PDFPenPro 10 review: Mark up and edit PDFs just like documents!

Preview, the all-purpose image editing and viewing app that comes with macOS, is a perfectly serviceable tool for performing basic editing of PDF files. Using Preview you can add signatures, markup text, add comments, insert notes, crop images, and create stickies, but it's limited. There's no optical character recognition (OCR), some fillable forms don't work as well as they should, and you can't create fillable forms of your own, or edit text, other than performing basic redactions. For performing those kinds of tasks you need something more capable.

SmileOnMyMac's PDFPenPro 10 ($125) is just such a tool. It's designed to make PDF documents, which, by design, are difficult and even impractical to edit, as fluid and easy to make changes to as any word processing and page layout document.

What's new

PDFPenPro 10 includes about ten new features, among which are batch OCR, document watermarking, header and footer editing, better image resizing and editing tools, and better tools for selecting and creating line art and text.

The app's batch OCR recognition is as easy as you'd hope it would be. Drag a pile of PDF files to an OCR Files window, click an Perform OCR button and you're off the races. You can go about your business, including editing other PDF files, and PDFPenPro will continue to perform OCR on your files in the background.

OCR has always been a bit of a sticky wicket, but PDFPen does the job well and in almost no time. The app was able to recognize text in hundreds of pages of documents in a few short moments, making them searchable, editable, and correctable.

Once the text was recognized, I was able to export files as a Word document. These exported documents, to my surprise, were mostly usable. They PDFPen Pro properly recognized paragraphs and sentences and the document text flowed appropriately from one line to the next. It wasn't perfect, there were odd section breaks in parts of documents, particularly around graphics, but it wasn't the hot mess that OCR'd PDF files usually become when you convert them to Word.

There's no way you can edit that

As it happens, at nearly the same time I was asked to review PDFPenPro, I was also asked if I could edit a PDF document for a local theatre company I work with. The original InDesign document used to create the file was lost on a damaged hard drive. I honestly thought I'd have to recreate the document from scratch until I tried using PDFPenPro's new Precision Edit Tool, which made it possible to select, remove, resize, and edit graphics and text that were intermingled with each other.

This tool was like magic and made fixing the document a delight. It turned an expected hours-long process into about 30 minutes of work.

Forms fields and full web pages

PDFPenPro has a few features that have been around for awhile that are worth a mention here.

A Form field recognition tool scans your PDFs to see if there are any spaces on a page that are meant for users to add information to. When found, PDFPenPro adds a form field to that location where a user can click and enter text.

This tool found fields on both simple pages with obvious text entry fields and in more challenging documents, such as a real estate lease. While PDFPenPro didn't always find every field in a document or occasionally found fields where there were none, overall mistakes were rare. And where it made mistakes, the apps editing tools made quick work of adding and removing fields.

PDFPenPro can also take any URL and turn it into a PDF document, complete with images and clickable links. This feature worked less well than I would have liked, often rendering buttons as text with URLs that ran off the page or which were too large. Oddly, this feature worked worse on SmileOnMyMac's website than it did on iMore.com and other sites.

Once again, it's possible to resolve some of these web page rendering issues using PDFPen Pro's excellent editing tools, but any present this feature seems like more miss than hit.

Bottom Line

Overall, PDFPenPro 10 is an excellent tool for editing PDF files. Solid OCR, a powerful new Precision Edit Tool, and features that give you better control over everything in a PDF file make PDFPenPro 10 the obvious choice if your need better PDF editing tools than what' built into Preview.

Have PDF Problems?

Do you have a PDF pain point? What tools have you found that that help you turn PDF pain into PDF pleasure? Let me know in the comments below.

Jeffery Battersby

Jeff is a writer, actor, Apple Certified Trainer, and IT consultant, born and raised in A-town and now living in NY. You can often catch him behind the scenes and on stage at County Players, Falls Theatre. Up next? He's stage managing *Cat on a Hot Tin Roof* at the aforementioned County Players.