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"Take Control of PDFpen 5" Teaches You to Tweak PDFs Like a Pro

Have you ever had to fill out and sign a PDF-based form? Or change the date on a PDF-based flyer? Make comments on a document sent around your workplace as a PDF file? Scan a document to PDF and OCR the text? For those tasks, I generally turn to Smile's PDFpen, which can perform many PDF manipulations more easily than Adobe Acrobat, and at a fraction of the price.

That's why we're happy to bring you "Take Control of PDFpen 5" to demystify the many sorts of PDF manipulation you can accomplish using PDFpen. Written by Michael E. Cohen, whose electronic publishing credentials predate even PDF (he helped create Voyager's Expanded Books in the early 1990s), the 132-page ebook explains precisely what you can do with PDFs using PDFpen and its big brother, PDFpenPro. The book costs $10.

After a whirlwind history and overview of the PDF format, Michael walks you through PDFpen's tools and navigation. With those basics taken care of, you'll then learn how to:

  • Scan a document to PDF and make the text editable with OCR

  • Combine pages from multiple files into a single PDF

  • Turn a Web site into a multi-page PDF

  • Add or remove pages from a PDF

  • Add a handwritten signature to a PDF

  • Add page and Web links to a PDF

  • Make a clickable table of contents for a PDF

  • Mark up a PDF with professional editing marks

  • Edit text within a PDF that you received in email

  • Leave comments on a PDF document

  • Remove sensitive or confidential text from a PDF

  • Enhance the images in a PDF

  • Fill out a PDF-based form

  • Print just form entries on a pre-printed form

  • Create an interactive PDF-based form that can collect data and send it to you via email or the Web

An appendix describes the many useful AppleScripts that ship with PDFpen.

This ebook was created in collaboration with Smile, with Michael providing feedback during the PDFpen 5 development process and PDFpen's developers tech editing the book for complete accuracy.


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Special thanks to Peter A. de Coulon, Kemer Thomson, Paul Belmont, and
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Comments about "Take Control of PDFpen 5" Teaches You to Tweak PDFs Like a Pro
(Comments are closed.)

Th Donaghey  2010-09-23 08:45
I get a good discount on Adobe Acrobat Pro. I bought an early edition of PDFpen after a glowing review of the program, only to find Acrobat just as capable and less buggy. I'm interested in workflow, though, so I need to know whether PDFpen deserves a place on my computer. I believe that any review of third-party software for wannabe PDF pros needs to address the pros and cons of the software with respect to the actual professional application, but I can't figure out from the preview whether you do an adequate job of comparing PDFpen to Acrobat. Is it easier to use? What does it do better? What capabilities does it lack? I'd be far more willing to pay $10 for a document that tells me a priori which software I need (and what I can do with it) than one that give me gee-whizzery about a program that ultimately doesn't do what I need it to do; then I've wasted $10 plus the cost of the cheaper software.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-09-23 08:55
Hi. The ebook announced in this article, assumes you've already gone through the comparison process that you describe and purchased the PDFpen software. I'm sorry to hear that you were disappointed with an older version of PDFpen. Smile has posted some information about how PDFpen compares to Acrobat on their site, and I'd be happy to help you get in touch with them if you want to follow up in person.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-09-23 13:14
Things I especially like PDFpen for over Acrobat Pro (besides the price difference between $59 and $449) are the AppleScript support for certain workflow scripts I rely on, the Library for storing my signature and various text imprint stamps, and the fact that it is better about displaying pages in the sidebar (Acrobat often doesn't display the last couple, which is an annoying and known bug).

Also, Smile's automatic updates just work, as opposed to Adobe's, which almost never work (especially annoying because of the fact that Adobe Acrobat and Reader are constantly suffering security vulnerabilities).

Finally, Smile actually responds to bug reports and fixes them, unlike Adobe.
Jim Rea  2010-09-23 14:01
I haven't tried PDFpen 5 yet, but I'm pretty happy with version 4. Earlier versions were very slow and buggy, drove me nuts, but it seems to have improved quite a bit over the years.
Michael Cohen  2010-09-23 18:06
Just to make things clear: the book is not a review of software for editing PDFs. It describes what the PDFpen application can do and how to use it.

If you get a "good discount" on Adobe Acrobat Pro and like it, that's fine. If you want to try out PDFpen for free, though, you can: the demo program that Smile offers is fully functional, other than placing a watermark on all PDFs that you save or print.

But if you don't want the demo, the for-sale version comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee, so you have ample time to evaluate it and see if it suits your particular needs.
But does it do the one thing I most often need to do with a PDF, which is, reduce its size, often drastically? That would be a deal-maker; reason enough to upgrade from the old version I use.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-10-04 05:38
Well, yes and no. Within PDFpen you can save using Quartz filters, one of which can reduce the size of a PDF significantly. Unfortunately, saving with a Quartz filter deletes the table of contents (and possibly other metadata structures that Mac OS X can't make).

For just PDF compression, though, PDFpen would be overkill anyway. For that, I recommend Apago's PDF Shrink, or, if you REALLY need a lot of PDF compression capabilities and options, their PDF Enhancer. We use the latter for Take Control.