Now that I’ve started grad school, I read quite a number of academic papers. A typical week consists of at least 5 required reads, but as I work on projects, investigate research topics, and attend seminars, that number can get substantially higher.

Additionally, life has quite a lot of down time, and maximizing that time is key in grad school. There are just too many projects and meetings to attend, and making the most out of those 5 to 10 mintue waits can really make a difference. That’s where GoodReader comes in.

GoodReader is the best way I’ve found to read 2-column papers on the iPhone, and from what I’ve read, it’s a great experience on the iPad too. The app has a number of features that makes reading on a phone much better.

Decrease Eye Strain

The default view is just a bit too bright for the best viewing in my opinion, but GoodReader gives you the option of choosing a shade that’s best for you.

The Two Column Issue (My biggest problem)

The issue with academic papers is making two columns easier to read on a smaller screen. GoodReader has the ability to “reflow” a paper so that you can browse the entire paper as if it were a single column, which is great on a screen like that on the iPhones. Here’s what the above paper looks like after reflowed in both day and night mode.

At first, this looks a bit plain, but I’ve found that reading papers like this in reflow-night mode really helps me. To me, this reflow feature is really what makes this app worth buying. I’m still looking for a way to do this on my computer so that I can put papers on my Kindle.


This is not a feature I end up using a lot, but I imagine it would come in handy if I wanted to reference a particular section during a discussion seminar. As you can see, I’ve searched for the word “abstract” and the app scans the entire document, highlighting occurances of the word (it will also do this in reflow mode too). This is a nice feature that is expected of any digital reader.

Syncing with Dropbox

When I set out for a PDF reader on the iPhone, I just wanted to read 2-column papers easily. This feature has really enabled me to get the most out of the 5-mintue wait times I mentioned earlier. GoodReader supports using Dropbox to sync papers, making it efforless to get the latest assigned readings on my phone.

Before using this app, I stored all my papers in a single folder on Dropbox so that I would have them stored on both my desktop and laptop, but now I’ve added one more layer to that.

As you can see above, I now place that week’s papers in the “active” folder, and then move them to the archive folder when I get done with the paper or sometime over the weekends. The active folder is the one I sync with my phone, keeping the papers on my phone concise so that I don’t waste time shuffling through my full list of papers (academic papers can be awkwardly named, making them hard to find).

Syncing is also a breeze, just choose sync from the actions menu and you’re off!

Reading Mobile

Two column papers present a challenge for digital readers. I’m still looking for a way to read them on my Kindle, but this seems like the best there is on the iPhone. Having these papers on my phone keeps me doing something productive in my down time, and Dropbox makes it even easier. I would defintely recomment this approach to other researchers.

Have any other suggestions for optimizing your day? Know of better ways to read academic journals on the iPhone or Kindle? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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