How to Download PDFs to the iPhone Using iTunes

You can really put the "portable" into Portable Document Format (did you know that's what PDF stands for?) by loading your iPhone full of PDFs. Whether they're business documents, ebooks, comics, or some combination of all of those, having a library of documents in your pocket is really handy.

There are two major ways to add PDFs to your iPhone: using ​the iBooks app or using third-party apps downloaded from the App Store.

Before continuing, it's important to know that the iBooks method only works on Macs because there is no PC version of iBooks. iBooks comes pre-installed on all new Macs and any Macs upgraded to OS X Yosemite or newer. In addition to the Mac version of iBooks, you'll also need the iOS version. That app is pre-installed in iOS 8 and up, but if you don't have the app, you can download iBooks for iPhone here (opens the App Store).

Download PDFs to the iPhone Using iBooks

add pdfs to iphone using ibooks

Once you've got iBooks on both your computer and iPhone, follow these steps to add PDFs to your iPhone:

  1. Find the PDF(s) you want to add to your iPhone wherever they are stored on your computer.
  2. Launch the iBooks program on your Mac.
  3. Drag and drop the PDFs into iBooks. After a moment, they will be imported and appear in your iBooks library.
  4. Sync your iPhone in your preferred way (either by plugging it in via USB or by syncing over Wi-Fi).
  5. Click the Books menu in the left column.
  6. At the top of the screen, check the Sync Books box.
  7. Below that, select either All books (to sync every PDF and ebook in your desktop iBooks program to your iPhone) or Selected books (to choose which to sync). If you choose All books, skip to step 9. If not, go to the next step.
  8. Check the box next to the ebooks and PDFs you want to sync to your iPhone.
  9. Click the Sync button (or Apply, depending on some of your settings) in the bottom right corner to confirm these settings and sync the PDFs to your iPhone.

Reading PDFs on iPhone Using iBooks
Once the sync is complete, you can disconnect your iPhone from your computer. To read your new PDFs:

  1. Tap the iBooks app to launch it.
  2. Find the PDF you just added and want to read.
  3. Tap the PDF to open and read it.

Download PDFs to the iPhone Using Apps

add pdfs to iphone with apps

If you prefer an app other than iBooks to sync and read PDFs on your iPhone, you'll need to check out the App Store, which is packed with PDF-compatible apps. Here are some good options for other PDF-reader apps (all links open iTunes/App Store):

Once you've got one or more of those (or another PDF app) installed, follow these steps to use a third-party app to sync and read PDFs on your iPhone:

  1. Sync your iPhone to iTunes as you normally do (either over USB or Wi-Fi).
  2. Click the File Sharing menu in the left column of iTunes (in older versions of iTunes, this may be called Apps).
  3. In the left-hand column, click on the PDF-reader app that you want to use to read the PDFs you're syncing to your iPhone.
  4. In the right-hand column, click the Add button.
  5. In the window that appears, navigate through your computer to the location of the PDF(s) you want to add. Repeat this process for every PDF you want to sync.
  6. When you've added all the PDFs you want to this section, click the Sync button at the bottom right corner of iTunes to add the PDFs to your phone.

Reading PDFs on iPhone Using Apps
Unlike on a computer, where all PDFs can be read by any compatible program, on the iPhone they can only be read by the apps you sync them to. After the sync is complete, you can read the new PDFs on your using by:

  1. ​Tap the app you synced the PDFs to in the previous instructions.
  2. Find the PDF you just synced.
  3. Tap the PDF to open and read it.

Tip: One super-quick way to add a PDF to your iPhone is by emailing it to yourself as an attachment. When the email arrives, tap the attachment and you will be able to read it using any PDF-compatible app installed on your phone.