How to Save a PDF to Your iPhone or iPad

It's easy to download or transfer a PDF to your phone or tablet

iPad with PDF image on the screen

 Pixabay / Public Domain

Saving a PDF to iPhone or iPad is super easy. In fact, it's probably more difficult to decide where to save it than how to.

Below are instructions for how to download a PDF from the web or an email, plus how to transfer a PDF from Mac or Windows directly onto your iOS device.

How to Save a PDF From an Email or Website

The Safari web browser and the Mail app use a similar interface for downloading PDFs thanks to their ability to preview PDF files.

These instructions might also work in third-party apps.

  1. Select the PDF to open a preview.

  2. Tap the Share button. It's the box icon with an arrow pointing out of it.

    Doing this opens the share sheet, which is a window with different options for sharing and saving the PDF.

    If you don't see the share button in Safari, scroll upwards or to the very top of the PDF. The bottom menu should appear.

  3. Select where to store the PDF.

    PDF, Share button, options to store PDF on iOS

    For example, if you prefer to view the PDF in Apple Books and you have that app installed, you could choose Copy to Books. Or, to save the PDF to a cloud storage service like iCloud Drive, Google Drive, or Dropbox, select that option from this menu.

    Tap More if you don't see the option to save to an app you have installed on your device (e.g., Dropbox or Google Drive). Save to Files lets you store the PDF in iCloud Drive.

  4. Follow any other onscreen directions to complete the PDF download. For example, you'd press Add in Files to save the PDF in one of those folders.

If the web page you want to save to your iPhone or iPad isn't a PDF, you can convert it to PDF first and then save it using the directions above. To do that, tap the share button and choose Create PDF from the bottom menu (you might have to scroll to the right). Then, select the share button again on the bottom to decide where to save the PDF.

How to Transfer a PDF From macOS to iOS

It's not surprising that the Mac has the easiest method for sharing files with the iPhone or iPad. Using AirDrop lets your Mac wirelessly move the PDF to your device. The only requirement is that the two are on the same Wi-Fi network.

  1. Open the PDF on your Mac (it should launch in Preview) and select the share button from the top menu.

    Share button on PDF in Preview in macOS

    The Mac has a similar share button as an iOS mobile device, featuring a box with an arrow pointing out of the top 

  2. Select AirDrop from the menu and then select your iOS device.

    AirDrop window in Preview for macOS

    In order for your iPhone or iPad to show up through AirDrop on your Mac, it must have AirDrop enabled in the settings and must not be in sleep/suspended mode.  

  3. When you share the PDF using AirDrop, your iPhone or iPad will ask ho you want it opened. You can choose Books, Files, or any other compatible viewer or cloud storage option you have. For example, if you have Amazon Kindle installed, you can choose to open the PDF in the Kindle reader.

How to Transfer a PDF From Windows to iOS

One way to transfer a PDF (or really any file) from a Windows computer to an iPhone or iPad is through iCloud Drive.

  1. iCloud options are found in Settings on an iOS device. Tap your name and then iCloud, and make sure iCloud Drive is turned on.

    Settings in iOS showing iCoud and iCloud Drive

    Since Windows doesn't come with iCloud by default, you have to download and install it.

    You'll need your Apple ID login information at hand to sign on to your iCloud account on Windows and iOS. If you don't know this information, you can reset your Apple ID password.

  2. Copy the PDF file you want to transfer to your iPhone or iPad.

    Copy PDF file in Windows
  3. Open iCloud Drive on your computer and paste the file into an appropriate folder there. You make a new folder and paste the file there if you need to.

    Paste menu item in Windows
  4. That's it! You can now view the PDF file on your iPhone or iPad using the Files app

When you save a PDF or any other file to iCloud Drive from your PC, the file itself won't actually be downloaded to your device until you select it from the Files app on your mobile device. If you need offline access, navigate to it in the Files app and open it while you're online to ensure it gets downloaded.

Another way to put a PDF on your phone from your computer is to email it to yourself. Once you open the PDF on your mobile device, follow the directions at the top of this page to save it.