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For sharing complex documents, PDF files are hard to beat, and PDF is the most popular format for distributing downloadable forms on the Web. Although Adobe Acrobat lets you create and edit PDF files with ease, its £304 (including VAT) price is too steep if you need only to rearrange a few pages, add graphics, or complete a digital form. SmileOnMyMac’s PDFpen 1.1 promises to give you control over your PDF files for a lot less. Alas, its low cost is offset by poky performance and a handful of bugs.
Like Apple’s Preview, PDFpen sports a toolbar that lets you click your way through a document in both directions, or zoom in and out. Instead of Preview’s drawer, which displays only a column of miniature pages, PDFpen’s multipage view fills the document window with as many thumbnails as can fit, along with optional page numbers (see “Pages galore”).
PDFpen’s annotation tools are a mixed bag. The ability to insert pictures – including other PDF files – in a file is handy, and the program even lets you resize and crop imported graphics. But the Text tool is slow to respond. And when you drag a text box around, there’s an annoying lag.
PDFpen sorely needs an alignment tool for text-annotation boxes and imported images so that inserted text and images line up properly.
The Find command, (unlike Preview’s and Acrobat’s) does not let you search a document for a specific word or phrase, and it can’t search text annotations, as claimed. It just doesn’t do anything useful. SmileOnMyMac is aware of the problem.
For now, if you just want to combine PDF documents, Monkeybread Software’s Combine PDFs (www.monkeybreadsoftware.de/ Freeware/) does the job just fine, and it’s free.
PDFpen 1.1 is an unfulfilled promise. But with a modest speed boost and a few bug fixes, PDFpen could become an indispensable, reasonably priced utility.