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I am on High Sierra. It was recommended that I update to Acrobat Reader DC. So I do not know if it has been abandoned, but it is critical to fill out forms. So am I in the same non-security basket?
 


I don't have occasion to use fillable PDFs very often, and the ones I do tend to be very simple, so I haven't seen the problems other have reported.

My main concern with Adobe Reader is its horrible, horrible security record. If you do decide to use it, you should be very vigilant about keeping it current, and very careful about what files you open with it...

#security #PDF #Adobe
 


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).
If typography is an important aspect of your document, Adobe Acrobat/Reader is more accurate.

Several months ago, a colleaque questioned whether to use a slightly lighter weight of a typeface in spite of the fact that I typeset the text in the same weight as previous documents for that client. During our conversation, I remembered that her computer had erupted, causing a wipe and reinstall, but Adobe Reader had not [been reinstalled], hence she was using Preview. I made a side-by-side comparison of the document to which the text was much heavier in Preview. (Note: "much heavier" is based on the trained eye of over 30+ years, so your milage may vary.)

With graphic design projects, fonts need to be embedded when generating PDFs to render correctly, since the recipient might not have the exact same version of the typefaces used in the original document.
 



I am on High Sierra. It was recommended that I update to Acrobat Reader DC. So I do not know if it has been abandoned, but it is critical to fill out forms. So am I in the same non-security basket?
Acrobat Reader DC has not been abandoned and probably won't be for many years, as it is the latest version. Adobe will probably support macOS 10.13 High Sierra for at least another two years. So you should be good for another 2+ years.
 


My main concern with Adobe Reader is its horrible, horrible security record. If you do decide to use it, you should be very vigilant about keeping it current, and very careful about what files you open with it...
Yes, Adobe Reader's security record is poor.

However, all current versions of Adobe Reader (2015/2017/2019) now automatically update themselves and you cannot easily switch this feature off. There is no option in the Preferences. The issue is when Adobe stop supporting the OS version you are using - you will get no warning and Adobe Reader will say it's up to date.

But then, if you're using a non-supported version of macOS with Preview you won't get any warning either that it is out of date and potentially insecure.

Therefore, unless you have macOS to update automatically, technically, Preview is just as, or even, potentially more insecure than Adobe Reader.

Vigilance is required whether you use Adobe Reader or macOS (Preview).

#security #applesecurity
 


There is one big reason to have Acrobat: Adobe will allow documents to be embedded in a PDF file. Preview will not find, read, or open those embedded documents. (I have seen various legal documents, including settlement paperwork. I found this out, unfortuntely by experience.)
 


I have discovered a new PDF problem for me. I pay my mom's medical bills. To do that correctly, I need to know whether Medicare has paid the claim and what amount they say my mom should be responsible for. Medicare provides PDF summaries about once a month detailing claims they recently paid. Since they may pay claims months or even years after the date of service, I started merging the PDF files and then moving the pages into chronological order of date of service.

I've used CombinePDFs for merging and PDF Expert for rearranging. When I added the last few summaries into my combined 2019 file, both Preview and PDF Expert choked when I tried to rearrange. I tried other PDF tools with free trial periods - same result. I then looked at the merged file. The original Medicare documents average about 50 KB per page. The merged file with 120 pages was about 1 GB!

I did some experimenting and found that merging two original files, sized 393 KB and 344 KB, with CombinePDFs and Preview resulted in a file of 151 MB! PDF Expert merged the files into a 737KB file. I deleted five pages from the three merged files, and the file sizes were unchanged.

I looked up something about the PDF file specification and saw that "deleted" pages are only flagged in the document and are not displayed, but they are not actually removed. PDF Expert offered a "lossless" size reduction, of the expected size as the deleted pages. Preview wanted to reduce quality for any size reduction. I thought "Print As" might be able to slim down the bloated files, but no joy.

So, what is going on with the huge merged files? Is there a way to "securely" delete pages from a PDF? Is there a way to see not displayed deleted content that you might not want to have in a document to be shared?
 


I have discovered a new PDF problem for me. I pay my mom's medical bills. To do that correctly, I need to know whether Medicare has paid the claim and what amount they say my mom should be responsible for. Medicare provides PDF summaries about once a month detailing claims they recently paid. Since they may pay claims months or even years after the date of service, I started merging the PDF files and then moving the pages into chronological order of date of service.

I've used CombinePDFs for merging and PDF Expert for rearranging. When I added the last few summaries into my combined 2019 file, both Preview and PDF Expert choked when I tried to rearrange. I tried other PDF tools with free trial periods - same result. I then looked at the merged file. The original Medicare documents average about 50 KB per page. The merged file with 120 pages was about 1 GB!

I did some experimenting and found that merging two original files, sized 393 KB and 344 KB, with CombinePDFs and Preview resulted in a file of 151 MB! PDF Expert merged the files into a 737KB file. I deleted five pages from the three merged files, and the file sizes were unchanged.

I looked up something about the PDF file specification and saw that "deleted" pages are only flagged in the document and are not displayed, but they are not actually removed. PDF Expert offered a "lossless" size reduction, of the expected size as the deleted pages. Preview wanted to reduce quality for any size reduction. I thought "Print As" might be able to slim down the bloated files, but no joy.

So, what is going on with the huge merged files? Is there a way to "securely" delete pages from a PDF? Is there a way to see not displayed deleted content that you might not want to have in a document to be shared?
I don’t think I have ever been in the exact same situation as you, but I do work extensively with PDF files. There were times when I have had to deal with hundreds of scanned pages as one PDF file. But I don’t think you have to worry about that for now.

The first thing I will try in your situation is to open the file in Preview and do the Print command. When the print dialog window comes up, pull down the “PDF” selector (bottom left) and try Open in Preview or Save as PDF.

Then save the file, in the former case, or inspect the resulting file in the latter. This method has helped me remove “ghost” pages from PDF documents. Good luck!
 


... Is there a way to "securely" delete pages from a PDF? Is there a way to see not displayed deleted content that you might not want to have in a document to be shared?
I've been using Affinity Publisher lately to manipulate PDF files. It seems to open PDFs with the best retention of features and quality. It would be worth trying, since they have a free trial. It's total overkill for what you're doing, as it has many other powerful features. You'd need to import the PDF and then export the result as a PDF, as it normally works in its own native format. It's normally $50, but there are frequent discounts to $40 if you get a link from affiliates.
 


I did some experimenting and found that merging two original files, sized 393 KB and 344 KB, with CombinePDFs and Preview resulted in a file of 151 MB! PDF Expert merged the files into a 737KB file. I deleted five pages from the three merged files, and the file sizes were unchanged.
Could that merger process be turning text files into image files? Check to see what happens when you try to select what looks like text in the files before and after the merger. You might also wind up with a layer of text under a layer of image, which I have seen happen when I had documents professionally scanned.
 



Could that merger process be turning text files into image files? Check to see what happens when you try to select what looks like text in the files before and after the merger. You might also wind up with a layer of text under a layer of image, which I have seen happen when I had documents professionally scanned.
Jeff & Casey - you are exactly right. The original documents have searchable text, but not the bloated merged files. The PDF Expert-merged file does maintain the ability to search. Is there any good reason why one would choose to have merged files converted to images?
 


... Is there any good reason why one would choose to have merged files converted to images?
The only reason I can think of to default to images is if one or more of the input files was an image, such as a scan of a paper document. I don't know why the software would default to all-image rather than a mixture – one never knows why defaults are chosen.
 


Is there any good reason why one would choose to have merged files converted to images?
I could imagine situations where an organization wanted 'the original' to compare against the OCR – chain-of-evidence stuff.

(This is also how some redacted PDFs are un-redacted. :)
 


Jeff & Casey - you are exactly right. The original documents have searchable text, but not the bloated merged files. The PDF Expert-merged file does maintain the ability to search. Is there any good reason why one would choose to have merged files converted to images?
Could it be that rather than take a chance that fonts are either not available or are not a perfect match, text is converted to an image to preserve the look?
 


I've used CombinePDFs for merging and PDF Expert for rearranging.
So you use two different programs? PDF Expert can do both, i.e., combine/merge and reorder pages.
...The original Medicare documents average about 50 KB per page. The merged file with 120 pages was about 1 GB! ... I deleted five pages from the three merged files, and the file sizes were unchanged. ... I thought "Print As" might be able to slim down the bloated files, but no joy.
If you have not already done so, try optimizing the PDF with PDF Expert.

Note: I use Acrobat Pro, and just highlighting a word or two will increase the file size, so, I first try a "Save as…" If that doesn't work, then I "Save as a reduced size."

Also, some paperless bills have a few blank pages that I delete and then re-save as reduced size. Since these are for archive purposes, I don't need lithography quality, in that the reduced size PDFs look fine on screen and the prints on consumer printers look fine, too.
 


When you crop PDF files using Preview, you are actually only hiding what you crop - it isn't removed from the file. Do any of these programs let you drag-and-drop to remove what's been cropped in Preview? I have hundreds, if not thousands, of scanned-to-PDF files that I've then cropped in Preview over the years. It would be nice to trim them down, if it could be done easily.
 


When you crop PDF files using Preview, you are actually only hiding what you crop - it isn't removed from the file. Do any of these programs let you drag-and-drop to remove what's been cropped in Preview? I have hundreds, if not thousands, of scanned-to-PDF files that I've then cropped in Preview over the years. It would be nice to trim them down, if it could be done easily.
Instead of saving the change, you can "print" the file and then choose "Save as PDF" from the PDF drop-down menu in the print dialog window. The hidden parts or pages are not saved in the new PDF.

This works in Preview for all changes you make, especially useful for annotations or filled-in forms that you want to stick when the file is sent to someone else.
 


All this talk of PDFs reminds me of the "virtual PDF printer" that I have found useful - PDFWriter. This allows the creation of PDFs from programs such as Acrobat that use their own printing system that bypasses the macOS ability to create PDFs. I don't know how well it runs under Catalina, but there is at least one report that the related project RWTS-PDFwriter works.
 




Instead of saving the change, you can "print" the file and then choose "Save as PDF" from the PDF drop-down menu in the print dialog window. The hidden parts or pages are not saved in the new PDF.
Alternatively, you can use the rectangular selection, copy that selection, and then go to the menu item File > New From Clipboard. This makes a smaller file of the same resolution and works quickly without modifying the original. I have occasionally run into problems trying to "Print to PDF" from a PDF file.
 


Just a reminder that Preview has a serious corruption problem with fillable form PDFs (an issue ignored by Apple for many years). One good example is IRS tax forms: If you start filling a form and save with Acrobat Pro then continue that form in Preview and save, then re-open in Acrobat, many entry fields may be misaligned, and entered data may be missing entirely (on screen and printed page).

I have a policy of eliminating Adobe Acrobat/Reader/Pro/etc. from any system that does not need it regularly for more than just viewing documents. You can always re-install Reader when needed.

Windows tip: My default PDF viewer on any Windows system is Sumatra PDF (free, open source) by Krzysztof Kowalczyk and Simon Bünzli. It runs on Win XP or higher, is fast, small, and has just enough settings to customize for most needs. It can even be run directly from a USB drive. More complex PDFs with extensive graphics may suffer, but I have found this to be a perfect solution for most users unless they frequently work with forms.

On the security of PDFs, etc. I strongly echo "Save As" or similar methods of copying the pages that you want to a new document for elimination of unwanted data. More and more software retains old data while hiding it from view. I partly blame this on poor user interface (the end user is not aware data is just hidden and not deleted). I remember back to Word 4 or 5 when it became standard practice to Select All, Copy and Paste into a new document to lose info that was not meant to be shared.

On the ultra-paranoid side, you can copy the final draft text of a document into BBEdit or other text-only editor, then re-copy it back to a new document and format as needed, thus stripping out anything other than what you see.

If security is crucial, I would suggest converting any sensitive document to an image format other than PDF, then Save as PDF to strip hidden data, parseable text, etc. While I have used Acrobat Pro's "redaction" and Microsoft Office's "track changes" tools with apparent success, I honestly would never trust them if someone's life depended on it.

#security #privacy
 


Just a reminder that Preview has a serious corruption problem with fillable form PDFs (an issue ignored by Apple for many years). One good example is IRS tax forms: If you start filling a form and save with Acrobat Pro then continue that form in Preview and save, then re-open in Acrobat, many entry fields may be misaligned, and entered data may be missing entirely (on screen and printed page).
That is caused by the way Preview saves changes like annotations. When the file is saved, it saves the changes in metadata. The original file is not changed. The only way to save changes made in Preview to the file itself is by "printing" and choosing "Save as PDF".
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
My main concern with Adobe Reader is its horrible, horrible security record. If you do decide to use it, you should be very vigilant about keeping it current, and very careful about what files you open with it...
When I checked Adobe Reader after attempting to have it auto-update, multiple times, it remained back-level without recent security patches. Nothing I tried helped, so I finally downloaded a fresh copy and installed that, which got things to the latest level.
 


DFG

Windows tip: My default PDF viewer on any Windows system is Sumatra PDF (free, open source) by Krzysztof Kowalczyk and Simon Bünzli.
A look at the developer's site shows that this software was last updated in 2016. Given the many security issues with PDF, I am not sure I would trust this program.

Another alternative to Adobe Reader's bloat is Foxit Reader, a "freemium" product.
 



The only way to save changes made in Preview to the file itself is by "printing" and choosing "Save as PDF".
But note that when you do so, the result is a static document.
This is different from filling in fields with Adobe Reader and saving the result. If you do that, the fields remain editable.
Either may be preferable, depending on your requirements.
Yes, true. Similar applies to Preview as long as you stay with Preview. Saving annotations in Preview will keep the document editable in Preview. But if you want to file to be readable in a different application with the annotations intact, you will need to print to PDF.
 


... Saving annotations in Preview will keep the document editable in Preview. But if you want to file to be readable in a different application with the annotations intact, you will need to print to PDF.
All valid points (and tips), but I have found that the average end user has no real understanding of this. When you start sharing PDF forms between multiple parties on different platforms and applications, things can get problematic (ie. Acrobat > Preview > Acrobat).

This plays out repeatedly in university environments with student forms. A student fills a PDF form, passes it to an advisor who adds info/signature, who then passes it back to the student, who then forwards it to the department chair or upper administration, etc. Introduce Preview at any point and the student often needs to start over. Some have just reverted to using paper copies for certain forms to avoid this issue.

Before anyone says anything about adding instructions, let me point out that students are notorious for missing, ignoring or just not understanding directions... even when they are informed before hand, in person.

To be fair, this applies to any of us if properly distracted. Makes me think of Gary Larson's school for the gifted ...
 


A look at the developer's site shows that this software was last updated in 2016. Given the many security issues with PDF, I am not sure I would trust this program.
I have no idea what security issues Sumatra PDF may be vulnerable to, due to its stripped down form. It does not support JavaScript, Flash or fillable forms. I believe (not 100% sure) it only touches the network to check for the latest version (which can be disabled). It would be interesting to throw some known "bad" PDFs at it on a test system.

It is worth noting that Sumatra PDF has been cited a number of times in security articles and blogs over the years as a safer PDF viewer on Windows. Do a search for "sumatra pdf security" and there are a lot of results. One stackexchange post from 2017 argues in favor of Sumatra PDF with some interesting links to related information. But as the poster phrases it themselves, "such programs greatly reduce the risk" and there is no perfect answer.

While the last official release (3.1.2) was in August 2016, I see a lot of current activity in the discussion forums. Of note, there are posts about the latest "pre-release" builds of 3.2.x running much faster than 3.1.2, so there may be a newer official version in the near future.
 


Yes, true. Similar applies to Preview as long as you stay with Preview. Saving annotations in Preview will keep the document editable in Preview. But if you want to file to be readable in a different application with the annotations intact, you will need to print to PDF.
The annotations do carry over accurately if then opened in Acrobat. I have just used Preview annotations, which I like, including the loupe, and they work perfectly in an Acrobat presentation (command - L).
 


But note that when you do so, the result is a static document.
This is different from filling in fields with Adobe Reader and saving the result. If you do that, the fields remain editable.
Either may be preferable, depending on your requirements.
I use (the excellent) PDFPenPro, to create PDF Forms... When I open them with Preview, they work great, and if you do a 'Save As' the form is intact. Also, if you open the PDF Form and do a 'Duplicate' the form remains. However, if you Export or Print to PDF, the form fields are removed.
 


All valid points (and tips), but I have found that the average end user has no real understanding of this. When you start sharing PDF forms between multiple parties on different platforms and applications, things can get problematic (ie. Acrobat > Preview > Acrobat).
That's a problem that needs to be documented. Even if students can't be bothered to read anything, those of us who need to know should have that information available for troubleshooting. Many companies are moving to electronic contracts as well as electronic forms in PDF format, and it's getting messy. Another problem is the use of PDF forms in proofing documents, which requires annotation. That's why I stick with Acrobat except when it lacks the features I need, like the ability to excerpt a few pages from a PDF book or magazine.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I use (the excellent) PDFPenPro, to create PDF Forms...
Just a word of warning to others: I purchased PDFPenPro from Apple's Mac App Store after trying a demo, because I had a business-critical IRS form I had to fill out, and Apple Preview couldn't do the job. Unfortunately, PDFPenPro was a disaster, failing to even save changes/files correctly. I tried to get a refund from Apple's Mac App Store, but Apple refused to refund the purchase (which makes me extremely wary of buying any software again from Apple).

Considering decades of Mac experience, the fact that none of my other software ever behaves like this, and other PDFPen bug reports, I don't think this is "cockpit error", although I recognize that others' experiences can differ. (One theory I haven't tested is that installing the demo version may have affected the subsequently purchased version somehow. Also, I didn't buy their highest-priced version.)
 


Just a word of warning to others: I purchased PDFPenPro from Apple's Mac App Store after trying a demo, because I had a business-critical IRS form I had to fill out, and Apple Preview couldn't do the job. Unfortunately, PDFPenPro was a disaster, failing to even save changes/files correctly. I tried to get a refund from Apple's Mac App Store, but Apple refused to refund the purchase (which makes me extremely wary of buying any software again from Apple).
Considering decades of Mac experience, the fact that none of my other software ever behaves like this, and other PDFPen bug reports, I don't think this is "cockpit error", although I recognize that others' experiences can differ. (One theory I haven't tested is that installing the demo version may have affected the subsequently purchased version somehow. Also, I didn't buy their highest-priced version.)
I have had great support with PDFPen Pro support on any issues. I think if you contact them, they may be able to resolve any open issues you have. Also, they sell the app directly and possibly it has differences from the Mac App Store version. Smile Software has been around a long while in the Mac space and is committed to happy customers, in my opinion. (Just a long time Smile customer.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I think if you contact them, they may be able to resolve any open issues you have.
Frankly, I do not have spare time to spend helping companies debug gross bugs that should never have gotten out of alpha testing. As I said, people's experiences may differ, but mine was unusually bad, and I wasn't interested in wasting more time on troubleshooting after already spending hours fighting to use buggy software to get a critical, yet very simple, job done - nothing more than filling out a simple IRS form and saving it for electronic transmission to a financial institution.

Now that I think about it, in light of more discussion above, perhaps Apple Preview was part of the problem, but I simply haven't had time to revisit the whole mess, and I wanted to let people know about the issue – they can read other reviews for themselves (e.g. on the Mac App Store and MacUpdate), which are not great. Caveat emptor.
 


When you start sharing PDF forms between multiple parties on different platforms and applications, things can get problematic (ie. Acrobat > Preview > Acrobat).
I ran into a similar problem several years ago. I downloaded a PDF document (SF-52) from Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Everything looked right and I sent it along with other documents to HR for a job application. I was later informated by HR that my form was blank and my application rejected. I looked at it again in Preview and it was fine. It was not fine, however, in Adobe Reader. There was no information in the fillable sections.

As a test, I did a select-all (Cmd-A) and, lo and behold, the "invisible" text suddenly appeared. I shared this information with HR. A few days later I received a call from the HR noting that this solved the mystery of why they had received some blank forms. As a result, they had to go back and reevaluate several job applications that had been rejected.
 


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