PDFpenPro Reviewed


Why would a Mac user need a PDF application when Preview.app does a great job of displaying and printing PDF files? Preview.app is a good basic application, but for those who need advanced PDF features, such as creating a PDF form or reordering pages, there’s PDFpenPro from SmileOnMyMac.

My inital opinion of PDFpenPro was that I didn’t need another PDF application. I have Preview.app and Adobe Acrobat Professional. Between the two of them, I can pretty much do anything I need to do with a PDF. After a little more digging, I found out that I would do a lot more a lot faster with PDFpenPro.

Adding notes to PDF documents

Adding notes and additional content to PDF documents is probably the biggest feature in PDFpenPro. Open any PDF file that is not locked, and you can add text, draw or even add and reorder pages inside the PDF.

Add notes to PDF documents

Filling in non-form forms

We’ve all seen them–PDFs that look like forms but are really just scans of paper forms made into PDF files. The only option with these forms was to print them and fill them out by hand, until now. You can add text fields directly on top of the fields and even sign your name in the signature box. No need to print.

Filling in PDF forms

Creating PDF Forms

This is the feature that I will be using the most. I have created PDF forms before using Acrobat Professional, but the process was a little difficult. Using Acrobat’s bundled form designer, you can create forms but it’s not the easist process. Using PDFpenPro you simply drag form elements on the page, it’s that simple.

Creating forms
Creating forms

Library of Images / Signatures

One of my favorite features of PDFpenPro is the library. You can save library items across PDF files and reuse them again and again. It’s very easy to create a signature and use it to digitally sign PDF forms. No more printing!

Library and signatures

PDFPen Pro Features:

  • Show PDFs in single, facing-page, multi-page, and multiple facing-page views
  • Fill out and save PDF forms
  • Create cross-platform fillable PDF forms (requires PDFpenPro)
  • Re-order pages in a PDF by drag & drop
  • Insert pages from one PDF into another (drag & drop or copy/paste)
  • Remove pages from a PDF
  • Overlay text and images onto PDF (fill in forms, sign purchase orders)
  • Scribble your signature or anything else directly onto a PDF document
  • Use with PageSender for a complete fax turn-around solution
  • Automate PDF manipulations with AppleScript

The cons (albeit few)

One of my only gripes with PDFpenPro is with viewing PDF files. If you’ve ever used Preview.app or Acrobat to view PDF files, you are familiar with just arrowing through the pages. After installing PDFpenPro, I opened a PDF file and instinctively tried to arrow through the pages. It didn’t work.

After playing around for a minute, I realized that function-arrow would navigate through the pages. I think this is a fundamental usability flaw considering how many users will be familiar with the other PDF viewing applications.

I think the UI could be improved a bit, but overall PDFpenPro is an excellent application and fills a gap between just viewing PDF files and a bloated application like Acrobat Professional.


Barbara Loraine

Can I use PDFpenPro to create a form with check boxes, email it, sender makes choices by clicking on check boxes, sender emails form back to me?

I learned as much about PDFPenPro from your blog as I did from their “help” info!

I hope that PDFPenPro is an easier-to-use solution than Acrobat Pro.

L. Hunt

Not to denigrate PDFpen, which I use and appreciate, but some of the advantages you mention have been available in Claris/AppleWorks for more then a decade so they are hardly earth shaking.

To mention a couple:
“# Overlay text and images onto PDF (fill in forms, sign purchase orders)
# Scribble your signature or anything else directly onto a PDF document”

So unfortunate that Apple has discontinued development. “Pages” doesn’t get it!

Jean from SmileOnMyMac

PDFpen is $49.95, and does everything PDFpenPro does, except create PDF forms and embed links. Adding notes, filling out forms, keeping a library of signatures and much more is available in the basic product.


By the way, I meant to mention this yesterday, The Sticky of Excitement is one of the best post titles I’ve read recently. A real coffee-snorting moment!


Another con you could have mentioned is that it’s $94.95.

That’s a hell of a lot of cash for another PDF app, albeit one with some nice features.

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