iOS 9.3: Sync PDFs Through iBooks

| TMO Quick Tip

Oh my goodness, we can now sync PDFs through iBooks with OS X 10.11.4 and iOS 9.3! If this were a movie, the clouds would be parting, and a chorus would be singing something inspirational, and I would be making millions of dollars for having cute bangs or something.

This isn’t a movie, though, and I don’t have cute bangs. More’s the pity. But I am still excited about this long-overdue feature, so here’s how you’ll use it. First, after you upgrade your devices to the just-released versions of their respective operating systems, you’ll see this when you open iBooks on iOS:

And this when you do so on your Mac:

(If you don’t see those screens, you may not have enabled iCloud Drive, so head off and do that in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac or Settings > iCloud on iOS.)

After the feature is turned on, any PDFs you add to iBooks on your devices will sync everywhere. On the iPhone, for example, you can access them by tapping on the menu at the top of the app…

…and picking either “All Books” (which’ll mix ’em in with everything) or “PDFs,” which’ll show just that collection. 

On the Mac, you can view PDFs in iBooks in a few different ways, but I like clicking on the “Collections” tab and choosing that list from the sidebar.

So then how do you add items to your new syncing PDF list? Easy-peasy. With iOS, you’ll use the so-called Share Sheet to put a PDF from, say, Mail into iBooks.

Open the PDF in question and tap the sharing arrow first.

Then use the Share Sheet to pick “Copy to iBooks.”

On the Mac, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping.

And finally, here are another couple of tricks. You can rearrange these PDFs on your iPhone or iPad by tapping the “Select” button when you’re viewing that collection.

Afterward, you’ll get options for moving and deleting things, or you can use the familiar three-lined icon to drag items around to rearrange them.

On your Mac, you can instead use the little “Sort By” option near the upper-right to arrange your items by title, for example, or you could turn on “Sort Manually” if you wanna drag them around to suit your needs. 

So what say you, dear readers? Is this too little, too late (and will you continue using Dropbox or other services for syncing PDFs)? Or are you jazzed about this new feature? Weigh in below!



This tip was suggested by my most excellent pal Bryan Mahler. Thank you!

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Lee Dronick

  If this were a movie, the clouds would be parting


That should be “If this were an iMovie, the iClouds would be parting” smile

Melissa Holt

Oh, Lee. You slay me. grin


Brilliant. Clear. Useful. Thank you, Melissa!

Melissa Holt

Thank YOU, Jay. grin

Diana Joseph

I too was an am super stoked about this feature, I have collected PDFs for years on my iPad and it would annoy me so much that they did not show up on my other devices,  however I was absolutely mortified to find that after this upgrade all my PDFs have simply disappeared and I have not been able to get them back so have lost years worth of ebooks and documents that I have saved,  anybody else experience this and know what to do to get back my precious PDFs?

Paul Goodwin

Diana. Let me know if and how you resolve this problem. I too have years of PDF downloads on my iPad that I have titled and sorted into many Collections. I was once horrified about a year ago when I tried syncing iBooks using iTunes. iTunes used the titles on the Mac which in OS 10.9.5 you can’t personalize with titles (the Mac version of iBooks uses the cryptic titles given to those web pages). The sync process wrote over all of the iPad custom titles and replaced them with the cryptic Mac iBooks titles and it took me many hours getting my iPad right again.

Peter 1

Previously I was able to sync my position in epub books between all my iOS devices and Mac, now since iOS 9.3 I Can’t

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