New in iOS 9 is the ability to save web pages as a PDF document to iBooks. It is a feature that is near and dear to my heart, in part because it is the last major feature I worked on at Apple before I left in early 2013.
What users of iOS 9 may notice is that Safari offers a new item in the Share Sheet: “Save PDF to iBooks”. They may think of this as a Safari specific feature.
But the Photos app also allows this, as will every iOS app that presents printing using the iOS “Share Sheet” (in iOS programming parlance, using an ActivityViewController). If an app can print via the Share Sheet then “Save PDF to iBooks” automatically appears as well.
During my career at Apple I worked primarily on the printing subsystems of Mac OS X and iOS. Much of that work was on the software plumbing needed for users to print on paper. But a portion of that work was enabling the ability to produce a PDF file corresponding to what otherwise would have been printed output. Save as PDF from the print dialog was part of OS X since version 10.0 shipped in 2001.
When creating the printing system for iOS, allowing for the ability to create a PDF reproduction of the results of printing was a goal of the design from the beginning. To me it seemed almost more important to allow users to capture content to store on their device to take with them (or email or whatever) than it was to produce pieces of paper. The design of the printing system allowed for it but the user facing feature was left out. So in the summer of 2012 I worked on an early implementation of what is now shipping. And I’m thrilled that it’s now out.
Executives at Apple talk about the desire to “surprise and delight our users”. Well I experienced that firsthand when I got a notification from Apple’s “Tips” app on my iPhone soon after updating to iOS 9. For me the (ironic) surprise was that the tips app was telling me about a feature that I worked on. And I was delighted to see that it was finally shipping.