Tuesday, September 29, 2009

iPhone EFB Redux

A few days ago, a pilot friend sent me this link, a write-up about a new PDF reader for the iPhone called GoodReader and PDFPlates. So I snagged GoodReader at the iTunes app store, where it is on special for a limited time for a mere $0.99US. I've used PDFPlates before, and found it reasonably useful. And it works on the iPhone, too, due in no small measure to the usefulness of GoodReader, which is true to its name.

I got to thinking how I disliked looking up airports by page number when I test drove the Kindle DX. Finding an airport, then finding the page number, going to that page, and then scrolling to find the approach you want has got to be akin to one of Dante's circles of hell. After using GoodReader's bookmark feature with approach and A/FD files from Nacomatic or PDFPlates, all I can say is vive la différence! Unlike the Kindle DX, GoodReader on the iPhone supports bookmarks. I also found Nacomatic's newly improved bookmark structure (since I last tried it) to be pretty useful. And GoodReader lets you create your own, personal bookmarks to frequently used procedures.

After purchasing GoodReader, you'll need to go here and download GoodReaderUSB. I'm using MacOS, so if you're a Windoze user you'll need to figure out that version of the equation. Install GoodReaderUSB, connect your iPhone to your Mac using the USB cable, and you just drag-and-drop the files you want to transfer to your iPhone. There are other ways to transfer, but this is by far the most preferable and it's dirt simple.

Once you've loaded the terminal procedure or A/FD PDFs that you want to view, you're ready to launch GoodReader and get down to business. Here's a sequence of iPhone screen snaps that illustrate looking up the A/FD entry for San Martin/South Country Airport using Nacomatic. This earlier mentioned link illustrates the use of PDFPlates using the page lookup method, which is odd since PDFPlates has bookmarks. In my opinion, bookmarks are a whole lot easier to use.

After you open the A/FD file, tap on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the screen to access bookmarks. By the way, in these examples I selected GoodReader's landscape view.

Here's a sequence of screen snaps illustrating the look up for the RNAV-A approach at Lampson/Lakeport:

The downside of all this is that the iPhone's screen is pretty damn small for cockpit use, though you can look at half of an approach chart in landscape view. And zooming in makes it just kinda, sorta readable.

The upside is that for an investment in an iPhone, you can have current A/FDs and terminal procedures in your phone for very little money. Methinks you should be able to do all this on an iPod Touch, too.

BTW, the special low price on GoodReader expires October 1st.


PDFPlates.com said...

It's worth noting that PDFPlates also have bookmarks!

John Ewing said...

In fairness, I guess I should have illustrated the use of the bookmark feature in GoodReader with both products to give them equal time.

I regret the error and I've edited the post to correct the impression that PDFPlates does not support bookmarks because indeed it does.

Anonymous said...

Or, you could just buy ForeFlight Mobile for iPhone and not go through all the hassle. Search for airport, look up procedure, bam. All done. Ask the guys for a promo code ... they'll probably send you one if you do a review.

John Ewing said...

I'm told ForeFlight is quite nice, but it's too pricey for me at this point. Remember I've just come off a year with significantly reduced income and scant few of my readers ever use that donate button in the upper right corner.

Having said that, I'm not averse to paying for software since good software requires good programmers. And good programmers (like good instructors) don't work for free or live by simply breathing.

ForeFlight's price point is certainly more reasonable than the solutions Jeppesen has been marketing over the years.

Anonymous said...

Hey, make no mistake - us cheapskates appreciate the free (okay, 99 cents) solution! Now I can keep the parts and service manuals for my airplane handy, too. Great tip!