How To Setup GoodReader on iPad to Sync PDFs With Dropbox

How To Setup GoodReader on iPad to Sync PDFs With Dropbox

At work, our sales people wanted an easy way to show PDFs to clients on the iPad (without using iBooks or iTunes). That’s the easy part. They also wanted:

  1. An easy way to get PDFs onto the iPad (they tried using iBooks, but it sucked)
  2. A simple way to distribute the PDFs to multiple sales reps & iPads
  3. A way to show very large, image heavy PDFs (they tried using iBooks, but it crashed constantly)
  4. To draw on top of the PDFs
  5. To email the edited PDFs to clients
  6. Most Important: We needed the ability to deliver a PDF from the main office to all sales reps in the field (scattered across the country).

They considered building a custom app to do this, which may have cost anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the agency chosen, features, etc.

Instead, of spending $20,000+, we used a $5 app (GoodReader) and a free Dropbox account. GoodReader does everything we wanted. And Dropbox is the perfect distribution system.

Problem(s) solved.

Protecting Sales Reps from Themselves

The trick to this entire setup was the ability to stop the sales reps from deleting or editing a file and saving that file over the “master” version in Dropbox. If that happened, every other sales rep would see an edited PDF, or worse – couldn’t see the PDF at all if it was accidentally deleted.

It had to be idiot proof.

GoodReader has a solution for that. It’s called “Download Only Sync.” This option never uploads anything to the Dropbox server and never deletes anything from the Dropbox server. Perfection. Therefore, if a sales rep deletes a PDF from his iPad, that PDF is always saved on the Dropbox server and a new copy can be downloaded at any time.

Unless of course, a sales rep changes the settings. Then we’re screwed. That hasn’t happened… yet.

How to Setup Dropbox and GoodReader

The following is the exact steps used to setup our system at work – based on our needs above. We have used these exact settings on 10+ iPads syncing with the same Dropbox account.


Open the GoodReader app and tap on “Connect to Servers” then tap “Add”

Tap on “Dropbox” to create a new connection

Give your connection a name – it can be anything to help you remember which account this is. If you’re only syncing 1 Dropbox account, you can name it “Dropbox.” If you’re using multiple accounts or cloud services with GoodReader, you might consider a more specific name, like “Dropbox Sales PDFs.” Tap in the field next to Readable Title and type a name. Tap the blue “Add” button when finished. For this example, I’ll use the name: Dropbox.

Tap the new Dropbox server you created (it will show the name you typed in the last step). Make sure to tap the name, NOT the blue arrow.

The Dropbox login screen should appear. Enter your email and password then tap “Sign In.”

After logging in to Dropbox, you’ll see all of the files and folders in your account. In this screen you can tap on the folder you want to sync with Dropbox – the background will turn light green when selected. You can tap on additional folders to sync them. In this example I’ll sync the Public folder. When you’ve selected the folders you’d like to sync, tap the “Sync” button at the bottom of the window.

You’ll see a Download & Synchronize popup warning that says:

The folder you selected will be automatically downloaded and tagged for synchronization. In the future, simply press the “Sync” button in “Web Downloads” section to synchronize this folder with its remote version on a server. Now please choose a target folder for the download.

Tap “Proceed” (The warning is a really long way to say, “hey, this folder is going to sync with Dropbox.”)

You can choose where the folder will be placed on your iPad. You can tap a folder or just tap “Download here & Synchronize” to save into your main directory in the Good Reader app.

The Sync Parameters has really slick options. Your settings will depend on how you plan to use Good Reader and Dropbox together – keep that in mind. For this example, I have very specific needs for the Good Reader to sync with Dropbox, so your settings may be different. The best way to figure out how everything works is to test!

  • Turn ON “Download Only Sync”
  • Turn ON “Delete Local Files”
  • Turn OFF “…even if they were edited”

When you’re settings are correct, tap “Sync” in the top right corner.

Any files in your Dropbox account will immediately begin downloading to your Good Reader on your iPad. You’ll see this screen:

In this screen you’ll see your synced folder (the Public folder in this example). You can identify the synced folder by the green icon on top of the blue folder. The most important step is to remember syncing your iPad with Dropbox – you do this by tapping the “Sync” button next to Web Downloads in the right hand column. Tapping the Sync button is the ONLY way to download files from your Dropbox account!

Now that your Dropbox account is synced with Good Reader, you’ll have to upload PDFs. Remember, our home office is responsible for uploading all of the PDFs to Dropbox. They do this via a computer and

When you’ve uploaded a few files, tell the field sales reps to tap “Sync” and make sure the PDFs download to GoodReader.

You’re done!

  1. Download GoodReader:
  2. Get a free Dropbox account:

Main image by Sean MacEntee

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founded this website way back in 2007. Since then, he's owned two Macs, four iPods, two iPads, Apple TV, AirPort Extreme and 3 iPhones, is a huge nerd.