PDF Pen for iPad

Those who use PDF Pen or PDF Pen Pro might be interested to know that there’s now a version for the iPad that going now for an introductory price of $9.95. The details are here:


I suspect in a week or two it will be somewhere between $14.95 and $19.95.

If you’ve got the Mac version, it’ll share the PDF documents you’re marking up via either iCloud or Dropbox. If you don’t, PDF Pen is an app that lets you do some editing on PDF documents as if they were text. For instance, when iBooks Author saves a PDF, it adds an Apple watermark that you may not want. PDF Pen can erase that. It’s 90% of Adobe’s Acrobat Pro for about 20% the price and has a far better UI.

I picked the iPad version up even though I don’t yet own an iPad because Scrivener’s coming the iPad and that may prove just too great a temptation for me.

For writers, PDF Pen for iPad might be a good way to edit a book. After many proofing passes, you reach the point where seeing a typo in Scrivener becomes impossible. One solution is printing, but that can get expensive for a book that runs hundreds of pages. An alternative is to create a PDF version of the book that looks like a printed book. I have done that and proofed on my Kindle 3, but there’s no easy way to mark up changes on a Kindle. With PDF Pen on an iPad, you could mark up all the changes and review them when you get back to your Mac.

–Mike Perry, Seattle


I’ve been using PDF Expert for just the scenario you are talking about minus the iCloud syncing to a desktop app. I Dropbox the pdf back to my mac and then open it in Scriv and edit the original doc side-by-side with the pdf. I like it.

Looking at PDF Pen the improvement looks to be in the graphical interface, more like an Evernote spread. It looks good but I’m not sure how helpful when you’re dealing with text-only docs. Hard to tell one from the other. The reviews don’t sound too enthusiastic but I would expect that things will get better given the developer has a track record.

The iCloud sync is appealing but the pdf will still need to be added manually to Scriv for doing the actual edits.

PDF Expert is $10 and well worth it. it is one of those iPad apps that continually delights me with what it can do, just like Scriv. $10 for PDF Pen seems a bit of a stretch as an introductory price if it’s ‘half-baked’ as one of the reviewers said and a higher price in the future doesn’t sound right given that I would expect that PDF Expert will improve in those areas soon.

Having said that, I’m as fickle as anyone else and was going to purchase PDF Pen to take a look but the reviews turned me off, for now.

Sorry I can’t give you a review of PDF Pen on the iPad. I’m waiting to buy an iPad in the expectation that, when the iPad 3 comes out in March or so, Apple will keep selling the iPad 2 at a lower price to compete with the Kindle Fire. Bought refurb, the price is likely to be more in the range I can afford.

All I can say is that for about two years, I tried to convince myself to bite the bullet and buy Acrobat Pro, even attending an Acrobat UG. But what I saw at those meetings turned me off. Acrobat was too cumbersome. I got a deal on PDF Pen, liked it, got a great deal on an upgrade to PDF Pen Pro and liked it even more.

I am, however, wondering if some of the bad reviews have agendas. There are a number of cheap PDF reader apps available for the iPad, and their developers may have friends who aren’t happen that a top-notch Mac app may move in and capture most of the market. 1Password is that way. Once it had an iPhone version, the other password managers were in big trouble. (I know, I owned one.) And 1Password is one of those apps I can’t get along without. It not only tracks all my logins across two Macs and an iPhone, it lets me encrypt information I need to keep with meet all the time, such as credit card numbers and lock combinations at work.

I will say that, in the long run, I’m looking for a reading/proofing app that works like author David Hewson describes here:

davidhewson.com/blog/2011/10 … works.html

The big advantage of paper editing is that page flipping and marking up aren’t ‘modal.’ You don’t have to do anything to shift from one task to the other. Most reader apps, of which the Kindle is the worst, force you to take several steps to shift from reading mode to note taking mode.The first PDF reader app for the iPad that isn’t modal will get my attention.

–Mike Perry, Seattle

P.S. I suspect the iPad version of Scrivener will have a similar impact on the iOS text editor market. Why use a mere text editor that deals with one file at a time, when you can have an app that lets you move multiple documents with scenes and chapters around easily?

I have a very great problem that is limiting my use of my iPad. I like to read ebooks in the form of very large PDF files. I make heavy annotations to them, bookmarks, highlights, and notes. On my desktop I use Adobe Acrobat Pro to do this and am quite happy with it. I have yet to find an iPad app that I am happy with for PDF annotation, and I have bought several: goodreader, PDF expert, iAnnotate PDF. The primary problem is syncing and lack of a proper filesystem for the iPad. If I sync via dropbox, every small change that I make to a file(even one highlight) means that the full file must be transferred across the network which is terribly inconvenient. They also usually don’t present my bookmarks in a way that is quite compatible with Acrobat.

There are some solutions that only sync the annotations. Sente and Mendeley, but they don’t store the annotations in the actual file and the PDFs are stored on their server.

All in all, this makes it difficult to use my iPad for an activity that takes up the propensity of my time. :confused:

I’m not sure what the answer is. Dropbox is supposed to be smart enough to transfer only the part of a file that’s changed, but there may be some issue with how PDFs stores highlights that interferes with that. Since the size of a file is part of the issue, you might try breaking up those PDFs into small sections. Preview can do that.

And if you’re just reading public domain texts for pleasure and need some way to tag passages you like, you might look into reading with the Kindle app on your iPad. About a month ago, I grabbed several ebooks from Gutenberg and emailed them to my Kindle 3. Then I realized that I’d be better off downloading Amazon’s free version of the same books (acquired from Gutenberg), because then I get all the markup and store features of an ebook actually bought from Amazon. So if you’re reading public domain books, try reading the Kindle version instead. Amazon will keep a copy of the book and your notes even if you delete it from your iPad.

Last but not least, you might contact the makers of PDF Pen for the iPad to see if their product either gets around the problem or if they’d be willing to work on a fix. When I’ve contacted them about issues in the past, they’ve been very responsive.

I don’t know if you have $10 to spare, but if you do, you might buy it and see if iCloud synching works better than that using Dropbox. Just be advised that the synching is between PDF Pen on an iPad and PDF Pen on a Mac. I’m not sure how well the synching will work with some other PDF reader.

An finally, since there seems to be some debate about just how good the iPad version is, it is worth noting that MacWorld has given the app one of their 2012 Macworld/iWorld Best of Show awards. Details here:

macworld.com/article/165030/ … nners.html

Here’s their description:

I can’t test the app myself, since I don’t have an iPad. But I don’t usually find myself disagreeing with their assessments of products.

–Mike Perry, Seattle

Oh, and you might just want to follow this forum tip for ‘pausing’ Dropbox synching, available in recent versions:


Pause, make all your markups, then be sure to turning pausing off and allow enough time for the synching. In Preferences, I tell Dropbox to use the black and white icon because it’s easier to see when Dropbox is synching.

If your version of Dropbox isn’t one late enough to include pausing, I’m not sure what you can do. How Dropbox decides to roll out an upgrade to individual users is something I’ve yet to figure out.

–Mike Perry, Seattle

Hi Mike

I cant find a split option in Preview, but maybe that’s because I’m still using P. pardus rather than P. leo?



I did in fact contact the makers of this software and it works the same as all the other PDF annotation apps, i.e. the full file is downloaded and when changes are made it is fully uploaded to the server. No change, they just happen to be using icloud to do it. Another thing that turns me off is that PDF pen annotations are nonstandard/incompatible with the regular adobe PDF standard.

Good tip though on breaking the PDFs up into chunks. If I do it this way, I can sync them with Sente and perform annotations.

Thanks for the tip. Pdf Pen is now downloaded.

I’d look at it now but it’s late and I’m sleepy…

This app is frequently recommended by the good people at the Mac PowerUsers podcast so it will be interesting to see if it lives up to its reputation.

any report on this program? Is it snappy? It allows you to edit the text layer of a PDF document right? You could use this to insert new pages and make your annotations there

Had a chance to look over Pdf Pen now. Not wholly bowled over. For my needs Good Reader offers as much functionality in terms of simple marking-up and editing and is far cheaper. I haven’t really explored beyond that yet.

Also Pdf Pen is a little buggy at present. I’ve tried re-installing with no success and have reported the problems I’ve encountered. Nothing major, but for the price I would have expected a cleaner release.

One FYI: Jean MacDonald of Smile Software (creator of PDFPen) appears on this week’s version of MacBreak weekly. It was interesting because Smile also advertises on that podcast.

Leo also had Oliver Breidenbach of Boinx software on the show. Both PDFPen and Oliver’s iStopMotion won best in show and editor’s choice awards at MacWorld. Smile is local to the bay area, but Oliver is located in Germany. He clearly planned his itinerary to go up to Petaluma after Macworld/iWorld Expo.

I’ve been listening to the show while writing this message. Leo and Jean pulled off the PDFPen commercial really well. :stuck_out_tongue:

John Chandler has a review of PDF Pen for the iPad here:

byjohnchandler.com/2012/02/0 … ud-er-ipad

He rates it best at “editing and interacting with PDF’s documents, and especially forms.” Perhaps the most useful feature of the review are the indications, good and bad, it gives about what iCloud-integration of Scrivener might be like:

That leaves me suspecting the Dropbox synching between various Scrivener platforms (including the iPad, yeah!) might still be best. Since Lion, I’ve discovered that iCloud is great for synching things like Safari bookmarks, but I’ve yet to see Apple come up with reasons to use iCloud over Dropbox for most apps, particularly since: 1. Dropbox looks and acts like an ordinary folder rather than something weirdly tacked on and 2. Dropbox also runs on non-Apple platforms.

For reading PDFs, John Chandler prefers PDF Expert. He evaluates various PDF readers for the iPad here:

byjohnchandler.com/2011/05/0 … ding-apps/

Hope that’s helpful.

–Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien

I just downloaded ‘Remarks’ from the IOS App Store. It is done by Readdle, the same people who make PDF Expert.

After having messed around with it for a couple of hours I think I’m in love. It has a level of usability that moves it towards the ‘modal’ that Inklingbooks referred to earlier. You can scroll through a pdf while staying in markup/annotation mode. This is a minor improvement but makes a big difference.

The other new feature feature is Zoom, it lets you zoom in on a section you want to write notes on. It is incredibly helpful when using a stylus or your finger, no need to worry about the size of the letters.

It is also a notebook app like Penultimate, I haven’t used that part yet because it doesn’t interest me as much. What I can tell from the App store page is they are targeting it at students for sharing markedup pdfs.

The negative is that it doesn’t have Dropbox or iCloud enabled. You can only sync pdf’s through iTunes which isn’t optimal. I imagine it’s coming at some point because PDF Expert has a good Dropbox implementation.

It is also $4.99 which is half what I paid for PDF Expert and for what I want, marking up my drafts it is almost perfect.

I find GoodReader is the best for that; it has full annotation features, great syncing (you can actually browse your desktop HD over wifi rather than having to go through iTunes), but feels like an “e-reader.” PDFPen looks more focussed on editing, which is useful, but for taking reading notes GR is great. It also syncs reasonably well with Scrivener - the annotations transfer fine, and you can set up syncing to a project folder. Still have to manually re-load the PDF in Scrivener, but this is still by far the least painful way I’ve found to deal with working from material in this format.

What really makes the difference, though, is whether they’re OCRed…

I have been using GoodReader for annotating PDFs for a while, but I find the process rather clumsy. You might want to check out Remarks, which is new, and which I just started using and am liking a lot.

Screencasts Online has a detailed, 26-minute look at the features of PDF Pen for the iPad here:


Looks quite handy for research or proofing. I’ve got the app with their first-release discount. Now all I need is an iPad.