PDF’s seem to be the default standard for sending documents between parties these days. Contracts, forms, books, even spreadsheets are usually no longer sent to people in their original format, but instead printed to PDF, and then emailed using this standard.
PDF’s can be created for free either using the Mac OS, or some form of free software if you are on Windows, however if you want to do something more advanced with PDF’s such as creating forms, most people think you need to buy Adobe Acrobat – at a cost of well over £400.
Fortunately this is not the case if you are on a Mac, as the lovely people at Smile Software have created PDFPen and PDFPen Pro, for £39.99 and £69.00 respectively. There are three instant bonuses of PDFPen over Adobe Acrobat, firstly and most importantly its cheaper. Secondly, if purchased through the Mac App Store, you have the ability to install it on all of the Macs you have. Jean from Smile has also informed me that if bought directly form them, the license from Smile can be used on all your Macs. It is per user, not per machine. Thirdly, the size of the application itself is only around 60mb, perfect if you want to run it on a laptop with an SSD.
As you can see from the chart to the right, there are only a few features which Adobe Acrobat has which PDFPen Pro doesn’t, and lets be honest. Does the average person need them? Personally I have no need what so ever for Multimedia preview, or live scripting – and if im honest, I have no idea what they even are, so why should I spend the money on functions which I don’t need?
There are three key features which I simply love about PDFPenPro. I shall explain these now in more detail.
1. Form Field Detection. (Available on PDFPen Pro only) How many times have you received, or downloaded a PDF form from a website that you need to fill in. Only to find that the text boxes aren’t actually text boxes. You therefore have to draw text boxes out by hand. If there are check boxes to fill with ticks, you have to do the same. Personally it drives me mad! Now PDFPen Pro has the ability to scan a document and automatically create the text boxes and checkboxes where they should be. Allowing you to fill them in with ease!
2. Signature Support. (Available on PDFPen Pro and PDFPen) Signing documents is the primary task I use PDFPen for. you are sent a form to sign, which for some users means one thing. Printing out the PDF, signing it by hand, then scanning it back in to send. No more. With PDFPen you have a library which you can store all your signatures (and other custom annotations) in. All that you need to do is drag this annotation onto the form, and resize it to the desired size. It literally takes seconds. Whats more, if you purchase PDFPen Pro from the Mac App Store, all of your custom annotations/signatures are synced over iCloud to all of your macs.
3. Word Export. (Available on PDFPen Pro and PDFPen) Wouldn’t it nice if you could un-PDF a document that was sent to you? Well with PDFPen Pro it literally could not be any easier. You simply load the PDF, press a couple of buttons and within a couple of minutes you have a Word Document, with the pictures/formatting/links etc all in place as they were on the PDF. Its magic, honestly it takes my breath away every time I use it.
Those are my top three features of PDFPen Pro, and since I have installed it, it has since become my default application to use for PDF’s instead of Preview.