PDF files are a ubiquitous part of our digital lives. It’s hard to avoid them in an increasingly paperless age, yet simple editing and conversion of PDFs largely remains out of boundaries for most consumers.
Typically one would need to install Adobe Acrobat to manipulate a PDF, or even use Adobe Illustrator for more complex edits: neither of these applications by Adobe come cheap, each running into the hundreds of dollars or, as Adobe is now fond of, a chunky subscription fee.
Enter Wondershare’s PDFelement: a much more affordable, lightweight, yet surprisingly polished application at $99.
Editing text & images
The Mac interface of PDFelement is akin to that of Apple’s own Preview application: tools up top and multi-page thumbnails down the side. Simply switching into edit mode allows you to edit text on a field by field basis, and unlike with Adobe’s solutions there’s no warnings about font mis-matches: PDFelement just gets on with the job and lets you edit the text in place, without breaking the formatting or alignment. Making edits and saving a version of an edited PDF, then comparing to the original, it was impossible to tell which was the original document and which was the edited version.
There is an optional OCR plug-in for converting scanned text in PDF documents into actual native text. The plug-in can be installed directly from with PDFelement although be aware that it’s a 400MB+ download. Once installed, any scanned document can be converted so that bitmapped text becomes native text, which you can then edit.
From our tests the OCR worked well with large chunks of text on scanned documents from a Fujitsu ScanSnap and even an iPhone. However, it wasn’t as effective on more complicated pages that included tables where text was quite close to table outlines, which led to the OCR simply missing text and leaving it as bitmap.
Possibly one of the most common wishes for PDFs is converting them to a Word document. As you would imagine, PDFelement handles this well, albeit you should never expect the conversion process to be flawless: a relatively simple terms & conditions document inherited random exclamation marks throughout the document; a more complex document with tables and simple graphics held up reasonably well but certain tables lost their colour shading. However, the export to Word process is satisfactory enough to communicate the text in a document via Word.
If editing PDFs and re-saving them either as PDFs or converting them to Word (or the many other formats that it support) is important to you then PDFelement is a valuable and reasonably priced application that does exactly what it says it does in a solid, lightweight application.
Compared to Adobe Acrobat it’s a no brainer unless you’re a graphics professional. At the $99 price point you’ve still got to be serious about regularly wanting to edit PDFs, but it’s one of those tools that you'll soon wonder how you ever managed without it.