PDFPen for iCloud, er, iPad

February 2, 2012

Last week, Smile Software released PDFPen for iPad, as well as an update to PDFPen for Mac to enable iCloud. If you have used Smile’s products before, like PDFPen or TextExpander, then you would have expected a well thought out app. And you would be right.

I begin with thumbs ups and pats on the backs of the collective Smile crew for the iCloud integration. This is intended to be a quick review of the iPad app, but as you can see from the title, the standout feature of the whole thing is the ability to easily access documents in iCloud. This is something that Apple has failed to provide so far with the Mac version of the iWork apps, and Smile has given me my first glimpse of how useful it could be.

iCloud integration is simple. A PDF opened in the iPad is saved to iCloud. A PDF opened on the Mac with PDFPen for Mac (previous review) can be saved to iCloud with a menu command. If you don’t have PDFPen for Mac, Smile has also been thoughtful enough to create a $.99 Mac app to access your PDFs from iCloud. There are a few shortcomings with the iCloud integration:

  1. The PDF is removed from the Finder folder it was in once it is moved to iCloud, which could be a negative as that file is now no longer available to other apps. For instance, if you wanted to email a PDF, you either have to initiate the email using the Mail Document command in PDFPen, or save a copy of it back into the Finder so you can attach it from within Mail.
  2. Another limitation, which I imagine will be short-term, is file organization. There is no way to organize your documents in the PDFPen section of iCloud. You simply have a single collection of PDFs to browse through, sorted by date, with no apparent means to re-order or search within the collection. That could become cumbersome in short order.

As for PDFPen on the iPad, it’s ideal use is editing and interacting with PDF’s documents, and especially forms. Yesterday, a client emailed me a W-9 to complete. I opened the PDF, filled out the form fields by typing in answers on the keyboard, and then signed and dated directly on the screen using my PogoSketch Pro. The combination of form completion and on screen scrawling make the iPad the best device for PDF documents, and PDFPen handled it perfectly. After emailing it, I saved it to iCloud so I’ll have ready access to it for all my clients this year.

For reading PDFs, like books or scanned articles, I’ll continue to PDF Expert (see my previous write-up on PDF reading apps). It seems to be more responsive with larger documents (on my 1st generation iPad), syncs an entire Dropbox folder to my device, and it gives me the ability to export all of my notes and highlights as separate text in an email. (I’ll revisit PDFPen for this, however, as I imagine both of these features will be address in future versions.)

PDFPen for iPad is currently $9.99 in the app store, which I believe is an introductory price. If you regularly deal with PDFs documents on the go, I recommend you add it to your home screen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a promo code for this app from the developer. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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