Best PDF editor with the most features: PDFpenPro 11

If you need a PDF editor, you’ll have the option of buying one of at least two popular apps for the Mac: PDF Expert or PDFpenPro. I always thought PDF Expert is more than sufficient for whatever it is you’d like to do with PDFs, but after trying out PDFpenPro 11 I’m convinced you’ll do better with the latter. It has more — useful — features and is more powerful overall. The only thing that I would like to see more of in this app is better support for shortcut keys.

It turns out all versions of PDFpenPro came with more than one ability that competing products still don’t have. That’s probably not surprising in view of how long the app has been on the market. The features that I tried out include creating forms which works brilliantly, adding watermarks and page numbers (and Bates numbers) and signing with a digital signature as well as a scanned image of your written signature. They all worked flawlessly in a user-friendly environment and all of them are harder to do with any other app — or impossible, if you’re on a Mac.

The new split-view mode allows you to edit and compare different pages of a document side-by-side, but I didn’t find a use for this yet. Very useful is the new Font Bar and the ability to import scans from Continuity Camera. That I can customise page number locations is great but if you can’t, it’s not a deal breaker, I think. The inclusion of Medical/Legal dictionaries for OCR (English only) is nice.

I tried the app by scanning the text on a box with my iPad. That went great, but OCR’ing this text didn’t result in 100% correct English. The reason is that the iPad Air 2 camera is only an 8 megapixel thing. That results in a scan that is readable by us humans, but not so very much by an OCR app like ABBYY FineReader Pro or, in this case, PDFpenPro 11.

I was happily surprised to experience that adding a signature is not the pain I expected it to be. The draw-here-your-signature box is, of course, a bit awkward if you don’t have a graphics tablet, but PDFpenPro supports digital signatures and it does on an enterprise level.

For digital certificates, PDFpenPro uses the Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL). PDFpenPro is capable of checking one of the two existing systems that deliver feedback on whether a digital certificate has been revoked or remains valid.

PDFpenPro also contains a powerful form builder that I extensively tried out, as I said earlier. It’s a brilliant form creation system that even enables you to convert rectangles, circles and other objects in a PDF that seem to refer to form fields into live fields. You can also start from scratch with a —literally — blank canvas. The Submit button lets you set an online processor or email address at the receiving end.

One thing that I still don’t understand fully and that I couldn’t make work like I think it is supposed to work is getting your hands on the form data after you’ve created it and filled it in.

You can only submit form data by using PDFpen as PDF reader (for which purpose you can keep the app running for free on your system). Apple’s Preview and many other readers, for example, don’t support form data submission.

However, Smile Software provides a script for reading form data and converting it to XFDF. It involves applying a filled form to a blank one and I can’t make out how that works by just following the instructions. I couldn’t find anything else on the topic on the company’s support pages, either.


Except for the latter, PDFpenPro 11 is the best PDF editor you can buy. At 124.95 USD it isn’t exactly cheap, but you can’t expect that from an app that does everything Adobe’s original software does and more and better — and on a Mac!

While I won’t be tossing PDF Expert in the dust bin — in some minor areas it’s a bit easier to use — you can have your PDF cake and eat it with PDFpenPro 11. It’s a must-have if you deal with PDFs a lot.