Edit and enhance your PDFs easily with PDFpen 13!

Take Control of

Third Edition
Michael E. Cohen

Polish your PDFs with Smile’s PDFpen, for a fraction of what Adobe Acrobat costs! Michael E. Cohen explains how you can create, combine, edit, annotate, and protect PDFs. Also learn how to perform and edit OCR, fill out forms, sign forms digitally, make interactive forms, and much more. Covers Mac and iOS/iPadOS versions!

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


These days, an ever-increasing amount of “paper”—contracts, tax forms, bills, reports, and more—comes into our lives as PDF files. We generate this virtual paper too, since it’s so much easier to save a document as a PDF and send it to a colleague via email than it is to print and send via fax or email. To read, edit, and manipulate all these PDFs, you need the appropriate tools and skills.

Given the high price of Adobe Acrobat DC Pro, many Mac users have turned to Smile’s affordable PDFpen apps to help them sign PDF forms, handle scanned documents, make changes in existing PDFs, create new PDFs from a variety of sources, and to export PDFs to other file formats (including Word and Excel). With Take Control of PDFpen, you’ll learn how to do all these tasks and more on your Mac with PDFpen or PDFpenPro or on the go with PDFpen for iPad & iPhone.

If you haven’t used PDFpen before, this free book is an excellent way to find out what it has to offer.

TidBITS members can save 20% on all Smile products purchased through the Smile cart, including PDFpen 13 and PDFpenPro 13. To learn more, visit the Membership Benefits page. To access the coupon code, make sure you’ve logged in and click through from the Your Member Benefits page.

Take Control of PDFpen begins with a guide to purchasing options: PDFpen versus PDFpenPro, from Smile versus the Mac App Store, and the advantages of the iOS/iPadOS version. Next, you’ll meet PDFpen with an overview of the PDF format and a tour of the interface.

With the basics out of the way, highlights of what you’ll learn to do include:

  • Add and remove pages, and combine pages from multiple files into one PDF.
  • Mark up a PDF with highlights, comments, editing marks, and more.
  • Compare two different parts of a PDF with the Split View.
  • Edit a PDF by fixing typos, adding text, formatting text, and redacting confidential text.
  • Scan a document into a PDF, and make the text editable with OCR—with single or multiple documents.
  • Add photos or scans to a PDF quickly with Continuity Camera and an iOS/iPadOS device.
  • View and work with OCRed text in the OCR layer (PDFpenPro only)
  • Add clickable links, headers, footers, page numbers, and images.
  • Annotate a document with lines, shapes, text, and callouts.
  • Make a clickable table of contents (PDFpenPro only).
  • Add a watermark to each page of a PDF.
  • Password-protect a PDF. And (PDFpenPro only), prevent others from printing or editing a PDF.
  • Turn a PDF into a formatted Microsoft Word document, or (PDFpenPro only) export it in Excel or PowerPoint format.
  • Reduce the size of your PDFs.
  • Create blank PDFs with stationery.
  • Add a digital signature with DocuSign (PDFpenPro only).

And, you’ll find directions for working with PDF forms:

  • Fill out forms with ease.
  • Add a handwritten signature.
  • Apply a digital signing certificate.
  • Print just form entries on a pre-printed form.
  • Create an interactive PDF form (PDFpenPro only) that can collect data and send it to you via email or the web. You can add an interactive signature field, which makes it easy for the form to be signed online.

An appendix describes the useful AppleScripts that ship with PDFpen.

This ebook was created in collaboration with Smile, with PDFpen’s developers tech editing the book.

Michael Cohen

About Michael E. Cohen

Michael E. Cohen has taught English composition, worked as a programmer for NASA’s Deep Space Network, helped develop the first commercial ebooks at the Voyager Company, and co-founded a major university’s Humanities computing center. He has authored several books, including Apple Interface Mysteries, Take Control of PDFpen, Take Control of Pages, and Take Control of TextExpander.

This book covers version 13 of Smile’s PDFpen and PDFpenPro and version 6 of PDFpen for iPad & iPhone. The changes in this book from the second edition of Take Control of PDFpen cover the new and revised features in those apps. In particular, the user interface of both PDFpen and PDFpenPro on the Mac has been substantially revised to make it easier to use: most of the changes in this book reflect this revision (nearly all the figures, in particular, have been replaced). Here’s where you can learn about some of the major changes:

  • Need to find where your old, familiar tools have gone? Consult “Where to Find Tools” for a guide.
  • You no longer need to click a button to switch between markup and selection tools; both are always available. See “The Selection Tools” and “The Markup Tools.”
  • Where did the Font Bar go? The Text Format Tools are now always visible as part of the Editing Bar.
  • Descriptions of how The Object Property Tools work have been substantially revised.
  • How you choose and apply colors when you Highlight Text has changed. Similarly, the interface changes for when you Add Commentary and Draw Attention reflect the new user interface.
  • The iOS/iPadOS app has been revised; I incorporate the various changes in “Use PDFpen in iOS and iPadOS.”

Note: My descriptions of the Mac versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro are based upon version 13, and the iOS and iPadOS section is based upon version 6.0.2. I suggest you update to those versions or later if you haven’t already done so. This book should work with any subsequent updates to PDFpen, but I suggest you check the blog for this book occasionally (a link can be found in “Ebook Extras”); we often provide information about updates there.

What are the system requirements for PDFpen 13?

PDFpen 13 runs in macOS 10.14 Mojave or later.

Does this book talk about PDFpen/PDFpen Pro 12?

Sort of. PDFpen 13 is a superset of PDFpen 12. So, while the book covers new features that don't appear in the older version of the app, most of the book is still applicable to PDFpen 12.

  • Read Me First
    • Updates and More
    • What’s New in This Book
  • Introduction
  • PDFpen Quick Start
  • Get Your Hands on PDFpen
    • Standard or Pro
    • PDFpen Store or the Mac App Store
    • PDFpen for iPad & iPhone
  • Learn about PDF Files
    • A Short History of the PDF Format
    • A Peek at What Is Inside
    • On Having Realistic Expectations
  • Understand the Tools
    • Where to Find Tools
    • The Selection Tools
    • The Markup Tools
    • The Text Format Tools
    • The Object Property Tools
    • The Inspector
    • The Library
  • Navigate a PDF Document
    • Display Pages
    • Navigate Pages
    • Navigate with the Sidebar
    • Navigate with Search Results
    • Navigate Portfolios
  • Create a PDF
    • Make PDFs from Scratch
    • Print to PDF
    • Import from Scans and Graphic Files
    • Combine Existing PDFs
    • Create Portfolios (Pro Feature)
    • Make PDFs from HTML (Pro Feature)
    • Make a PDF Table of Contents (Pro Feature)
  • Take Notes on a PDF
    • Highlight Text
    • Add Commentary
    • Draw Attention
    • View, Extract, and Add Attachments
  • Copyedit and Review a PDF
    • Learn About Copyediting
    • Learn About Review Practices
  • Fill Out PDF Forms
    • Fill Out an Interactive Form
    • Fill Out a Non-Interactive Form
    • Add a Scanned Signature
    • Sign Forms Digitally
  • Edit a PDF
    • Add, Edit, and Remove Text
    • Add and Alter Pictures
    • Rearrange, Rotate, and Crop Pages
    • Add Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers
    • Create Links
  • Make an Interactive PDF Form (Pro Feature)
    • Build a Form
    • Polish the Layout
  • Publish Your PDFs
    • Save or Export Your PDFs
    • Print Your PDFs
  • Use PDFpen in iOS and iPadOS
    • Find Tools and Commands
    • Get PDFs in and out of PDFpen in iOS and iPadOS
  • Appendix A: The PDFpen AppleScripts
    • The Scripts
    • Where to Find the Scripts
  • Learn More
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About the Author
    • About the Publisher
  • Copyright and Fine Print

Michael E. Cohen discusses PDFpen (again!) on MacVoices

Posted by Joe Kissell on May 13, 2021

Michael E. Cohen joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices to discuss the third edition of his book Take Control of PDFpen, which covers version 13 for macOS and version 6 for iOS/iPadOS. He talks about the new interface and other details of manipulating PDFs.

MacVoices Interviews Michael Cohen about PDFpen

Posted by Joe Kissell on May 2, 2020

Michael Cohen joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices to discuss the second edition of Take Control of PDFpen, which covers version 12 of the app. Michael explains what’s new in both the app and the book.


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