PDFpen and PDFpen Pro

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[Update: PDFpen and PDFpen Pro will be on sale for a limited time from 2013-3-19 through 2013-3-20 at $29.99 and $39.99 respectively]

I should state from the beginning that I am not a fan of Adobe Acrobat. I used Acrobat when it first appeared on the PC, and year after year the free version’s functionality has remained stagnant while the program itself has become bloated. When I switched to the Mac, I was able to discard Acrobat in favor of Apple’s Preview application. For most things, Preview does a fine job of opening, annotating and even signing PDF documents. In general Preview’s functionality has been enough for the majority of things I need to do. When it’s not, that is when I go to Smile’s PDFpen Pro.

PDFpen Pro does everything Acrobat Pro does, except it does it faster, better and at a fraction of the cost. It handles all the tasks you would expect from a PDF editor. You can open, edit, redact, annotate, and save PDFs. In both the standard and pro versions, PDFpen will also do OCR (optical character recognition) on a document.

Smile has recently updated both PDFpen and PDFpen Pro. Aside from a slightly modified (and in my opinion prettier interface) they have added the ability to export a PDF as a Word document1. For the first time, you can receive a PDF, convert it to a Word document, edit, and then keep it or re-save it as a PDF. This feature is particularly handy when you need to perform major revisions to book or article proofs. (For a nice introduction to these new features, check out David Spark’s video over at MacSparky).

While the convert to Word feature is handy, I have been doing the majority of my academic work in either plain text2, or in Scrivener for longer projects (with some final formatting tweaks in Nisus Writer Pro). But PDFs still play a major role in most of my work. In particular, I have found that more and more students prefer reading packets that are distributed as PDFs. When putting together these files I often want to include material from online sources. For example, I may use material from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or Project Gutenberg. One of the downsides to using this material is the effort it takes to “print” a PDF an article when the site doesn’t offer a printer-friendly version. On these occasions I use the advanced web-to-PDF feature in PDFpen Pro:

PDF Convert

I cannot stress just how useful this program is for those that regularly work with PDFs. For those looking for an Acrobat alternative PDFpen or PDFpen Pro is the way to go. Also, Smile offers a very generous academic discount through their academic store.

PDFpen ($41.96)

  • Annotate
  • Redact
  • Edit
  • Sign
  • Highlight
  • OCR
  • Export to Word

PDFpen Pro ($69.96)

  • All the features of PDFpen
  • Create PDF forms
  • HTML to PDF
  • Edit a Table of Contents

  1. both .doc and .docx formats are supported. ↩

  2. I generally use plain text for things like notes, handouts, quizzes, and short essays.  ↩

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