SEC Filings, Critical Reading, and the iPad

annotationI will confess one of the main reasons I got an iPad is that I was growing weary of being glued to my laptop when having to read a 10Q or having to print out a bank’s 10K at 25 sheets with four pages to sheet so as not to print a tome and be forced to practically read with a microscope.  This just seemed to be counterproductive and something technology should handle appropriately.   So, I got an iPad.

Morningstar Website

Up until recently, I’ve read SEC filings on Morningstar either on my iPad or laptop.  I’d make a few notes in a Google spreadsheet, but I definitely haven’t been actively reading as much as I should.  Following my reading of Neil Golding’s post on Deliberate Practice, I realized I needed to refine my process as I often am just reading.  True critical reading involves annotating, underlining, and asking questions in the margins. However, I don’t exactly have the ability to annotate a web page like I do on paper, which is a real downside, but definitely not an insurmountable one.

Xamtech SEC Filings

Firing up the app store, I found Xamtech’s SEC Filings readers.  They offered a few choices, and I opted for the XBRL one which was $20 and could display all types of filings.  At first, I got a bit excited.  The app had the ability to underline and annotate, even optional public sharing of annotations.  I could easily select any SEC filing for any company I followed and also convert the documents to PDF and mail them to myself.

However, it suffers from a number of deal-breaking flaws:

  1. It only displays small sections of SEC filings at a time, i.e. you can’t easily move around the entire document.
  2. Search only applies to a small section.  This drove me bonkers as full document search is absolutely vital.
  3. You have to opt out of sharing each annotation you make.  I understand them wanting to encourage sharing, but I should be able to turn it off forever in a single setting.

Hopefully they’ll update the app with these problems addressed, and I’ll give it another look.


I then switched to getting my SEC Filings in PDF format and reading them on my iPad with Aji’s iAnnotate. iAnnotate seemed to have a daunting number of bells and whistles at first, but is rather simple to configure when you play with it.  Once I got scroll lock and page tap working, I’ve been totally happy with underlining, annotating, even drawing on the document. (Whenever I get the urge to write “WHAT THE HELL???!!!?” in the margins, I want to do so in my own handwriting.)  They even have the option of turning web pages into PDFs which means my dream of annotating everything I read may come to fruition.

Overall, I’m really happy with my new iAnnotate PDF setup.  I know I’m reading more critically and am using tools that don’t force reading glasses upon me.  I will update this post if I find something better.

Full Disclosure: I have no interest or stake in any company product in this article.  However, I’m a software developer and someone who cares deeply about good tools.  Time wasted with an improper tool feels like a sin.  One which will occasionally cause me to write something myself largely because I just get annoyed and see an opportunity.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do plan on writing some investing tools, especially for mobile devices, and I started this blog not just to refine my investing process, but also to get feedback on investing tool ideas.  Any time ValuableBehavior does an investing tool review, I will be clear about whether I am planning to make such a tool, or am offering something I have made. Know that your feedback here or to @truelson on Twitter can help design future tools; tools that might help us become even greater investors.

At present, I am not planning on making an SEC Filing reader any time soon, but could be persuaded if I see a good reason to, and there’s enough demand.  For now, I’m pretty happy with PDFs and iAnnotate.

Photo Credit: / author: dspn

Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses to “SEC Filings, Critical Reading, and the iPad”

  1. mals September 9, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    hi palmer, i enjoyed reading your articles. good luck in your business! and i like the other comment will also leave my RSS subscription in case you decide to post.

    btw, how do you get your SEC filings in PDF format? printing SEC filings into PDF format appears to be an unnecessary interim step.

    • Palmer Truelson September 22, 2011 at 12:03 am #

      Without paying, yeah, print to pdf is the only way. I go ahead and shell out for morningstar’s service that delivers them in PDF. I don’t know any good html annotation programs is the problem…


  1. The Right Tool | Valuable Behavior - July 14, 2011

    […] documents to PDF ironed all that out and I was happily annotating them in Aji Reader. ( Read my previous post on why annotating is so important. […]