is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
One of the hoops that I’ve had to jump through many times when using my iPad for work is the finding a way to generate a PDF from an email from directly within the Mail app. In most iOS apps, you can do this by tapping on the Share icon and using the “Save PDF to iBooks” option, among others. But Mail doesn’t have a Share button, and so those app extensions aren’t available.
If your mail is hosted by Google, as mine is, there’s a roundabout way to do this with the Gmail app. I’m not a huge fan of any of Gmail’s first party interfaces (either web-based or native), but the service’s iOS app does have a nice integration with Google Drive. Open an email in the Gmail app and tap on the Print icon and you’ll get an option to save that email to Google Drive as a PDF.
This works reasonably well but if your intention is to save that PDF to Dropbox or do anything else with it, it’s a few taps more than really should be necessary. A more elegant option is a free service that I came across recently called PDFConvert.me that leverages email itself as its conversion method.
You don’t even need an account to use PDFConvert.me; all you have to do is forward any message via email and it automatically and within moments returns the body of that message as a PDF document. By default, that will include the forwarding header in your message, but the service provides a number of alternative email addresses that will produce different results. One will strip out any forwarding headers, another will convert any attachments, another will convert the first URL included in the message, and another will convert any Markdown content. Here’s a sample made using the method that strips out the first set of headers it encounters; the email I forwarded was returned to me as a two-page PDF:
It’s not a bad result at all, and the service is free (donations accepted here), so there’s not much to complain about. However, you’ve got to be comfortable with the fact that it appears to be a side project and that there’s no guarantee that the service will be there when you need it, and also with the idea of forwarding potentially sensitive information to a basically unknown entity. A much better solution would be for Apple to just build in a Share icon into its Mail app.+