As conference manager of a Model United Nations conference, I’ve been using PDFpenPro by Smile Software on Mac to create interactive PDF forms. After using it for a month, I have come to conclude that this software is aboslutely unusable, at least for making PDF forms. Apple’s Preview is better for filling out PDF forms, viewing PDFs, moving elements, highlighting text, and appending pages. Resizing, moving, and aligning elements in PDFpenPro is a painstaking and horrendous process. PDFpenPro is extremely glitchy, lags (even on my 2.6 GHz quad-core Intel i7), and lacks fundamental features.

Reasons why PDFpenPro is terrible:

  • When resizing elements, it is not possible to make independent adjustments to height or width. There is only a diagonal control, which makes it nearly impossible to make textboxes of the same height but with different widths.
  • When copying and pasting groups of elements, some elements are missing and not pasted.

The column on the right was copied and pasted from the column on the left.

  • When “correcting” or modifying text, fragments of the original text are visible underneath the “correction”.
  • Tremendous amounts of lag when moving textboxes and other elements.
  • Snapping to the grid doesn’t work. It simply does not snap to the grid. It seems to snap to arbitrary points in the document. It is inaccurate, unusable, and useless.

The so-called “snap to grid” feature.

  • Invisible elements (ex. textboxes without borders) are difficult to work with because their is no indication of their position or size when not selected (forces you to constantly select elements to find where they are).

There’s about 60 text boxes in this picture. Can you spot them? No, you can’t.

  • When exporting a PDF with textboxes with borders, the borders appear or work in the exported document.
  • It is impossible to edit the parameters of multiple elements of the same type at once using the inspector (you have to select each element individually and make the adjustments one by one).
  • There is no quick or convenient way to configure groups of radio buttons: you have to modify/configure every radio button individually using the inspector.
  • Miscellaenous glitches that make the software unusable: ex. an image from the top of my document randomly teleported into the area I was working in. I could not move or undo the change. I had to close the document to “undo” the changes. I lost lots of my work.
  • It handles text terribly. Plain text pasted in doesn’t inherit the text style.
  • It takes an oddly large amount of memory (RAM), especially when compared to similar applications (Preview).
  • The grid seems to randomly become darker and lighter.

Grid: “I’m going to become darker for no apparent reason!”

  • You may be thinking, “maybe there’s options or preferences somewhere that I haven’t found that solve these problems”. Nope:

Where is the option to show dotted borders or some indication of invisible or borderless elements?


PDFpenPro is currently being sold on the Mac App Store for $100 and has a rating of 3.5 stars. In my opinion, it isn’t even close to worth it. The reviews on the App Store are quite split: mostly 5 star and 1 star reviews. I’m guessing that the reviewers who rated it 5 stars are only using it to highlight or proof PDF documents, not to create them. SunLakePro writes that he uses it to “assemble multiple pages into a single PDF” (a fairly simple and fundamental feature, can be easily done in Apple’s Preview) and that PDFpenPro is “often frustrating” and “it often crashes and I [lose] my work”. Many reviewers write about losing their work. Todd Michaels sums it up pretty well with: “DO NOT BUY THIS”.