Review: PDFpen 2 for iPad

I’ve started writing reviews for and just once in a while I think some of the pieces are useful for us as writers and creatively productive kinds of people. I mentioned WordTarget very recently but this is more serious and I think more useful: it’s an app for reading PDFs on your iPad. Now, there are eleventy-billion such apps but this is much more useful because it lets you edit the PDFs.

Let me explain in this extract from the full MacNN piece:

Here’s a true story about what PDFpen 2 does. A Windows-based firm produced a year-end report that was about 80 pages and most importantly took many, many hours to create. It was all highly complex, auto-generated figures — and one huge spelling mistake. They didn’t see the mistake until the final PDF was about to be sent out to clients. Fixing it meant re-running the whole process, re-calculating everything: it meant not sending the report until tomorrow.

Luckily, one guy in the firm had PDFpen on his iPad. He opened that PDF, typed in the correct spelling, sent the PDF on its way. Total time: five minutes — and three of those had been spent on panicking.

Hands On: PDFpen 2 for iPad (iOS) – William Gallagher, MacNN (23 December 2014)

Read the full piece because PDFpen 2 for iPad is perhaps the software I most recommend out of around thirty pieces I’ve done for MacNN so far.

PDFpen for iPad tutorial

Shush now, this is possibly more for me than it is you. PDFpen for iPad has been out for ages and I believe out for Mac for even longer. Ages plus. But I got the iPad one this week because I needed to redact some information from a PDF and in theory you can dive right in and edit the text of these things. You don’t have to find the original Word document or whatever it is, you can just right straight into the PDF.

In theory.

In practice, yes, you can. Easily. Readily. All the time.

Almost all the time. The PDF I needed to redact was actually a PDF made up of thirty-odd JPEG photographs of documents. Just slightly out of alignment, sometimes only slightly in focus. There was nothing for PDFpen or any other tool to grab hold of.

So I chucked PDFpen and my iPad aside, did the redaction in Photoshop and saved the JPEGS back into their PDF.

And wondered why I’d spent the money on PDFpen for this job that couldn’t use it. I’m now convinced that it was a good buy but it is specifically this tutorial video that did the convincing. I watched it curious to see how to do redacting and curious to see if there was anything else useful here and now I know and now I know yes, there is.

But here’s the video.