PDF In-Depth

Possible alternative to Acrobat for Mac users

September 05, 2011

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Learning how to manipulate PDFs is critical if you want to efficiently capture and process digital information. And while there are many tools to manipulate PDFs I tend to favor using Adobe Acrobat. Why buy separate tools that only do a few things? If you're serious about PDF manipulation just get Acrobat and be done with it.

On the other hand, Acrobat is expensive. The Professional version costs over $400, and there is no Standard version for the Mac. I believe that every law firm should have at least one copy of Professional (to do bates-stamping and redaction). But for wide deployment, Standard is good enough.

So what's a Mac-using law office supposed to do?

I recommend PDFPenPro, which does almost all of the things that Acrobat Professional does (including bates-stamping and redaction) for only $99, which is a fourth of the cost. PDFPen comes in a less expensive version, PDFPen, which costs only $60, and does pretty much all of the things that PDFPenPro does. It doesn't allow you to create or edit bookmarks, though, so I would just get the Pro version for $40 more.

The bates-stamping function of PDFPenPro isn't suitable for law firm level, but it works as a rudimentary tool. For example, you can't specify where the bates-number will appear, nor can you specify that first bates-number will be something other than 1.

The splitting function in PDFPenPro won't let you split documents by bookmarks, something that's useful when you are breaking up a large scan into individual documents.

Creating a signature stamp with a transparent background is a cinch in PDFPenPro, and apply the signature is easier than Acrobat. So that's one area where PDFPenPro outperforms Acrobat.

In general, I find PDFPenPro to be snappier and easier to deal with than Acrobat. The user-interface is intuitive and streamlined. Acrobat seems to have too many features, and then makes many of them hard to get to (especially Acrobat X). So, if you're a Mac lawyer I highly recommend that you check out PDFPenPro.

It's free to try for a limited period, but the PDFs you save will be embedded with a company log until you pay for the license. If you get a copy of this program you might want to spend an extra $10 and get this e-book manual called Take Control of PDFPen 5.0, by Michael Cohen.

This piece originally appeared on PDFforLawyers.com, and has been reproduced with permission.

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