I recently tested a program from Sintra Works, called PDFClerk. PDFClerk is a program that allows all kinds of indirect editing of PDF files, which are notoriously uneditable. While not everything I’d want out of this type of program, PDFClerk is good enough at the moment to warrant a closer look as it is refined and features added.
First, what is PDFClerk? At its most basic, PDFClerk is a program that allows basic editing of PDF files. PDF, which is short for Portable Document Format, is a document format developed by Adobe which – in theory, at least – allows a computer user to “freeze” a document at a certain point, saving it in that state so that no more changes are allowed. Similar to printing a document on paper, sending a PDF file to someone, assuming they have the correct software installed (and Adobe makes a PDF reader for Windows, Mac and Linux, and non-Adobe programs exist on all three as well, so for all intents and purposes, PDF truly is a universal format), practically guarantees that your document will be able to be read by everyone.
This is in stark contrast to saving a file as other proprietary formats, such as Microsoft Word’s .doc format. Although many programs claim .doc compatibility, the truth is that no program (other than Microsoft Word), can read the .doc format perfectly. Microsoft doesn’t make the format public, so all other programs have to, in certain circumstances, perform a very skilled game of “guessing” what Microsoft actually does. In most cases the results will be very good, but in others… a bit of tweaking is involved. With PDF, this is not necessary, because the PDF format embeds any necessary fonts, and all other aspects of the document become frozen in place.
This can be good, and this can be bad. It’s good because when sending a PDF to someone, you can be assured that they will be able to see the document exactly as you intended. They will not be able to edit the document, but sometimes this is exactly what people want. Sometimes, however, a person may receive your PDF file, and notice that it would be better if a chart or table was on a different page, or they may have multiple PDF files, and want them combined into one.
This is not typically possible, but PDFClerk not only makes it possible, it makes it easy! Among the features PDFClerk boasts is the ability to rearrange pages within a PDF document, add pages, remove pages, insert blank pages, and combine two or more PDF files into one. After a blank page has been added, web links can be inserted, as can pictures and text. While the existing text of a PDF cannot altered, it is possible to add text boxes (to both previously existing and newly added pages), and so documents can easily be critiqued, and the altered document returned to the sender. While this is probably best performed with naturally editable documents, such as .doc or rich text, it is a wonderful tool to have available.
In my experience with PDFClerk, the program works as it should. There are a couple features I would appreciate seeing added, which is the ability to actually edit the text within the previously existing document. This could be helpful, for instance, if a PDF was made of a document, and the original document became unavailable. Typically no changes would be possible, but if PDFClerk could make these type of edits, the original, editable document, could be recreated.
This ability does exist in other programs already, but as far as I know, none which are available so cheaply. In addition, it would be nice if the text in an existing PDF document could be copied. A user opening a PDF document in Adobe’s PDF Reader can actually copy the text from each individual page, and then paste that text into a document. Unfortunately, the ability does not exist (that I know of), to copy ALL the text from an entire document (Adobe’s reader only does this on a page-by-page basis, and PDFClerk not at all), and again, as far as I know, the ability is non-existent to convert a PDF document back to its original form.
These shortcomings are not necessarily the fault of PDFClerk. If Adobe’s own reader doesn’t have the ability, it’s hard to expect a third-party product to have the feature, but it is still on my wish list. PDFClerk, as it is right now, is a nice program, has some handy features, and there has been a time or two (before I knew about it), when I would have loved to use it. At the moment, however, my needs to not necessarily mesh with its abilities. Should one or more of the items on my “wish list” come to fruition, however, it would be another story entirely. Until then, however, PDFClerk, while certainly capable, is nothing I’d use. I feel confident recommending it to someone who is aware of its limitations, though.