PDFpen iPhone and iPad

I occasionally listen to the Mac Power Users podcast, where the hosts talk about the productivity tools they use on their Apple devices to help get work done. Smile software, including PDFpen, often come up, with their software amongst the most powerful of PDF editing tools on the iPad and iPhone. Each app offers extensive tools to help create new PDF documents, edit existing ones and with marking tools. Both versions have similar features, but are different apps purchased separately. The Mac version is known for being an incredible tool, but how well do the mobile versions stack up to the task?

The first thing you’re likely to do when you start the app is want to import or create PDFs. In terms of importing, the app supports a wide variety of sources. Of course, you’ve got the regular iOS “Open in” features, to help bring in PDFs from apps like Mail, but you can also bring in PDFs from file sharing services such as Dropbox. The app was able to handle this with relative ease, working quickly and without some of the crash problems that I’ve got with competitors. By activating iCloud support I was able to see the PDFs that I loaded on my iPad later when I installed the iPhone version. Again, it worked quickly and without any problems.

Markup is a feature that I find myself using most when it comes to PDFs, and PDFpen can handle this with no problem at all. It’s got the ability to highlight, underline or add little notes to each section, just as if you were writing on a piece of paper. You can easily change things such as colour using the info box. At the same time, it’s also got plenty of extra in-built tools, like being able to add photos from your photo library or custom items, like signatures. This is great if you find yourself using the same annotation over and over again.

Although it might not be the most powerful feature, the thing that I liked the most was the ability to edit text. This is available in documents that have OCR enabled (such as PDFs scanned using the PDFpen+ app), and you can just highlight the text and then using the iOS dialog box select that you want to change the text. In testing this worked really well, you couldn’t tell that the text was edited. A great tool if somebody sends you a PDF document and if it only requires light changes you can make them, without needing to ask them to make changes and send them the new version. It’s worth noting that this only works with a few sentences at a time, not entire sections, but since that’s all you’re probably going to need when using a PDF, it’s better that it works effectively rather than creating more problems.

I found that even though this is advanced software, aimed at advanced users, it’s still incredibly easy to use. The app has a nice tutorial document showcasing the basic features, as well as a whole host of tutorials on the Smile website and the rest of the web. These can help walk you through just what the app can offer, so that you can take advantage of everything that the app has to offer. However, if you want to use the app just for some basic editing, it’s really good at that as well. It’s easy to use, very similar to Preview on the Mac and the advanced features stay out of the way. For example, the form feature will only activate when the app recognises a form in the PDF, ensuring that the app is less confusing. Compared to other apps, this is certainly the best choice if you want something that has the power features but is also convenient to use if you just want to add a signature or fill in a form.

Looking around the web some people complained about the fact that the app sometimes had problems, like rendering documents incorrectly. However, I didn’t find any of these problems and recommendations from the people at Mac Power Users likely mean that the problems aren’t widespread. Even if they are, PDFpen is regularly updated, with many new features and bug fixes ensuring that it is always up to date. Competitors don’t always have the same attention, meaning that your investment quickly becomes a waste as iOS changes and evolves. For example, you can guarantee that the developers at PDFpen are already thinking of new and powerful features that will be enabled with the changes made in iOS8, making the app even better.

The apps, at $4.99 for the iPhone and $14.99 for the iPad are more expensive than many App Store customers have become accustomed to. However, as productivity apps, they’re comparable to software on the Mac that would cost a lot more, making them good value for money. At the same time, they can help get your work done faster and more efficient than before, saving both time and money. As a result, it’s not a purchase that you are going to regret if you find yourself needing PDF editing or creation tools on a regular basis. For something that lasts years and years, and with the updates will continue to evolve, it’s a fantastic purchase.

PDFpen is regularly billed as the best and most powerful PDF tool in the business. Packed full of features and still being incredibly easy to use, I can throughly recommend it. It’s fantastic if you just want to make light edits or if you want the more advanced tools. It might be expensive, but it’s worth every cent. With the updates you can guarantee it’s going to get even better as well.

Rating: 5/5

iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/pdfpen-for-ipad/id490774625

iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/pdfpen-for-iphone/id557705455

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