There are plenty of ways to view and edit PDFs on a Mac, but Apple's built-in Preview application is phenomenal and often overlooked. While Lion didn't wow the crowd with most of its features, it brought some amazing additions to Apple's PDF viewer/editor that puts it over the top and makes it our choice for the best.
Note: There are a few ways you could define a PDF viewer/editor, as features can range from simple form-filling to complete PDF manipulation. For this post we're concentrating on the features the average person would use, meaning viewing, form completion, annotation, and so on.
- View and edit images in addition to PDF files
- Annotate, highlight, and mark up PDFs in several ways
- Digitally fill out forms
- Sign PDF documents with your webcam (read on for more info)
- Super-fast performance
- Super-fast search
- Insert new pages into PDFs
- View and edit PDF metadata
- Add and edit hyperlinks in a PDF file
Preview is fast. Mac OS X isn't exactly known for its speed and efficiency, so Preview's ability to blow through PDF documents is pretty impressive. But among its many handy highlighting and annotating features, which are all solid, its ability to fill out forms is especially impressive. This may seem like a mundane thing, but when you get to the signature line it is hard to eschew at least a little reverence. Preview (in Lion) has a feature where you can sign a piece of paper, hold it up to your computer's webcam, and it'll turn it into a high-quality signature you can place in a form. It can also save multiple signatures so you don't have to continuously repeat this process. Preview is solid all-around, but it's those sorts of features that make it amazing.
As incredible as Preview's webcam signature feature is, it seems kind of strange that there is no ability to sign with your trackpad as well. After all, Apple Stores let you sign for purchases with your finger on an iPod touch. Additionally, Preview wasn't exactly perfect prior to Lion and Lion isn't exactly perfect on its own. It's hard to justify upgrading to OS X 10.7 if Preview is the only draw. If you're sticking with Snow Leopard, your version of Preview isn't bad but it's certainly not the best PDF editor/viewer you can find. Apple fixed a lot of quirks in Lion, which make it a pleasure to use, but if you're not running Lion you're pretty much out of luck.
PDFPen costs $60 but is pretty great. If you need more features than Preview can provide, it'll get the job done. PDFPen makes page rearrangement, editing, multi-document assembly, and more very easy. While it's on the expensive side, consider it a cheaper alternative to Adobe Acrobat ($200). We've never loved Acrobat and it likely provides more features than you're going to need.
Wondershare PDF Editor ($50) is another pricey option, but it has the ability to convert PDFs to Microsoft Word documents. We're not sure how well this works, but you might want to give it a try if that's something you need.
Skim is a great choice if your primary focus is annotation as that's what it was design to do. It has an impressively long list of features to make annotation easy.
Got any other favorite PDF editor/viewer apps for Mac that you love? Share 'em in the comments.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. Twitter's the best way to contact him, too.
Monday, September 26, 2011
The Best PDF Viewer/Editor for Mac