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Free PDF Tools for Mac

Lori Halley 29 April 2008 9 comments

When we caught up with educator Dave Riddell on Twitter the other day, he was looking for a new low-cost tool to create and edit PDF files — the web's default format for sharing printable documents. Here, for the benefit of other Macintosh users, he shares his picks for free open-source PDF software.

PDF Tools for Mac

As an educator, I spend a significant amount of my time immersed in articles and reports as part of my research for grant writing, and curriculum and project development. I try and maintain a paperless office as much as possible, so most of my reading and annotating takes place on my laptop — a Mac.

Until yesterday, PDFPenPro  was my tool of choice, allowing me to merge and remove pages from several files, sign digital documents, and annotate to my heart's content. Perfect! And at $94.95, it's a little easier on the pocket than Adobe Acrobat at $449.

Easier on the pocket, maybe, but not on the eyes. Or the nerves.

Unfortunately, PDFPenPro has never been the prettiest tool to use, nor the fastest or the most stable. This latter concern sealed its fate yesterday as an entire morning of edits and annotations refused to save. What now?

Enter Skim, a researcher's dream, with a price tag of $0. Add notes to documents, highlight text, and draw boxes and circles; your notes are saved in the PDF but will only be read by Skim, meaning you can get a clean version back at any time by just opening the file with with any PDF viewer. Want to share your edits? You can export the annotated file at any time.

Need to merge or edit pages in PDF documents? Open Source is your friend once again: PDFLab does the trick. And with FormulatePro (also free!) to help you complete uncooperative PDF forms, you're good to go!

A complete list of free PDF tools for the Mac can be found here:

Dave Riddell


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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 29 April 2008 at 12:01 PM


  • Dimitri said:

    Tuesday, 06 May 2008 at 3:23 PM

    I have generally been very happy with Preview and its hidden power-features: markup, annotations, page deletion, etc.  However, I have to admit that your description of Skim has piqued my interest.  Thank you for the tip!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Sunday, 11 May 2008 at 9:08 AM

    Dmitri, thanks - I know of a few Mac users who think of Preview as simply a PDF viewer and will be glad of your tip on the hidden features!

  • Brooks said:

    Tuesday, 27 May 2008 at 7:14 PM

    Thanks for sharing this! It saved the day, and some $$$.

    You guys do a wonderful job helping the non-profit community.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 28 May 2008 at 7:38 AM

    Brooks, that's terrific to hear!

    Please do feel free to contact us with suggestions for any other topics you'd like to see covered.

  • Patricia said:

    Tuesday, 10 June 2008 at 5:34 PM

    Thanks for sharing! Very useful article. I wanna add one thing. I use www.PDFfiller.com as a pdf tool. It`s much less expensive then Adobe Acrobat. I like it.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 7:44 PM

    That's handy, Patricia, thanks. And it's a bonus that PDFfiller.com is web-based, so it doesn't matter whether the user is on Mac or PC. I wonder if there are any similar services that are free or low-cost to nonprofits?

  • Paul said:

    Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 9:06 AM


    Thanks for putting this post together. Google results weren't helping me find good, free utilities for these tasks.

    Please note two of your links are no longer functional, but the programs are available elsewhere.



  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 9:49 AM

    Paul, thanks for the heads-up: I guess it's time to fire up the Broken Link Checker again!

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Sunday, 17 January 2010 at 5:53 PM

    One small nonprofit I work with has chosen to publish its monthly membership newsletter as a magazine-style

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