PDFPen Review

PDFpenPro512.png

My day job requires me to spend a great deal of time working with PDF documents. For a long time, that meant I needed to have a license for Adobe Acrobat on all of my computers. This is no small task on the Mac platform since Adobe only sells Adobe Acrobat professional for the Mac which will cost you $450. Fortunately, there are other options. Apple’s own Preview application does a pretty good job of displaying PDF documents and allowing basic editing. For some people, this will be plenty. If you need something more robust however, Smile On My Mac’s PDFPen may be just what you’re looking for.

The tools in PDFPen are much more robust than those offered in Preview. Accessing a PDF document with PDFPen, you can add text, images, and signatures. You can also highlight a text field and open it as an editable text block. So when you receive a PDF document within mistake or typos, you can easily fix it yourself. Additionally, PDFPen has a variety of useful editing tools including highlighting, underscoring, and strike through. It even includes a library with common proofreading marks allowing you to simply drag and editing marks to PDF documents before sending them back for processing or correction. This isn’t as efficient as simply using a red pen yet, but when working electronically with someone in another state, you really can’t beat it. You can also add notes and comments just as in Adobe Acrobat.

pdfpen-markup 420.png

Another nice feature in PDFPen is the ability to use your digital signature. You can use a scanned copy of your signature and literally drop it in a PDF document before returning it to the sender. This provides a truly paperless option for entering contracts or other transactions. This works hand in glove with another PDFPen feature, the library. The library can hold frequently used images and information including your signature. If you work with PDF forms, PDFPen also will accommodate you. It allows you to fill out and save PDF forms easily. While it is possible now to delete pages and reorder pages using Preview, PDF Pen’s implementation of this feature is much easier to use.

One of the improvements with the latest version 5 is the inclusion of optical character recognition. Often PDF documents, when provided you, do not have OCR already performed. PDFPen can now either automatically or a request perform its own optical character recognition on your document. In my tests, the performance was not significantly better or worse than that obtained with Adobe Acrobat. As with all OCR functions, it is a function of the original source document. If you have something typed, the OCR will be much better than if something is handwritten.

For $49.95, I believe PDFPen to be an excellent value. If you need to create your own PDF forms, you can upgrade to PDFPen Pro for $99.95. Another added feature at the pro level is the inclusion of the table of contents. This works with the “bookmarks feature” of Adobe Acrobat. I often send PDFPen bookmarked documents to my PC brethren who are none the wiser.

If you currently are using Apple’s Preview application without feeling its limits, you’re probably okay in terms of PDF manipulation. However, if you are running into its shortcomings or wish you had some of the Adobe Acrobat features without the Adobe Acrobat price, you should take a serious look at PDFPen and PDFPen Pro. You can find them at Smile on My Mac’s website.

You can listen to this review on the Typical Mac User Podcast #161.

20 Comments PDFPen Review

  1. texasaccount@mac.com

    David:

    Do you know how the edits, comments, highlights, etc. are stored once performed with the software? I.e., are they stored with the pdf document and do they show when you open it with Preview or Acrobat? Thanks.

    Reply
  2. texasaccount@mac.com

    David:

    Do you know how the edits, comments, highlights, etc. are stored once performed with the software? I.e., are they stored with the pdf document and do they show when you open it with Preview or Acrobat? Thanks.

    Reply
  3. texasaccount@mac.com

    David:

    Do you know how the edits, comments, highlights, etc. are stored once performed with the software? I.e., are they stored with the pdf document and do they show when you open it with Preview or Acrobat? Thanks.

    Reply
  4. texasaccount@mac.com

    David:

    Do you know how the edits, comments, highlights, etc. are stored once performed with the software? I.e., are they stored with the pdf document and do they show when you open it with Preview or Acrobat? Thanks.

    Reply
  5. texasaccount@mac.com

    David:

    Do you know how the edits, comments, highlights, etc. are stored once performed with the software? I.e., are they stored with the pdf document and do they show when you open it with Preview or Acrobat? Thanks.

    Reply
  6. alan@alanharper.com

    I purchased PdfPen a while ago, and only used it to fill out forms. (Meaning those forms that are meant to be printed and filled out with an IBM Selectric typewriter!)

    But I am now using it as my default PDF editor. Some of things I like about it vs. Preview, Acrobat, and Acrobat Reader:

    Unlike Preview, it understands 2-column documents, and selects within a column, not across columns.

    Unlike Acrobat Reader, it allows you to mark up the document, even if the author of the document didn’t purchase Acrobat (at $450!) to “allow” you to do this. (A fake permission, since the document in reality has no DRM).

    Unlike Acrobat Pro, the menus are well laid out, and you can figure out how to do what you want to do. And you can do it at 10% of the cost.

    It also has nice antialiasing.

    The only thing missing is the ability to rotate “the view” 90°, and not “every page” 90°. I often want to read tall pages on my MacBook so that they are rotated 90° and fill the screen. Acrobat Reader has a “Rotate View 90°” menu that does exactly what I want (a non-persistent rotation of the view, and not the document). So far, PDFPen doesn’t have this option.

    Reply
  7. alan@alanharper.com

    I purchased PdfPen a while ago, and only used it to fill out forms. (Meaning those forms that are meant to be printed and filled out with an IBM Selectric typewriter!)

    But I am now using it as my default PDF editor. Some of things I like about it vs. Preview, Acrobat, and Acrobat Reader:

    Unlike Preview, it understands 2-column documents, and selects within a column, not across columns.

    Unlike Acrobat Reader, it allows you to mark up the document, even if the author of the document didn’t purchase Acrobat (at $450!) to “allow” you to do this. (A fake permission, since the document in reality has no DRM).

    Unlike Acrobat Pro, the menus are well laid out, and you can figure out how to do what you want to do. And you can do it at 10% of the cost.

    It also has nice antialiasing.

    The only thing missing is the ability to rotate “the view” 90°, and not “every page” 90°. I often want to read tall pages on my MacBook so that they are rotated 90° and fill the screen. Acrobat Reader has a “Rotate View 90°” menu that does exactly what I want (a non-persistent rotation of the view, and not the document). So far, PDFPen doesn’t have this option.

    Reply
  8. alan@alanharper.com

    I purchased PdfPen a while ago, and only used it to fill out forms. (Meaning those forms that are meant to be printed and filled out with an IBM Selectric typewriter!)

    But I am now using it as my default PDF editor. Some of things I like about it vs. Preview, Acrobat, and Acrobat Reader:

    Unlike Preview, it understands 2-column documents, and selects within a column, not across columns.

    Unlike Acrobat Reader, it allows you to mark up the document, even if the author of the document didn’t purchase Acrobat (at $450!) to “allow” you to do this. (A fake permission, since the document in reality has no DRM).

    Unlike Acrobat Pro, the menus are well laid out, and you can figure out how to do what you want to do. And you can do it at 10% of the cost.

    It also has nice antialiasing.

    The only thing missing is the ability to rotate “the view” 90°, and not “every page” 90°. I often want to read tall pages on my MacBook so that they are rotated 90° and fill the screen. Acrobat Reader has a “Rotate View 90°” menu that does exactly what I want (a non-persistent rotation of the view, and not the document). So far, PDFPen doesn’t have this option.

    Reply
  9. alan@alanharper.com

    I purchased PdfPen a while ago, and only used it to fill out forms. (Meaning those forms that are meant to be printed and filled out with an IBM Selectric typewriter!)

    But I am now using it as my default PDF editor. Some of things I like about it vs. Preview, Acrobat, and Acrobat Reader:

    Unlike Preview, it understands 2-column documents, and selects within a column, not across columns.

    Unlike Acrobat Reader, it allows you to mark up the document, even if the author of the document didn’t purchase Acrobat (at $450!) to “allow” you to do this. (A fake permission, since the document in reality has no DRM).

    Unlike Acrobat Pro, the menus are well laid out, and you can figure out how to do what you want to do. And you can do it at 10% of the cost.

    It also has nice antialiasing.

    The only thing missing is the ability to rotate “the view” 90°, and not “every page” 90°. I often want to read tall pages on my MacBook so that they are rotated 90° and fill the screen. Acrobat Reader has a “Rotate View 90°” menu that does exactly what I want (a non-persistent rotation of the view, and not the document). So far, PDFPen doesn’t have this option.

    Reply
  10. alan@alanharper.com

    I purchased PdfPen a while ago, and only used it to fill out forms. (Meaning those forms that are meant to be printed and filled out with an IBM Selectric typewriter!)

    But I am now using it as my default PDF editor. Some of things I like about it vs. Preview, Acrobat, and Acrobat Reader:

    Unlike Preview, it understands 2-column documents, and selects within a column, not across columns.

    Unlike Acrobat Reader, it allows you to mark up the document, even if the author of the document didn’t purchase Acrobat (at $450!) to “allow” you to do this. (A fake permission, since the document in reality has no DRM).

    Unlike Acrobat Pro, the menus are well laid out, and you can figure out how to do what you want to do. And you can do it at 10% of the cost.

    It also has nice antialiasing.

    The only thing missing is the ability to rotate “the view” 90°, and not “every page” 90°. I often want to read tall pages on my MacBook so that they are rotated 90° and fill the screen. Acrobat Reader has a “Rotate View 90°” menu that does exactly what I want (a non-persistent rotation of the view, and not the document). So far, PDFPen doesn’t have this option.

    Reply
  11. tone@resounding.com

    I despise this app. It has a deplorable usability and fights you tooth and nail no matter how modest your ambition.

    1. Select some text on a PDF by double-clicking a word. Nothing happens. Why? Selecting text only works when you have the text selection tool active. Shouldn’t double-clicking on a text object be sufficient signal to automatically do this? Yes. Anyway…
    2. Choose the text selection tool. Double click the word and type another to replace it. Nothing happens. Why? You have to click a button to make the selected text an “editable text object”. Should there be any reason why ALL text is not editable? No. Anyway…
    3. Click *that* button, type the new word, and observe the imperfect placement of the letters. Shouldn’t the text have the same placement, font, etc as the text you just converted? Yes. Anyway…
    4. Use the arrow keys to bump it around into approximately the correct position. That largely works. Now, find more text you wish to edit.
    5. Double-click the word and observe the same misbehavior as in #1. Why? The selection mode needlessly snaps back at random times as you work. Shouldn’t sticky modes stay in effect until you change them or perform an action that can only be helpful if a mode switch occurs to render them so? Yes. Anyway…

    You get the pattern. PDFpen fights you all the way, no matter what you try to do. It won’t remember a font for the life of it (despite the option to have it do just this), requiring endlessly repetitive action on your part. Non sequitur type side-effects pervade its UI in a manner that will force you to continually demonstrate your intent.

    Somewhat similarly, the OCR feature is a nice capability at this price, but NOT in the way it is offered. You never really get to select some image and invoke a “perform OCR” step on it. Rather, there are these abysmal choices to have OCR randomly invoked as you work. Simply maddening, but not at all out of place in this app.

    I hate Adobe products and pricing, but cheap low-end replacement hacks like this are almost an ad for taking the Adobe plunge.

    Reply
  12. tone@resounding.com

    I despise this app. It has a deplorable usability and fights you tooth and nail no matter how modest your ambition.

    1. Select some text on a PDF by double-clicking a word. Nothing happens. Why? Selecting text only works when you have the text selection tool active. Shouldn’t double-clicking on a text object be sufficient signal to automatically do this? Yes. Anyway…
    2. Choose the text selection tool. Double click the word and type another to replace it. Nothing happens. Why? You have to click a button to make the selected text an “editable text object”. Should there be any reason why ALL text is not editable? No. Anyway…
    3. Click *that* button, type the new word, and observe the imperfect placement of the letters. Shouldn’t the text have the same placement, font, etc as the text you just converted? Yes. Anyway…
    4. Use the arrow keys to bump it around into approximately the correct position. That largely works. Now, find more text you wish to edit.
    5. Double-click the word and observe the same misbehavior as in #1. Why? The selection mode needlessly snaps back at random times as you work. Shouldn’t sticky modes stay in effect until you change them or perform an action that can only be helpful if a mode switch occurs to render them so? Yes. Anyway…

    You get the pattern. PDFpen fights you all the way, no matter what you try to do. It won’t remember a font for the life of it (despite the option to have it do just this), requiring endlessly repetitive action on your part. Non sequitur type side-effects pervade its UI in a manner that will force you to continually demonstrate your intent.

    Somewhat similarly, the OCR feature is a nice capability at this price, but NOT in the way it is offered. You never really get to select some image and invoke a “perform OCR” step on it. Rather, there are these abysmal choices to have OCR randomly invoked as you work. Simply maddening, but not at all out of place in this app.

    I hate Adobe products and pricing, but cheap low-end replacement hacks like this are almost an ad for taking the Adobe plunge.

    Reply
  13. tone@resounding.com

    I despise this app. It has a deplorable usability and fights you tooth and nail no matter how modest your ambition.

    1. Select some text on a PDF by double-clicking a word. Nothing happens. Why? Selecting text only works when you have the text selection tool active. Shouldn’t double-clicking on a text object be sufficient signal to automatically do this? Yes. Anyway…
    2. Choose the text selection tool. Double click the word and type another to replace it. Nothing happens. Why? You have to click a button to make the selected text an “editable text object”. Should there be any reason why ALL text is not editable? No. Anyway…
    3. Click *that* button, type the new word, and observe the imperfect placement of the letters. Shouldn’t the text have the same placement, font, etc as the text you just converted? Yes. Anyway…
    4. Use the arrow keys to bump it around into approximately the correct position. That largely works. Now, find more text you wish to edit.
    5. Double-click the word and observe the same misbehavior as in #1. Why? The selection mode needlessly snaps back at random times as you work. Shouldn’t sticky modes stay in effect until you change them or perform an action that can only be helpful if a mode switch occurs to render them so? Yes. Anyway…

    You get the pattern. PDFpen fights you all the way, no matter what you try to do. It won’t remember a font for the life of it (despite the option to have it do just this), requiring endlessly repetitive action on your part. Non sequitur type side-effects pervade its UI in a manner that will force you to continually demonstrate your intent.

    Somewhat similarly, the OCR feature is a nice capability at this price, but NOT in the way it is offered. You never really get to select some image and invoke a “perform OCR” step on it. Rather, there are these abysmal choices to have OCR randomly invoked as you work. Simply maddening, but not at all out of place in this app.

    I hate Adobe products and pricing, but cheap low-end replacement hacks like this are almost an ad for taking the Adobe plunge.

    Reply
  14. tone@resounding.com

    I despise this app. It has a deplorable usability and fights you tooth and nail no matter how modest your ambition.

    1. Select some text on a PDF by double-clicking a word. Nothing happens. Why? Selecting text only works when you have the text selection tool active. Shouldn’t double-clicking on a text object be sufficient signal to automatically do this? Yes. Anyway…
    2. Choose the text selection tool. Double click the word and type another to replace it. Nothing happens. Why? You have to click a button to make the selected text an “editable text object”. Should there be any reason why ALL text is not editable? No. Anyway…
    3. Click *that* button, type the new word, and observe the imperfect placement of the letters. Shouldn’t the text have the same placement, font, etc as the text you just converted? Yes. Anyway…
    4. Use the arrow keys to bump it around into approximately the correct position. That largely works. Now, find more text you wish to edit.
    5. Double-click the word and observe the same misbehavior as in #1. Why? The selection mode needlessly snaps back at random times as you work. Shouldn’t sticky modes stay in effect until you change them or perform an action that can only be helpful if a mode switch occurs to render them so? Yes. Anyway…

    You get the pattern. PDFpen fights you all the way, no matter what you try to do. It won’t remember a font for the life of it (despite the option to have it do just this), requiring endlessly repetitive action on your part. Non sequitur type side-effects pervade its UI in a manner that will force you to continually demonstrate your intent.

    Somewhat similarly, the OCR feature is a nice capability at this price, but NOT in the way it is offered. You never really get to select some image and invoke a “perform OCR” step on it. Rather, there are these abysmal choices to have OCR randomly invoked as you work. Simply maddening, but not at all out of place in this app.

    I hate Adobe products and pricing, but cheap low-end replacement hacks like this are almost an ad for taking the Adobe plunge.

    Reply
  15. tone@resounding.com

    I despise this app. It has a deplorable usability and fights you tooth and nail no matter how modest your ambition.

    1. Select some text on a PDF by double-clicking a word. Nothing happens. Why? Selecting text only works when you have the text selection tool active. Shouldn’t double-clicking on a text object be sufficient signal to automatically do this? Yes. Anyway…
    2. Choose the text selection tool. Double click the word and type another to replace it. Nothing happens. Why? You have to click a button to make the selected text an “editable text object”. Should there be any reason why ALL text is not editable? No. Anyway…
    3. Click *that* button, type the new word, and observe the imperfect placement of the letters. Shouldn’t the text have the same placement, font, etc as the text you just converted? Yes. Anyway…
    4. Use the arrow keys to bump it around into approximately the correct position. That largely works. Now, find more text you wish to edit.
    5. Double-click the word and observe the same misbehavior as in #1. Why? The selection mode needlessly snaps back at random times as you work. Shouldn’t sticky modes stay in effect until you change them or perform an action that can only be helpful if a mode switch occurs to render them so? Yes. Anyway…

    You get the pattern. PDFpen fights you all the way, no matter what you try to do. It won’t remember a font for the life of it (despite the option to have it do just this), requiring endlessly repetitive action on your part. Non sequitur type side-effects pervade its UI in a manner that will force you to continually demonstrate your intent.

    Somewhat similarly, the OCR feature is a nice capability at this price, but NOT in the way it is offered. You never really get to select some image and invoke a “perform OCR” step on it. Rather, there are these abysmal choices to have OCR randomly invoked as you work. Simply maddening, but not at all out of place in this app.

    I hate Adobe products and pricing, but cheap low-end replacement hacks like this are almost an ad for taking the Adobe plunge.

    Reply
  16. rankpulse@gmail.com

    It's not until recently when I find it is possible to do character recognition online, for example with the site Free OCR. This site helped me to work today to convert an image file tif files readable by most word processing text.

    Reply
  17. rankpulse@gmail.com

    It's not until recently when I find it is possible to do character recognition online, for example with the site Free OCR. This site helped me to work today to convert an image file tif files readable by most word processing text.

    Reply
  18. rankpulse@gmail.com

    It's not until recently when I find it is possible to do character recognition online, for example with the site Free OCR. This site helped me to work today to convert an image file tif files readable by most word processing text.

    Reply
  19. rankpulse@gmail.com

    It's not until recently when I find it is possible to do character recognition online, for example with the site Free OCR. This site helped me to work today to convert an image file tif files readable by most word processing text.

    Reply
  20. rankpulse@gmail.com

    It's not until recently when I find it is possible to do character recognition online, for example with the site Free OCR. This site helped me to work today to convert an image file tif files readable by most word processing text.

    Reply

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