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Learn how to print PDF on iOS devices

Printing in PDF format is a simple way of preserving the information and design of what we are seeing on our screens. It is a 1:1 digital copy of the documents and websites that we use in our daily lives. When we transform a document into a PDF we try to get an idea of the exact replica of what would have appeared on the paper, if a job had been sent to a real printer. But, how can we print PDF in iOS?

Save and Print PDF in iOS

A big advantage of printing to PDF, or saving a file or document to PDF, is that it is available in a lot of applications by default. Applications don’t have to support any kind of PDF standard, they just need to support the normal printing features. This means that when we decide “Save to PDF” , this feature is available in many iOS applications.

Learn how to print PDF on iOS devices
Learn how to print PDF on iOS devices

Print a PDF in iOS

The concept of printing a PDF is fairly easy to find in macOS, however, in iOS, the feature is more difficult to locate. There is no obvious button on the interface to perform this function, but that doesn’t mean that the ability to perform it isn’t there (even if it is hidden).

Of course, it is best if an application includes PDF export features natively, to use the built-in features instead of the print-to-PDF solution. Pages, Numbers and Keynote (among many others) include official features to save documents as PDF files, for example.

Print a PDF in iOS

However, there are many applications that do not offer features like this… and this is where printing to PDF shines. More applications than you might think at first expose printing features especially in iOS. That’s because the AirPrint printer market is big and applications that support AirPrint get the “Save to PDF” functionality for free.

Just by looking at the system’s applications, Apple includes printing functionality in Mail, Photos, Notes, Maps, and Safari. AirPrint support through third-party applications is generally good, especially those aimed at productivity.

Print a PDF in iOS

Print from iPhone

Printing a PDF from your iPhone will work in any application that integrates the AirPrint feature.

The exact location of the button Print varies from application to application. Typically, applications that display a system resource sheet include a print action in the bottom row. Other applications have special menus that reveal such a print button, each application is a small world.

For example, Mail places a Print button next to the “Reply” and “Forward” options as shown in the images above. However, other applications do not offer any printing support and in those cases there is simply no way to print a PDF from your iPhone, a clear example of this is the iMessages application.

In an AirPrint-compatible application, simply open the print user interface, revealing the system sheet you want to print.

Print a PDF in iOS

Customize the printing options according to your tastes, and then a preview of the document you want to print will appear. On an iPhone that supports 3D Touch (applicable to iPhone 6s onwards), we can press firmly on the screen to see a preview that will expand to fill all the space on our screen. If you have an iPhone without this pressure-sensitive technology, simply place two fingers on the thumbnails of the page and separate them from each other.

In full-screen preview mode, tap the screen once to display the toolbar with the Share button. Press the Share button in the bottom left corner of the screen , this reveals the system resource sheet, showing a variety of actions to save the PDF based on the applications you have installed on your iPhone.

To save with this type of format, select the “Add to your iCloud drive” option. This will save a copy of the print in PDF format in the document storage of iCloud , which you can import into other applications and then print out.

Printing from the iPad

Since the iPhone and iPad share the same operating system (iOS), the steps for printing a PDF file on the iPad are very similar to those of the iPhone. The main difference here is finding the print buttons because although they share many things, there are slight changes in the interface of both devices. However, the steps are basically identical.

In an AirPrint-compatible application, open the print user interface. Do the pinch-out gesture in the preview area . This will expand the preview to full screen display.

Print a document in iOS

In full-screen preview mode, tap the screen once to display the toolbars. Press the Share button on the toolbar at the top right of the screen. This presents the system resource sheet with the export options for the applications you have installed (just like on the iPhone).

To save the PDF as a file in iCloud, choose the button “Add to iCloud Drive” . This will save a copy of the PDF to the folders on your iCloud drive, which you can then import into other applications (e.g. use as attachments in Mail, etc.)

As you can see, Saving in this widely used format is a very useful trick for keeping all the basics of your file when you print it . In iOS, it’s a bit more complicated to figure out where the different options to convert or print a PDF are, each different application exposes its own user interface to access the AirPrint option. Once you find it, however, the steps on iPhone and iPad are the same for everyone.