Using 3D Touch to save PDF documents

Managing your paperless life from your iPhone is incredibly easy and convenient. Since I moved to a system where I digitalise and archive all my documents in PDF format, I no longer need to keep hard copies laying around waiting to be sorted or shredded. Anything on paper is scanned with Readdle’s Scanner Pro and uploaded automatically to a Dropbox folder for later processing. Any document I want to keep that comes my way in a digital format also goes to this Dropbox folder — the iOS share sheet ‘Save to Dropbox’ extension makes this a breeze.

Following this routine for months I have always encountered two issues, which fortunately can be fixed on an iPhone with 3D Touch. First it’s the lack of a share sheet in Mail. I’m using Apple’s stock email app, which up to iOS 9 doesn’t really talk to other apps. Some apps and web services can receive items emailing a custom email address but that’s not as good as the share sheet the rest of the apps in the ecosystem use.

The second issue is with certain websites from banks and my electricity provider, which allows you to view your PDF bill, but use some evil plugin to stop you from downloading it. The string in question is openpdf, so you can use this 3D Touch trick to download those documents.

On Mail, open the email in question you want to covert to PDF. Then tap on the ‘Reply’ arrow button and you will given three options: ‘Reply’, ‘Forward’ or ‘Print’. Tap on Print and wait for the document preview to appear. Now, here comes the trick. Press on the document preview to trigger 3D Touch and keep it holding until it “peeks and pop”. All of the sudden, you have a PDF preview with a share sheet with all the extension actions you use.

For the second case, the naughty websites that block you from downloading a PDF bill or statement, the process is the same. Just pretend you want to print the website on Safari by tapping on the Share button → Print → press the preview to “peek and pop”.

This functionality is completely hidden from the user and I’m glad I found about it on Club MacStories and iMore. To remember the sequence, I have to think of this as the equivalent of printing to PDF on a Mac. You have to pretend you want to print a document and in the last moment, save it as a PDF.