iphone, I tend to forget it has touch ID, so I often do the pinch and zooming there as well.

    • Dave Bartram says:

      Wow! I did not read the original instructions and was doing the 3D Touch on the print icon instead of the first page preview. I am also excited to learn about the pinch to zoom feature which I can use on my iPad. Thanks to Luis and Jan-Lucas for your comments, and Paul Horowitz for the original article!

  8. Karl says:

    Pages about pages about pages about 3D touching burnout an idea where 3Dtouches explained… weak.

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