SAN FRANCISCO- – On the surface there is little to differentiate Wondershare’s PDF Editor Pro for Mac from Apple’s built-in Preview application.
PDF Editor Pro (US$99.95) available from the Mac App store or from Wondershare) offers up a standard set of PDF editing, annotation, and markup tools that you can use to prep PDF files for further editing of the original. And, as is the case with Preview, you can use PDF Editor Pro to open any PDF file and have your way with it, making annotations, adding notes, selecting, redacting, underlining and highlighting text, and taking the otherwise static environment of a PDF file and turning it into something somewhat changed.
PDF Editor Pro does have some limitations because, unlike Preview, PDF Editor Pro can’t open anything other than PDF files. It can’t open jpegs or tiffs, which are file formats commonly produced by scanning applications and fax software. You can work around this issue by opening those files using Preview, which handles virtually every image format you’ll come across, and then using Preview to convert the image to a PDF file, but that begs the question as to why you’d pay for an app when you can do everything it offers and more using an app that you already have on your Mac. The answer to that question is PDF Editor Pro’s significant saving grace.
Surface appearances aside, PDF Editor Pro offers something worth paying for: optical character recognition (OCR) of all your scanned PDF files and conversion of your PDF documents to several standard, editable formats. PDF Editor Pro’s OCR engine is quite good when it comes to tackling documents that consist mostly of text, although I did find the OCR engine to be spotty when it came across images or text that was formatted differently than what was found in the entire document. PDF Editor Pro consistently rendered bolded text as images and in the case of actual images in a document, such as a logo containing text and an image, it simply couldn’t make up its mind how to handle it. OCR rendering of the same document several times resulted in different results every time.
By way of contrast, PDFPenPro ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) handled everything perfectly every time; it properly recognized every instance of text in a document and kept images as images. PDF Editor Pro’s OCR engine is best suited for documents that have limited formatting and no images.
Once PDF Editor Pro has run an OCR scan on your text you can then use the application to convert your documents into editable file formats, including ePub, HTML, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. This feature worked well, particularly when you convert files to MS Office formats, although the image recognition issue I mentioned still applies. Anything that PDF Editor Pro recognizes as an image will appear as an image in your Office document. This issue is further exacerbated if you export the scanned document as a text file. Because text files don’t support embedded images your text document ends up with patches of text interspersed with blank spaces.
Macworld’s buying advice
PDF Editor Pro is a reasonably good PDF editing tool that offers up some compelling features. Optical character recognition and the option of converting your documents into something that you can edit using a standard word processing application makes PDF Editor Pro promising, but an imperfect OCR engine limits the value of what has the potential to be a great application.
(Jeffery Battersby is an Apple Certified Trainer and regular contributor to Macworld. He writes about Macs and more at his blog, jeffbattersby.com)