How to Save as PDF from iPhone or iPad with a Gesture in iOS 10

Apr 17, 2017 - 12 Comments

PDF

It may not be well known, but iOS has several ways to save things as PDF and print webpages and other documents as PDF files. While one of the most popular methods involves using 3D Touch, another PDF generation approach is available to devices without that capability, and instead relies on a gesture trick to save something as PDF. The advantage to saving PDF files with the gesture method is that it works on iPad as well as iPhone and iPod touch, covering a much broader range of devices.

It’s quite simple too, though it is completely hidden from any obvious user interaction. We’re going to demonstrate this great PDF saving trick by saving a webpage as a PDF on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, but it works the same with other document types from common apps like Notes, Pages, Numbers, and many others. You’ll need a modern version of iOS 10 or newer to have this special save PDF gesture feature, it is not included in old releases, so update your device if need be.

How to Save as PDF on iPad and iPhone with a Zoom Gesture in iOS 10

You can save webpages and most other documents as PDF by using a largely hidden and unknown gesture trick at the Print screen in iOS, here’s how it works for iPhone and iPad:

  1. Open Safari (or an app like Notes) and go to what you wish to save as a PDF file, this tutorial uses a webpage for example
  2. Now tap the Sharing action button, it’s the little square with an arrow flying out of the top
  3. Save as PDF from iPhone or iPad with a gesture

  4. Tap on “Print” from the Sharing sheet menu options
  5. Save as PDF from iPhone or iPad with a gesture from the Print screen

  6. At the Print Preview screen, place two fingers on the preview and spread apart, this is basically a reverse pinch gesture just like you’d use to zoom into a picture inn iOS
  7. Save as PDF from iPhone or iPad with a spread pinch gesture

  8. This reveals the secret PDF saving option in iOS, now again tap on the Sharing action button to save or share the webpage or doc as a PDF
  9. Save as PDF from iPhone or iPad

You can save the generated PDF to iCloud Drive, or to multiple other services and apps, including iBooks, Dropbox, Kindle, and more. You can also choose to just share the saved PDF file by way of Messages, Mail, or AirDrop too.

Choose how to share or save the PDF file

Why such an important and useful feature as saving as PDF is hidden behind a gesture on an obscure print screen is a bit of a mystery, but perhaps future versions of iOS will make this more obvious and easier to access directly in the Sharing menu.

This is not the only way to accomplish PDF generation in iOS, in fact you can use the aforementioned print to PDF with iPhone 3D Touch trick which is also accessed from the Print screen, or you can even save webpages to iBooks app as a PDF file in iOS using the simple sharing and save menus, though you will obviously need the iBooks app installed on the iPhone or iPad to do that.

Much older version of iOS are not totally in the dark, you can use this older trick to accomplish the same result, it involves bookmarking a little javascript snippet and accessing that when you want to generate PDF files, not quite as fluid as the native iOS approach but it works anyway even on ancient releases of iOS.

Thanks to Luis for leaving this great alternative PDF saving option in our comments! Do you know of any other handy PDF saving, generation, or modification tips for iOS? Do you have a favorite PDF trick for iPhone or iPad? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

12 Comments

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  1. Alex says:

    In other words, the PDF is being generated when the webpage at print screen is pinched out.

    Thank you for the tip.

    • Luis says:

      Exactly, or when you hard press if you have a 3D touch capable device (iphone 6s or later). The advantage is that this method, whether used with or without 3D touch, works from any app that allows printing. Here Paul used safari as an example but it also works in mail, notes, ibooks, the iworks suite (pages, numbers and keynote) and any other app where the share sheet shows the print icon.

  2. DCJ001 says:

    When a Safari website allows it, I use Safari Reader to give the website a much better appearance before I convert the website to a PDF, in my iPhone, iPad Pro, or Mac.

    • Luis says:

      I do that too. There’s also the advantage (or maybe disadvantage to some) that when using this method to convert to pdf, the URL doesn’t appear at the bottom of every page as it does when using the ‘save pdf to ibooks’ button from the share sheet.

  3. Philip says:

    This does not work to save a PDF to Photos – it works for jpegs.

  4. Fnordmeister says:

    > It’s quite simple too, though it is completely hidden from any obvious user interaction.

    You could say that about anything associated with the iPad.

  5. John says:

    Or you could select the share button and select “Save PDF to iBooks”. This will also save the pdf to iCloud if you have it setup so you can view it on any devices you use and are signed in to with your Apple ID.

    • Luis says:

      Yeah but that’s a more limited approach. It’s only available in safari and it only sends the file to the ibooks app, whereas the print-and-zoom in method is available from any app that allows printing and it lets you send the file to any other app that can read pdf on your device, including icloud drive for access from other devices. In addition, if you use the save pdf to ibooks button the resulting pdf document will display the website url, time, date and page numbers on the bottom of each page, whereas if you use the print dialog and zoom in it won’t.

  6. John says:

    Sorry. Didn’t see the iBooks at the end of the tips. I also convert to reader view like stated earlier, makes for a much better looking document.

    • Luis says:

      ‘save pdf to ibooks’ is only available from safari, though. The other method, using 3D touch or a gesture from the print dialog, is available from any app that supports printing and it allows to send the file to any other app that supports reading or sending pdf files, giving it a more ch broader scope.

  7. Jim Roberts says:

    How do you know this is a PDF? I don’t see that in any of the tutorial. It’s automatically made a PDF when one expands the preview image?

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