Series: PDFKit Problems
In macOS 10.12 Sierra, Apple rewrote the PDFKit framework that Mac apps rely on for PDF-related features. The rewrite dropped features and introduced new bugs, causing much consternation among developers while Apple slowly fixed the problems.
Article 1 of 8 in series
If you use a ScanSnap document scanner to create PDFs, avoid upgrading to Sierra. Otherwise, new and previously scanned PDFs could lose pages and suffer other problems.Show full article
Fujitsu (a TidBITS sponsor) is warning users of the company’s ScanSnap document scanners and accompanying software to avoid upgrading to macOS 10.12 Sierra at this point. Fujitsu has identified a variety of problems associated with its ScanSnap software when running in Sierra. They include:
Some scanned pages in a PDF may become blank, either when opened, after being edited, or when the document is converted to a searchable PDF. These issues can apply to previously scanned documents as well.
Black-and-white pages modified in Sierra may be unexpectedly saved as color, which increases the size of PDF files.
When exporting images through the Quick Menu, the images may be displayed as blank pages in the preview screen.
Using the Merge Pages feature of ScanSnap Organizer may delete some pages.
When using duplex scanning with business cards, data on the back sides of cards isn’t imported to CardMinder.
These problems affect documents created with all ScanSnap scanners including the ScanSnap Evernote Edition.
Fujitsu does not provide an estimated date for an update that will provide Sierra compatibility, but we’ll be sure to mention it when it appears. Until then, we recommend that anyone who relies on a ScanSnap scanner delay upgrading. The problems are not guaranteed — one ScanSnap user on TidBITS Talk reported no issues with scans he made with Sierra’s public beta — but because they can also apply to previously scanned documents, they merit serious caution.
If you use a ScanSnap scanner and have already upgraded to Sierra, Fujitsu recommends opening files only with ScanSnap Organizer Preview. And, if you do use other apps to open PDFs, be sure to avoid saving any changes.
After the initial publication of this article, David Hamrick, developer of VueScan, told me that VueScan is compatible with Sierra and supports ScanSnap scanners with its independent drivers. As such, VueScan doesn’t suffer from the problems facing the ScanSnap software, although using VueScan won’t address issues with previously scanned documents.
Article 2 of 8 in series
Fujitsu has published details of the conflicts between its ScanSnap software and Sierra, and it turns out that the previous concerns were overblown. Most ScanSnap users can upgrade to Sierra safely, as long as they avoid certain actions.Show full article
In “ScanSnap Users Should Delay Sierra Upgrades” (20 September 2016), we warned users of Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanners to avoid upgrading to macOS 10.12 Sierra, based on the company’s dire predictions of potential data loss. Happily, it turns out that Fujitsu was just playing it safe until its engineers were able to pin down the exact conflicts, and they turn out to be far more minor than previously predicted.
In its updated notice, Fujitsu (a TidBITS sponsor) now outlines three activities that ScanSnap users should avoid when running in Sierra:
Do not use ScanSnap Organizer, ScanSnap Merge Pages, or CardMinder.
Do not use Excellent mode when scanning A3 (11.7-inch by 16.5-inch) documents. Fujitsu explicitly says that no image data will be lost nor any blank pages produced when scanned content is saved in Letter (8.5-inch by 11-inch), Legal (8.5-inch by 14-inch), A4 (8.3-inch by 11.7-inch), or smaller sizes.
Do not use the following functions in either Quick Menu or the application: Scan to Print, Scan to Evernote (Document), Scan to Evernote (Note), Scan to Google Drive, or Photos.
For those looking for more information, Fujitsu has produced a detailed guide to all of the problems, complete with the operation in question, the color mode, the paper size, the image quality setting, and workarounds.
Practically speaking, if you use a ScanSnap scanner, you should verify that your scanning workflow doesn’t rely on an affected aspect of the ScanSnap software or A3 scans in Excellent mode. If not, you can safely upgrade to Sierra.
Article 3 of 8 in series
Apple has released its first set of updates for macOS 10.12, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10 to address a variety of bugs. If you have already updated to the major releases, these updates are worth installing soon, but if not, hold off for another week or so to make sure they haven’t introduced some new problem.Show full article
While iOS 10.1 comes with release notes as long as your arm (see “iOS 10.1 Adds Portrait Mode for iPhone 7 Plus, Fixes Numerous Bugs,” 24 October 2016), the other operating system updates Apple pushed out today are far more modest, primarily fixing bugs and addressing security vulnerabilities.
macOS 10.12.1 Sierra -- Foremost among the three is macOS 10.12.1, which is the first update since the major release of Sierra. Its changes include:
Improved compatibility with Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanning software (see “ScanSnap Conflicts with Sierra Easily Avoided,” 3 October 2016). Fujitsu hasn’t yet commented on how this fix affects the various Sierra problems suffered by the ScanSnap software and PDFs created with it.
The addition of an automatic smart album in Photos for Depth Effect images taken on an iPhone 7 Plus
Improved compatibility with Microsoft Office when using Desktop and Documents folder syncing
A fix for bugs that may prevent Mail from updating when using a Microsoft Exchange account and that could cause Mail to display unnecessary password prompts for AOL accounts
Another bug fix that could cause text to paste incorrectly when using Universal Clipboard
Improved reliability of Auto Unlock with Apple Watch
General bug fixes that improve security and stability in Safari, and the return of Safari’s accessibility option to “Never use font sizes smaller than” when displaying fonts on Web pages
Elimination of a “Filter Failed” error when printing to some Canon printers
A fix for a bug that could prevent Grapher files from opening
For enterprise users, improved reliability of System Image Utility and imagetool when creating network disk images
Elimination of 16 security vulnerabilities
macOS 10.12.1 is a 584 MB update available via Software Update; a standalone download isn’t yet available. Our take is that it’s probably worth downloading sooner rather than later for Sierra users, given that this is Sierra’s initial bug fix update. If you haven’t yet updated to Sierra but are planning to soon, hold off for another week to make sure 10.12.1 hasn’t introduced some new problem.
watchOS 3.1 -- For those who have updated to watchOS 3.0, the new watchOS 3.1 might address a few nits, but it’s far from earth-shattering. The main change is a new option to replay bubble and full-screen effects in Messages. Plus, Messages effects can now play even if Reduce Motion is enabled.
Other fixes address bugs that could:
- Cause timer notifications to appear twice
- Prevent Apple Watch Series 2 models from charging fully
- Remove Activity rings from the watch face
- Prevent Force Touch options from appearing in some third-party apps
As much as it might be hard to imagine security issues affecting an Apple Watch, those problems are real, and watchOS 3.1 addresses eight security vulnerabilities.
The update, which you find in Watch > General > Software Update on your iPhone, is a 61.7 MB download, but remember that your Apple Watch must be in range of your Wi-Fi–connected iPhone, connected to its charger, and charged to at least 50 percent, to upgrade. Note that the update will likely take longer than you expect, so allot at least an hour for it.
tvOS 10.0.1 -- Apple also released tvOS 10.0.1, which you can install on your fourth-generation Apple TV by navigating to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software.
It’s tough to say whether there are any new features in tvOS 10.0.1, because Apple doesn’t provide release notes for minor tvOS updates. So far, the update doesn’t seem to include any new features — see “tvOS 10 Adds Dark Mode and More” (13 September 2016). However, tvOS 10.0.1 does boast ten security fixes, so we recommend installing the update soon. After all, we wouldn’t want compromised Apple TVs to start being recruited into botnets!
Article 4 of 8 in series
The initial problems ScanSnap had in Sierra were just the beginning. It turns out that Apple rewrote the underlying PDFKit in Sierra and introduced numerous bugs that are bedeviling Mac developers and users alike. The quick takeaway? Don’t edit PDFs in Sierra’s Preview for now!Show full article
One of the first problems with macOS 10.12 Sierra revolved around PDFs created by Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanners (see “ScanSnap Users Should Delay Sierra Upgrades,” 20 September 2016). Those problems turned out to be less severe than initially feared (see “ScanSnap Conflicts with Sierra Easily Avoided,” 3 October 2016), and Apple resolved them in macOS 10.12.1 (see “macOS 10.12.1 Sierra, watchOS 3.1, and tvOS 10.0.1 Mostly Fix Bugs,” 24 October 2016). Now, however, it seems Sierra’s PDF-related problems go deeper, and you should exercise caution when editing PDFs with Preview.
The first I heard that Sierra’s PDF-related problems might affect more than ScanSnap scanners came in a comment left on one of those articles on 26 October 2016. Developer Craig Landrum, who founded the document management system company Mindwrap, said:
The primary problem with Sierra with respect to PDFs is that Apple chose to rewrite the PDFKit framework in macOS 10.12 and it broke a number of things that PDF-related developers relied upon (I write scan-to-PDF software and know other developers who were impacted). Software that uses third-party PDF libraries probably runs fine, but those of us in the development community who relied upon Apple’s PDFKit library were really slammed — and we have no way to fix the problems ourselves. There have been numerous bug reports sent to Apple on the several serious issues found with PDFKit and we hope Apple addresses them in an upcoming point release.
Since Craig Landrum’s comment came after the release of 10.12.1 and the fixes for ScanSnap, I filed his criticism of PDFKit away as something that likely had been true but was no longer. However, throughout the next few months, additional complaints kept surfacing. Eric Bönisch-Volkmann, head of DEVONtechnologies, told me that they’ve spent a significant amount of development time working around Sierra’s PDF-related bugs in DEVONthink. Christian Grunenberg, DEVONthink’s lead developer, characterized the rewritten version of PDFKit in Sierra as “a work in progress,” saying:
Apple wants to use a common foundation for both iOS and macOS. However, it was released way too early, and for the first time (at least in my experience) Apple deprecated several features without caring about compatibility. And to make things worse, lots of former features are now broken or not implemented at all, meaning that we had to add lots of workarounds or implement stuff on our own. And there’s still work left to be done.
10.12.2 introduces new issues (it seems that Apple wants to fix at least the broken compatibility now) and of course fixed almost none of the other issues. It’s not only DEVONthink — a lot of other applications (such as EndNote, Skim, Bookends, and EagleFiler) are also affected.
I ran into a lot of PDF bugs in macOS 10.12.0. None have been fixed, as far as I can tell, and I’ve already filed two Radars for new issues in 10.12.2. It’s sad that basic functionality remains broken for so long — especially given that PDF was an area where Apple used to excel.
More concerning, and this is what finally pushed me to track down all these reports and write this article, is that the recently released macOS 10.12.2 has introduced a serious new bug related to PDFKit. Brooks Duncan of the DocumentSnap site published a note from one of his readers that warns that the OCR text layer added to scanned PDFs by Fujitsu’s ScanSnap software will be deleted if you edit the PDF in Preview. Eric Bönisch-Volkmann confirmed this, saying ruefully:
10.12.2 fixes a few bugs but kills the OCR text layer in PDFs. We worked around the earlier bugs in DEVONthink 2.9.8 and will address 10.12.2’s new problems in the upcoming 2.9.9. But yes, as soon as you edit a PDF in Preview the text layer is gone. Our customers are delighted.
Although the DocumentSnap reader said that the problem didn’t affect PDFs scanned and OCRed with other solutions, Brooks Duncan was able to reproduce the problem with scans made from both ScanSnap and Doxie scanners; he noted that both rely on the ABBYY FineReader engine.
Sonny Software’s Jon Ashwell, developer of the Bookends bibliography app, expressed significant frustration as well, saying:
We’ve been trying very hard to work around perfectly good code that was broken in Sierra. Versions 10.12.0 and 10.12.1 were bad, but 10.12.2 was a disaster for us, causing Bookends to crash when displaying PDFs with annotations. We’ve worked around that, but in the process had to shut down PDF annotations while we look for workarounds. I’ve filed a number of radars with Apple, two of which were closed as duplicates. In another case, I was asked to provide our app, but after doing so there has been only silence. I’ve never seen such a sorry case of sloppy code and indifference from Apple.
Problems with PDF annotations have plagued other developers as well, to judge from irate posts in Apple’s developer forums.
Christian Grunenberg laid the blame for the problems at Apple’s feet:
Apple supports only a subset of the PDF specification, and that support has always been buggy. For instance, PDF documents containing Eastern European characters created by the older ABBYY FineReader 8 engine are corrupted by PDFKit after editing. And issues reported by Peter Steinberger (author of the PDF framework PSPDFKit) were simply closed with the response that Apple didn’t intend to fix them.
Apps that don’t use PDFKit are immune from these problems, of course, but only to the extent that their PDFs aren’t shared more widely and edited in Preview. Greg Scown of Smile told me that PDFpen operates independently of PDFKit, but
bugs in Preview impact PDFpen customers whose document recipients use Preview rather than PDFpen to view or edit them. We have not had reports of PDFpen causing data loss of documents’ OCR layers.
Interestingly, Preview itself may suffer less from bugs in PDFKit than third-party apps. Michael Tsai said that some of the bugs he has seen don’t manifest themselves in Preview, suggesting that Apple’s Preview team is aware of the problems and is choosing to work around them rather than getting them fixed in PDFKit itself.
It pains me to say this, speaking as the co-author of “Take Control of Preview,” but I have to recommend that Sierra users avoid using Preview to edit PDF documents until Apple fixes these bugs. If editing a PDF in Preview is unavoidable, be sure to work only on a copy of the file and retain the original in case editing introduces corruption of any sort. Smile’s PDFpen is the obvious alternative for PDF manipulation of all sorts (and for documentation, we have “Take Control of PDFpen 8” too), although Adobe’s Acrobat DC is also an option, albeit an expensive one.
In the meantime, we’ll be watching closely to see which of these PDF-related bugs Apple fixes in 10.12.3, which is currently in beta testing.
Article 5 of 8 in series
by Josh Centers
Apple has updated all of its operating systems, with the macOS Sierra 10.12.3 update addressing the serious bug introduced in 10.12.2 that caused Preview to delete OCR text layers in PDF files.Show full article
Apple has released small updates for all of its operating systems to address bugs and security concerns. Apart from Sierra users who have experienced problems with PDFs, most users will be best served by delaying updates.
macOS 10.12.3 Sierra -- The macOS 10.12.3 Sierra update includes just a few notable fixes. Preeminent among them is a fix for the bug that caused Preview to delete OCR text layers when editing a PDF (see “Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2,” 2 January 2017). The update also promises to resolve a compatibility issue with PDF documents that have been exported with encryption enabled.
Unfortunately, early reports from developers indicate that many other problems with PDFKit remain; Michael Tsai of C-Command said that he is still seeing previously reported user interface and rendering bugs. For instance, open a PDF in Preview, choose Tools > Rectangular Selection, draw out a selection, and press Command-C — you’ll see a horrible display bug that appears to delete the entire page until you click again.
Apple also claims that the 10.12.3 update:
Improves automatic graphics switching on the MacBook Pro (15-inch, October 2016).
Resolves graphics issues while encoding Adobe Premiere Pro projects on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13- and 15-inch, October 2016).
Fixes an issue that prevented some third-party applications from correctly importing images from digital cameras.
macOS 10.12.3 is a 1.05 GB update available via Software Update. Alternatively, you can instead download a delta updater (for 10.12.2, 1.28 GB) or combo updater (from any version of 10.12, 2.04 GB). If you’ve had PDF problems with Sierra, you probably want to install it right away. Otherwise, hold off for a few days to see if any major issues are reported online.
The update also includes 9 security fixes.
iOS 10.2.1 -- Release notes for the iOS 10.2.1 update are minimal: “…includes bug fixes and improves the security of your iPhone or iPad.” However, there are 13 confirmed security fixes in the update. The update — 67.4 MB on an iPhone 7 Plus — can be obtained via Settings > General > Software Update or from iTunes.
Since it doesn’t appear to be a major update, we recommend holding off on updating to iOS 10.2.1 for a week or so to be sure that no problems crop up.
tvOS 10.1.1 -- You can obtain the tvOS 10.1.1 update on your fourth-generation Apple TV via Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software. Other than its 9 security fixes, we know nothing about the update, but can assume that it contains small bug fixes. If your Apple TV is working fine, there’s no need to update immediately, but it’s probably worth installing next week sometime if no problem reports appear online.
watchOS 3.1.3 -- Like the iOS and tvOS updates, the watchOS 3.1.3 update has minimal release notes, other than the whopping 31 security fixes. The 126 MB update can be found in Watch > General > Software Update on your iPhone. Remember that upgrading requires your Apple Watch to be in range of your Wi-Fi–connected iPhone, connected to its charger, and charged to at least 50 percent. The update will likely take longer than you expect, so allot at least an hour.
Given that the watchOS 3.1.1 update bricked a number of Apple Watches, and was later withdrawn and rereleased by Apple, we recommend holding off on the watch OS 3.1.3 update for at least a week, if not more.
Article 6 of 8 in series
The most significant release of the day may have been iOS 10.3, but Apple showed some love to its other three operating systems as well, adding a new feature or two and providing some bug fixes and other under-the-hood improvements.Show full article
For Apple’s four operating systems, updates have become a one for all, and all for one proposition. As is often the case, iOS received the most attention with the iOS 10.3 release (see “iOS 10.3 Adds New File System, Find My AirPods, and More,” 27 March 2017), but Apple also pushed out macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, and tvOS 10.2.
macOS 10.12.4 -- macOS 10.12.4 Sierra is available via Software Update, where it’s a roughly 2 GB download. Alternatively, you can instead download a delta updater (for 10.12.3, 1.79 GB) or combo updater (from any version of 10.12, 2.04 GB).
The most significant change in 10.12.4 is the addition of Night Shift, a feature previously available only in iOS that automatically shifts the colors of the screen to the warmer end of the spectrum after dark. Night Shift, much like the independent f.lux utility, is designed to help you sleep better by reducing the amount of blue light that tricks your body into thinking it’s earlier than it is. Look for it in System Preferences > Displays and Notification Center.
Beyond the addition of Night Shift, macOS 10.12.4 brings with it a few international improvements. For those who follow cricket, Siri can now provide scores, schedules, and player rosters from the Indian Premier League and the International Cricket Council. Apple added dictation support for Shanghainese. And the update improves right-to-left language support (such as for Arabic and Hebrew) for the Touch Bar, toolbar, and visual tab picker in Safari.
Although we don’t know the full extent of the changes, Apple promises that 10.12.4 resolves several PDF rendering and annotation issues in Preview. Those fixes are likely in the troubled rewrite to PDFKit that debuted in Sierra; we can hope the improvements will make life easier for developers who work with PDF (see “Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2,” 2 January 2017, and “Apple Releases macOS Sierra 10.12.3, iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1, and watchOS 3.1.1,” 23 January 2017). Another fix claims to resolve a bug that prevented content from appearing in Mail messages.
On the enterprise side, 10.12.4 provides a handful of improvements and fixes. Apple says that the update:
tethered-cachingcommand, which optimizes certain downloads for iOS devices tethered via USB. For details, enter
man tethered-cachingin Terminal.
securitycommand to include the
delete-identityoption, which deletes both a certificate and its private key from a keychain. For details, enter
man securityin Terminal.
profilescommand to include the
-Nflag, which displays a device-enrollment notification that prompts the user to complete Mobile Device Management (MDM) enrollment. For details, enter
man profilesin Terminal.
Fixes an issue that causes notebook computers connected to certain docking stations to display a blank screen instead of the macOS login window on the built-in display.
Fixes an issue that causes a newly changed user-account password to be rejected at the macOS login window, if FileVault is turned on.
Adds the ability to automatically renew certain certificates delivered via a configuration profile.
Includes numerous Xsan fixes.
watchOS 3.2 -- Less exciting is watchOS 3.2, which is a 225 MB update that you install via the Watch app on your iPhone (in Watch > Settings > General > Software Update). Remember that the Apple Watch must be on its charger, charged to at least 50 percent, and within range of your iPhone, which itself must be on Wi-Fi. Don’t start installing if you’ll want to use the watch again within an hour or so — watchOS updates take surprisingly long to load.
The main addition in watchOS 3.2 is Theater Mode, which you toggle via a new button in Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen). When enabled, Theater Mode turns on silent mode and disables the standard Raise to Wake behavior, leaving the screen off until you tap it. That prevents the Apple Watch from lighting up in a dark theater if you raise your wrist for any reason.
Apple also expanded the Apple Watch’s support for Siri to include independent apps, so you can now theoretically use Siri to start workouts, send messages, make payments, book rides, and more. Siri support in non-Apple apps extends only to a few categories of apps, and developers have to support it, so don’t expect that you’ll be able to talk to every app.
On the international side of things, Scribble is now available in French, Spanish, and Italian. And, for those who have been frustrated by the lack of feedback when syncing music to the Apple Watch (which seems to take forever!), music playlist sync progress now appears in the Watch app on the iPhone.
As with every operating system update these days, there are a slew — 31 all told — of security fixes worked into watchOS 3.2.
tvOS 10.2 and Apple TV Remote app -- Finally, Apple released tvOS 10.2, which mostly provides things of interest to developers (and 39 security fixes), but does offer one nice refinement for users. You can get the tvOS 10.2 update on your fourth-generation Apple TV via Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software.
tvOS 10.2 now provides what Apple calls “Accelerated Scrolling support” for apps. In practice, this means that you can swipe up or down on the far-right side of the Siri Remote’s touchpad to navigate quickly through long lists. In the screenshot below, the jump points appear as dots, each one representing a page in the list.
Most of the user-facing improvements to the Apple TV are found in the Apple TV Remote app, which Apple updated to version 1.1. It has now been optimized for iPad support, though don’t get too excited: it seems to be essentially the same as the iPhone version, just larger (that’s a whole lot of black in the screenshot below). When I downloaded the app on my iPad, I still had to filter the App Store search results for “iPhone only” apps to be able to see it.
Another improvement in the Remote app is an enhanced Now Playing screen. While playing media, you can tap Details in the upper right to view the currently playing media, along with direct media controls, such as pause and rewind. If you swipe up on that screen now, you can see additional detail. For instance, doing so when playing music shows your Up Next queue.
And swiping up on Now Playing while watching a movie shows additional movie information and a chapter list.
The Update Question -- As always, the question we’re asked after one of these mega-release days is if users should jump on the updates or not. We’ve installed them all and haven’t noticed any serious problems in initial use, but that’s relatively meaningless. Our take is that there’s no real reason to install any of these updates immediately unless you’re suffering from a problem expressly addressed by them. However, given the number of security fixes involved in each one, we do strongly recommend that you update within a few weeks.
Article 7 of 8 in series
Following the release of macOS 10.12.4, Adam talks with PDF-savvy developers to see how well Apple is doing at fixing bugs in its rewritten PDFKit framework. The consensus is that Apple has indeed addressed some bugs but has simultaneously introduced new ones. Tread carefully.Show full article
Numerous readers have asked me if last week’s macOS 10.12.4 update resolved more of the PDF problems we outlined in “Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2” (2 January 2017). The previous 10.12.3 update addressed the most serious bug, which caused a PDF edited in Preview to lose its OCR text layer (see “Apple Releases macOS Sierra 10.12.3, iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1, and watchOS 3.1.1,” 23 January 2017).
Last week, I polled the developers who had commented on the topic for my first article. The consensus was that Apple’s rewritten-for-Sierra PDFKit framework continues to improve, while simultaneously introducing new bugs.
Christian Grunenberg of DEVONtechnologies said, “Since January I have added several new workarounds and improved old workarounds. The 10.12.4 release makes only one workaround obsolete and introduces a new bug.”
He followed that up a few days later by saying, “In the last 24 hours I received various bug reports related to 10.12.4. In one case a PDF document freezes both DEVONthink and Preview; in another case pages are rendered white (in DEVONthink but also sometimes in Preview and both DEVONthink’s and Preview’s sidebar aren’t rendered at all); and in the last case PDF documents are rendered fuzzy.”
Michael Tsai of C-Command Software initially outlined four bugs that Apple fixed in 10.12.4 and four that remain open, and a day later said that one of his customers had reported another crash that’s new in 10.12.4.
The story for users is somewhat better because developers are either working around the bugs they find or quietly removing functionality until PDFKit works correctly. Michael Tsai also said that there’s a middle ground of display and scrolling glitches that can’t be worked around or avoided.
Nonetheless, users continue to have problems, particularly with large or encrypted PDFs in Preview and other apps that rely on PDFKit for their PDF-related functionality. Nothing seems to be as severe as the OCR text layer deletion bug that 10.12.3 fixed, but if you experience trouble with Preview, try a different app.
For merely viewing a PDF, use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. If you need to manipulate a PDF, turn to Smile’s $74.95 PDFpen, which doesn’t use PDFKit and is thus immune from these issues. Similarly unaffected is Adobe Acrobat DC, which requires a subscription that costs either $24.99 per month if billed monthly or $14.99 per month billed annually (that’s $179.88 per year). Acrobat DC is also included in the full $49.99 per month Creative Cloud subscription.
To answer those who have asked if they can now upgrade to Sierra, I’d have to say that if you rely heavily on apps built on top of PDFKit for viewing and manipulating non-trivial PDFs, it’s probably worth continuing to hold off. If you mostly just read PDFs in Preview, you likely won’t hit any stumbling blocks unless you work with large or encrypted PDFs.
Article 8 of 8 in series
If your workflow relies on third-party PDF-manipulation apps, High Sierra is an improvement over Sierra, but it may still not have caught up with El Capitan. Luckily, Apple has worked around most of the bugs in Preview.Show full article
Last year, when macOS 10.12 Sierra shipped, one of the main pain points revolved around PDF handling. That occurred because Apple chose to rewrite the PDFKit framework, presumably for better compatibility with iOS, but in the process both removed features and introduced numerous bugs (see “Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2,” 2 January 2017, and “PDF Problems Continue in 10.12.4, but Primarily Affect Developers,” 3 April 2017).
So what’s the PDFKit situation in 10.13 High Sierra? I polled my PDF-savvy developer friends, and the response was mixed.
On the plus side, Jon Ashwell of Sonny Software, who writes the Bookends bibliography app, noted that Apple had fixed two crashing bugs he had encountered, one on opening certain PDFs and another when rendering. EagleFiler developer Michael Tsai of C-Command Software said that he had noticed that Apple had eliminated a crashing bug related to contextual menus, along with a horizontal scrolling bug. And Christian Grunenberg of DEVONtechnologies, makers of DEVONthink, pointed out that some minor rendering glitches had also been fixed and concluded, “Overall, it’s a step forward for Sierra users.”
That’s not to say that everything is Riesling and roses, though. Both Jon Ashwell and Christian Grunenberg said that creating a highlight annotation now obscures the underlying text, and Grunenberg is trying to work around the problem in the next update to DEVONthink.
Grunenberg also pointed out that PDFKit used to provide a sidebar for viewing all the note annotations in a PDF, but that was removed in Sierra and hasn’t yet made a comeback in High Sierra.
Craig Landrum of Mindwrap, developer of the scan-to-PDF app Optix, discovered that panning a PDF no longer works properly in High Sierra. Previously, in Landrum’s app, you could zoom in on a page and then use a hand tool to pan around. Now, clicking in a zoomed page ignores the click-down point and immediately jumps to the top of the page.
Somewhat annoyingly, Apple has worked around many of these bugs in Preview rather than fixing them in the underlying PDFKit framework. That’s helpful for Preview users, of course, but real fixes would be better. This behavior forces independent developers to implement workarounds, disable features, or put up with user complaints while hoping that Apple fixes the bugs.
Preview isn’t perfect in High Sierra. Although I wasn’t able to reproduce these problems, some users have reported issues with note annotations being transparent. Plus, clicking items in a PDF’s sidebar table of contents suffers from two problems. First, after you click the ToC entry, an entry higher up usually ends up selected. And second, Preview scrolls to center the selected heading vertically in the window, rather than near the top. The positioning behavior may be intentional, but it forces users to scroll sooner to see more text than they would have in the past.
My take is that those who rely on PDF support in independent apps are probably better off upgrading to High Sierra than remaining on Sierra, since Apple has fixed some bugs. If you have instead stuck with 10.11 El Capitan, you may wish to delay upgrading to High Sierra until you can verify that the apps you rely on for PDF-related features are fully functional in High Sierra.