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PDFpen (not "Pro") did at least function with the IRS fill-in PDF form, but I ended up having a lot of headaches with it unexpectedly deleting information from the fill-in fields
When last we discussed this topic, I reported how PDFPen Pro (early in its history) seemed to work on a large corporate "fill-in" tax form but at about Page 11 of 13, I watched in dismay as my hours of work literally slid offscreen.

I found out that the software was built on the same core OS X functions as Preview, which as you mentioned, isn't useful for completing Acrobat's fill-in forms. I also learned that the way it worked was something like creating an overlay, and that's what I watched slide like a sheet of water off a table from my screen. Hence your observation about flattening. In response to my post about that, one MacInTouch reader reported it works now. Maybe the "Pro" would, but...

Working in Linux, the KDE application Okular does a very credible job of filling IRS Acrobat fill-in forms. I tried the Xreader app that comes with Linux Mint a couple of iterations ago, and it also worked. As it has been improved in Mint 19.2, I'm going to give it another try. (Linux Mint in Virtualbox?)

There's Foxit for Mac.

And, for certainty, Acrobat Reader. Be sure you have Little Snitch ready to keep it from phoning home, because it really wants to connect you to Adobe's cloud. It is possible to disable that in Acrobat Reader, but...

Acrobat Reader's had a bad security reputation, most of which I think came from Internet Explorer auto-opening any arriving PDF in Acrobat Reader, a very inviting way to target Acrobat Reader's vulnerabilities.

When we absolutely have to access the full intended design of an Acrobat fill-in form, we install and use the Mac version of Acrobat Reader, then uninstall it from the Mac when finished. We have bought and paid for full versions of Acrobat Pro, but they've vanished into the cloud....
 


FWIW I just filled in some IRS forms with Preview without problem. However, I've never tried a 10-page form. Also, Adobe's proprietary format, indeed, isn't supported. (I personally don't support Adobe, so may have to look for alternatives like PDFPen.)
 



Apple Preview does a great thing that other PDF editors won't: It allows to convert protected PDFs into not-protected ones. Just do a Save As… and open it afterwards, for example, with Acrobat Reader. Now you can remove pages that are not needed, and things like that.
 


Apple Preview does a great thing that other PDF editors won't: It allows to convert protected PDFs into not-protected ones. Just do a Save As… and open it afterwards, for example, with Acrobat Reader. Now you can remove pages that are not needed, and things like that.
This is great to know (though you can remove pages from PDFs in Preview, too...).
 


Happy for you, but PDFSuite is Windows-only...
There are two available apps named PDF-Suite, so it's a tad confusing. There's PDF Suite, a Windows only thing and then there's the app I use, PDFSuite, version 1.6, in macOS 10.12.6. There's also a v2.0 for macOS 10.14. Check the App Store, it's there. And it works great.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
There are two available apps named PDF-Suite, so it's a tad confusing. There's PDF Suite, a Windows only thing and then there's the app I use, PDFSuite, version 1.6, in macOS 10.12.6. There's also a v2.0 for macOS 10.14. Check the App Store, it's there. And it works great.
The macOS app you're recommending from Fangcheng Yin may violate copyright/trademark for the original Windows version, which makes me think it might not be the greatest/most secure/smartest choice, and its reviews also raise some suspicions. Do you have any relationship at all with the company or developer(s)?
 


The macOS app you're recommending from Fangcheng Yin appears to violate copyright/trademark for the original Windows version, which makes me think it might not be the greatest/most secure/smartest choice, and its reviews also raise some suspicions. Do you have any relationship at all with the company or developer(s)?
"PDF-Suite 1.6" and "PDF Suite 2.0" are unrelated products from different developers. PDF-Suite 1.6 is from Andreas Prang at iSolute, but it no longer appears to be available from the App Store in the US. I bought it a few years ago, but it has disappeared from my list of Purchased apps. It's a nice, simple little app.

Since PDF-Suite doesn't seem to be available any longer, I'll mention that one of its other major capabilities is reducing the size of PDFs. Although I have a fairly complete set of tools for manipulating PDFs, including PDFpen Pro and Acrobat, I really like Apago's PDF Shrink for reducing PDF size. At US$35, it's pricey, but it does its job so well that it counts as one of my favorite app purchases over the past few years. One of its best features is the creation of "droplets" that support drag-and-drop conversion of PDFs to smaller sizes according to pre-configured settings. I keep a print-optimized droplet on the desktop of all of my Macs, and it has been an enormous time saver.

PDF Shrink particularly shines when shrinking PDFs created in the Mac version of PowerPoint. (Windows PowerPoint creates significantly smaller PDFs than the Mac version does.) I've seen PDF Shrink reduce complex Mac PowerPoint PDFs nearly 10-fold without noticeable differences when printed or projected. I've mentioned it here before, but I haven't been able to do as well even when manually optimizing PDFs in Acrobat. PDF Shrink has been at version 4.91 for a while, but version 5.0 is under development. (Disclaimer: I have no connection to Apago aside from being a satisfied PDF Shrink user.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
There are two available apps named PDF-Suite, so it's a tad confusing. There's PDF Suite, a Windows only thing and then there's the app I use, PDFSuite, version 1.6, in macOS 10.12.6. There's also a v2.0 for macOS 10.14. Check the App Store, it's there. And it works great.
You seem to be confused, because the App Store "PDF Suite", from Fangcheng Yin, shows no history of a "1.6" version. Perhaps you're confusing the App Store app with the entirely different "PDF-Suite 1.6" app from the Berlin company iSolute (pdf-suite.net) noted above by Jose Hill. And, of course, neither of these is the Windows-only "PDF Suite" from "pdf-suite.com", noted above by MKaufman.

(For additional background on related issues, you might want to read Over Sixty 'Flappy Bird' Clones Hit Apple's App Store Every Single Day and How to Spot Fake Apps in Apple's App Store and Google Play or similar reports.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I don't know what others' experience has been with PDFpen 11, but mine has been bad. The app deletes data on Save. It deletes fields on selection. I don't know what its problem is. And while it apparently offers some sort of Versions mechanism, that was also problematic enough that I ended up starting over from scratch. All told, it has caused me a lot of lost time and trouble when trying to complete a very simple IRS form, and I wouldn't recommend it. (In fact, I'm considering trying to get my money back on it.) This is on an otherwise very stable 2015 MacBook Pro running macOS 10.12.6.
 




Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Ric, if you have a credit (instead of debit) card linked to your Mac App Store account, then contest the charge with your credit card company.
I thought about that, but I'm a little afraid to screw things up with my Apple ID/App Store account, considering how much Apple has entangled in it.

(I don't see myself buying more software from the Mac App Store, though, if I can possibly avoid it....)
 


I had a problem getting money back also. I purchased a bundle of ten programs which I thought was from Koingo software (per the email I had received). Turned out it was from StackCommerce. They never could provide an activation code that worked for the Crossover software from CodeWeavers, though they made several attempts. I tried to get my money back from PayPal, but they ruled in favor of StackCentral because they delivered the product. The fact that I couldn’t use it was irrelevant!
 


I've been using PDFPen since Day One and, yes, there have been a ton of bugs. Smile Software is very responsive to bug reports and has addressed most of them in a timely manner. Open a ticket on their website and when you get the acknowledgement email, you can attach the file causing problems.

A number of files I have sent to them were forwarded to development and fixes were in the next release.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I've been using PDFPen since Day One and, yes, there have been a ton of bugs. Smile Software is very responsive to bug reports and has addressed most of them in a timely manner. Open a ticket on their website and when you get the acknowledgement email, you can attach the file causing problems. A number of files I have sent to them were forwarded to development and fixes were in the next release.
I appreciate the feedback, but, no, I'm not sending sensitive financial documents to a company that sells fundamentally dysfunctional, buggy software without any warranty and then wasting more time and effort helping them debug it. I'm cutting my losses at eighty bucks and a bunch of wasted hours on my part and that of a critical financial partner. Unacceptable.

I'm not an Adobe fan, but the next time I need to deal with PDFs like this, I expect I'll be using Acrobat.
 


I appreciate the feedback, but, no, I'm not sending sensitive financial documents to a company that sells fundamentally dysfunctional, buggy software without any warranty and then wasting more time and effort helping them debug it. I'm cutting my losses at eighty bucks and a bunch of wasted hours on my part and that of a critical financial partner. Unacceptable. I'm not an Adobe fan, but the next time I need to deal with PDFs like this, I expect I'll be using Acrobat.
I first purchased PDFpenPro back in 2013, at version 6.0.5. I never did see any advantage it had over Preview and Acrobat, but I stuck with it, all through the (paid) updates.

By the time September 2016 rolled around, the next (paid) update was version 8.x, which I purchased in spite of never really using the program. I just felt it was good backup, in case it offered features that my other apps did not have.

Finally April 2017 came around and yet another paid update, just seven months from the last one! After encountering several bugs in the program, and never having used it for anything, I gave up. I still have yet to hear about a single virtue it has over Preview or Acrobat DC.

By the way, for light use, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC might be sufficient. I keep a copy for myself, so I can be familiar enough with it to recommend it to my average client.
 


By the way, for light use, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC might be sufficient. I keep a copy for myself, so I can be familiar enough with it to recommend it to my average client.
I am also not a great fan of Adobe. I have an old version of Photoshop Elements, which still works under El Capitan. That is all the additional photo editing I need besides iPhoto or Photos. And for PDFs, while Preview works well for viewing and merging/deleting, for fill-in PDFs, I find Acrobat Reader DC works very well. Besides fill-in forms for taxes, many rebate forms are also of the fill-in type. By using Reader DC, I can add the necessary info, save, and print. Much better than my handwritten attempts, which are often hard to read.
 


With all this talk about PDFs, something that has been very useful to me, when trying to create PDFs from existing documents, is PDFwriter.

Sometimes I encounter a program (such as Acrobat with some forms) that hijacks the macOS printing mechanism and makes it hard or impossible to use the standard methods of "print to PDF", "Save as PDF", or "Open in Preview" that usually allow me to generate a PDF. Basically, some people only want you to print some documents onto paper.

PDFwriter creates a virtual printer that then creates the PDF. It seems to have not been updated in a while (2011!), and as I recall, it took a few more steps after running the installer to get things working. (Instead of using the Generic Postscript Printer, pick Other.. and navigate to /Library/Printers/Lisanet/PDFwriter/pdfwriter.ppd).

It dumps the created PDFs into folders in
/private/var/spool/pdfwriter​
so I created an alias to that folder in /Users/Shared, so it is easier to access (or maybe the installer made the alias?). I have not tested it to see if it works in Mojave, but it does in High Sierra.

In any case, I do not use it often, but it is great when I do need it.
 


Unfortunately, I frequently have to deal with a variety of PDF documents. It seems that every authoring/editing program does different little kinky things that don't always map well into how another program views/acts upon the file. In particular, text boxes and things like check boxes, and movement around a file are wildly different.

I'm using PDFpen Pro, and it works as well or better than anything else for me. My understanding is that Adobe Acrobat can't be purchased standalone, but must be part of a subscription?

I hadn't been aware the Preview could edit PDF text. I've used the program quite a bit with an all-in-one HP printer to quickly grab JPEGs and scan necessary documents. I tried playing with Preview for a bit, but it seems - at least with the US Gov's DS-11 form - that if I wish to enter something, I have to click in the document where I want to type, then go to the tool bar and select the type icon, then hunt for where Preview put the word TEXT, click on it, and type over the text. This obviously is a real pain, but I can't see any way to get it into text mode without the above steps. And I have to do this every time I need to move to another place on the page. Have I missed something here?

PDFpen Pro does allow me to assume text mode and move about the page without all the choose, select, type, move actions. Still, despite giving the program a bit of praise, I agree with the general sentiment. It doesn't seem that there is a really competent tool for dealing with existing PDF documents.
 


With all this talk about PDFs, something that has been very useful to me, when trying to create PDFs from existing documents, is PDFwriter.
A similar option is the strangley-named VipRiser. It is still under active development and the free version provides all those same benefits (with, I think, a lot more flexibility).

I have no connection with the developers but have been using it (occasionally) for 9 years
 


A similar option is the strangley-named VipRiser. It is still under active development and the free version provides all those same benefits (with, I think, a lot more flexibility).
I have no connection with the developers but have been using it (occasionally) for 9 years
Good to know! That led me to CUPS-PDF, which seems work very much like PDFwriter but seems to be more recent. I also see that the VipRiser website seems to indicate CUPS-PDF has some unspecified issues with macOS 10.14.
 


I've used PDFPen Pro for several years as an adjunct to Preview and Adobe Acrobat Pro. I used it principally for PDF touchup prior to printing.

I owned a UPS Store and used PDFPen Pro to do some touchup of customer-supplied PDF files when Acrobat Pro would not provide me functionality to do so for one reason or another. Typically it was things like touching up or substituting color graphics with ones optimized for B&W printing or higher quality that the ones in the original PDF, fixing minor spelling errors, or in some cases, changing the ad I ran in the customer's newsletter. It generally worked fine for those purposes, although on occasion touched-up text would either disappear or wholly change print metrics. Acrobat Pro would not allow me to make or even attempt those same changes too often.

I did not like it for using 'typewriter'-type functionality to overlay text in form areas on forms not prepped for electronic completion (no fields). Like Preview, every time you click, it drops a text box either in the middle of the form (forcing me to drag it to the right location) or on some invisible grid (which I never found a way to turn off), so the text didn't line up well (forcing me to command-drag it to the proper location). It was too tedious by comparison to Acrobat's typewriter function.

I always used Acrobat's various conversions to change RGB->CMYK, since too many (Microsoft) app-produced PDFs write RGB whether the text was black or not.
 


I thought about that, but I'm a little afraid to screw things up with my Apple ID/App Store account, considering how much Apple has entangled in it. (I don't see myself buying more software from the Mac App Store, though, if I can possibly avoid it....)
I would call your credit card company and talk with them. They can tell you whether you have a case. It is important that you at least report your experience.
 


I don't know what others' experience has been with PDFpen 11, but mine has been bad ... it has caused me a lot of lost time and trouble when trying to complete a very simple IRS form, and I wouldn't recommend it.
Just a thought, but have you tried deleting the Mac App Store version and downloading a free trial of PDFpen 11 from the developer's website? Sometimes there can be differences in behavior when comparing Mac App Store and "direct" versions of the same app, due to sandboxing, etc.

And a bonus thought, if that does work out favorably: Have you thought of contacting the developer? Some developers will give you a "direct" license if you send them your Mac App Store proof of purchase.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Just a thought, but ... And a bonus thought ...
As I mentioned in a subsequent post, I'm cutting my losses at this point and have no interest in wasting any more time or money on a grossly defective product for which I am unable to get a refund from the Mac App Store, where I foolishly purchased it after trying a limited demo version.

An app that deletes your changes when you save a simple document? I can't remember the last Mac software I purchased that was this bad. (Note, I did not purchase the "Pro" version — the "regular" version was already $80.)

Just think about contrasting examples... You can buy Affinity Publisher for $50, for instance, and it's not only orders of magnitude more powerful, and 40% less expensive, but it actually works. On the first release. I'm pretty sure Adobe Acrobat works, too.
 


You can buy Affinity Publisher for $50, for instance, and it's not only orders of magnitude more powerful, and 40% less expensive, but it actually works.
So very true. And, possibly relevant to this discussion, the Publisher update released today seems to contain several PDF-related fixes and improvements.
 


Another stupid Preview.app trick (in Mojave) involving the highlighting of text using the Highlight Text annotation tool:

I read a lot of technical journal article PDFs where the references are hyperlinked to the bibliography. Highlighting text containing those references prevents the hyperlinks from working. This is annoying enough but is particularly bothersome because the text I highlight is deemed important and I likely want to look up the references. What were they thinking?

#applequality #appleui
 


Another stupid Preview.app trick (in Mojave) involving the highlighting of text using the Highlight Text annotation tool: I read a lot of technical journal article PDFs where the references are hyperlinked to the bibliography. Highlighting text containing those references prevents the hyperlinks from working. This is annoying enough but is particularly bothersome because the text I highlight is deemed important and I likely want to look up the references. What were they thinking?
Did you file a bug report to Apple (https://feedbackassistant.apple.com)? If not, please do.
 


I just encountered a new problem with PDFs from a customer. When displayed by Preview.app, all text is gibberish (I can't attache a screenshot but it looks sorta like: Rf c em_j mdrf gqrp_). The characters are all Roman, but the kerning is odd and overlapping. Graphical boxes and elements look fine. If I copy the gibberish text and paste somewhere, like here, it looks fine: "The goal of this training program is to provide..." If I view the PDF in Adobe Reader, it displays properly.

The customer started creating PDFs with Foxit’s PhantomPDF to convert from the Windows Word files, so it's probably somewhere in that process. Any ideas what settings to have him try to change so the PDFs open properly in Preview?
 


I just encountered a new problem with PDFs from a customer. When displayed by Preview.app, all text is gibberish...
PDFs mangled like this are more common than you may think. I frequently get files that look like this if I view them in Firefox's built-in PDF viewer, forcing me to use Adobe Reader.

I'm not sure what the cause is, but I suspect it's due to the document requiring some font that isn't available so the viewer substitutes a different font. The kerning is all messed up because the PDF is explicitly positioning each letter (in order to represent the justification and kerning created by the originating application).

Why it looks OK in Adobe Reader? I'm not sure but I suspect the required font is embedded in the PDF but is not being used by the third-party viewing applications.

It might be interesting to see what fonts are used in the mangled documents. If it is possible to re-format the document using a font known to be available universally (e.g. Times New Roman or Helvetica), that might (or might not) fix this problem.
 


PDFs mangled like this are more common than you may think. I frequently get files that look like this if I view them in Firefox's built-in PDF viewer, forcing me to use Adobe Reader.
I did a little more digging and the version of PhantomPDF they were using was extremely old (current is 9.7, they used 6.0.4). I asked them to update or use try something else so they swapped to the current version of "PDF XChangeEditor" and the resulting PDFs look great in Preview.
 


Can someone confirm this?

Mojave, Preview.app: imported some iPhone images I took. I wanted to remove the EXIF data, but Preview (tools) inspector won't allow. If I recall correctly, you used to be able to remove/delete that data?

Although I was able to open the images in Affinity Photo and resave/export as Jpegs without EXIF data, I found an app (exifPurge) that bulk-removed EXIF (the app has an annoying ad for their watermark utility).

I needed this to post some images I am listing for sale and didn't want all the data embedded.
 


Can someone confirm this? Mojave, Preview.app: imported some iPhone images I took. I wanted to remove the EXIF data, but Preview (tools) inspector won't allow.
I can't figure out how to delete the EXIF metadata, but Preview can remove the GPS data, which I'm a lot more concerned about. From the Tools menu open "Show Location Data" (or else get there from the Inspector). At the bottom of the GPS tab, click the "Remove Location Info" button. (Warning: my first remove and save didn't work – when I reopened the pic the GPS data was still there. The second time worked.)
 


Acrobat 2015, 2017 and 2019 (DC) are current. All now require macOS 10.12 or later to install/stay up to date.
Acrobat 2015 stops being current/supported on 7th April 2020.
Acrobat 2017 stops being current/supported on 6th June 2022.
Is there any reason to have Adobe Reader at all, for most Mac users?

I ditched it many years ago and use Preview to read PDFs. No problems so far.
 


Is there any reason to have Adobe Reader at all, for most Mac users?
I use it because I have had problems using other PDF readers (notably Preview) with fillable PDF files. Since my handwriting is terrible, I find that filling them in on the computer makes them much more legible. While there may be other PDF utilities that work as well, I haven't found any that have the same price point (free) as Reader.
 



Is there any reason to have Adobe Reader at all, for most Mac users?
Most files these days render perfectly (or at least well enough) with Preview. Some, however, do not render well (or at all) with non-Adobe viewers, including Preview and the one built in to Firefox.

Typical symptoms of incompatible files include:
  • characters appearing in the wrong font/size, positioned incorrectly, overlapping or other spacing problems. I suspect this is due to the document requiring a font that isn't available (maybe built in to Adobe Reader or embedded in the PDF file?) combined with explicitly positioning every character (probably due to kerning algorithms in the app that generated the document).
  • graphic elements overlayed/underlayed with the text - problems with position, clipping, transparency, etc.
  • fill-in forms - some work with preview; many, however, do not
I always keep Adobe Reader installed but with Preview configured as the default PDF viewer. This way, if I run across a file Preview or Firefox can't display properly, I can always right-click it and open it in Adobe Reader.
 



Is there any reason to have Adobe Reader at all, for most Mac users?
If you're running a current (supported) version of macOS (i.e. 10.13/10.14/10.15), then Preview may be good enough for most Mac users.

However, the issue is if you're running an unsupported version of macOS (i.e. 10.12 or earlier), then Adobe Reader was a (more) secure way of viewing PDFs. If the OS is not getting security updates, then Preview is not secure for opening PDFs of unknown origin.

However, the whole conversation around Adobe Acrobat/Reader support started because Adobe silently stopped supporting OS X 10.11 or earlier last year (even for the paid for version of Acrobat Pro 2015), but if you already have Adobe's software installed, it does not warn you of this fact and even tells you the software is "up to date" when it isn't. And if you want to download Adobe software, Adobe lets you download insecure versions that will never be updated, with no warning whatsoever.

Basically, if you're running OS X 10.11 or earlier, there's no longer a secure way of opening PDFs.

#applesecurity #security #updates
 


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