hands on with pdfpen

August 17, 2009

Let me begin with a mild disclaimer. Everyone once in a while, I get an email from a software developer asking if I’d like to review their software. I enjoy reviewing software, but I often turn down those opportunities. I try to limit my reviews to those pieces of software that I would actually find useful and that fit within the direction of this blog. I don’t do reviews for compensation, other than a complimentary license to the software if it is offered. That being said…

After the positive response to my review of TextExpander last month, Smile on My Mac emailed and asked if I’d like to review PDFPen as well. After working with the software I agreed. It is has found a place on my hard drive, and maybe it will on yours too.

While in grad school, many of my classes assigned readings from a variety of sources: an article from this journal, a chapter from that book, etc. Often, these readings were made available to us as scanned pages of PDFs. After printing out several of these readings and lugging them around, it occurred to me that I could do away with that. One of the benefits of having the Adobe suite meant that I could read these articles on my laptop with Adobe Acrobat Pro and highlight without ever having to print. Ideally, this also would allow me to copy and paste quotes out of articles when writing papers, though I often found that the OCR (character recognition) did such a poor job that it was faster to just retype the quote than just correct all the errors.

PDFPen is only $49 compared to the $299 that Acrobat will set you back, and it does everything I use to use Acrobat for. In fact, I think it does it better.

I found a scanned PDF on my hard drive of the instructions for programming the keyless remote for my car. I made two copies of the file, and ran the OCR on one with Acrobat and on the other with PDFPen. Acrobat was much quicker, but PDFPen was much more accurate.

See for yourself. Here are a few sentences of pasted text from the Acrobat version:

Before (nlcrlng programming mode. hal’c III pos~ ~ssio n nil o f the lIallsmil1ns }OU will be u,mg on the vchick Once you plOgrallllhe t13nSl11iltcr. all previous codes will be erased 110m Ihe mcmory. The olher 1r:l!lsmincrs WIll nO! he funcTionnl unul you progfam .he lmn,milte~ agnin.


Here are the PDFPen results from the same sentences:

Before entering programming mode, have in possession all of the transmitters you will be using on the vehicle. Onoe you program the transmitter, all previous codes will be erased from the memory. The other transmitters will not be lirnctional until you program the transmitteragain.

Still a few errors, but that’s text I can work with. In fact, I will. PDFPen has become my PDF reader/editor of choice over Acrobat. It’s much like the difference between Pages and Word. Acrobat, like Word, tends toward bloatware, containing more features than I need that only serve to clutter the menus and slow me down. PDFPen feels clean and gives me access to what I need.

PDFpen does plenty more that you can read about on the PDFPen Overview page. You also might consider PDFPen Pro, which adds a few more features and comes in at $99.

Update: The good people at Smile on My Mac have followed up with another coupon. Enter the coupon code CREATE0809 for a 20% discount off the full version of PDFpen or PDFpenPro, including Family Packs. It expires 9/15/2009, and upgrades are excluded.

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