Way back in my unenlightened days as a Windows user, I spent a great deal of time using various PDF editors. In an effort to avoid conflict with our friends at Windows.AppStorm, allow me to clarify: I don’t hate on Windows simply to hate on Windows–and indeed there are a lot of great Windows apps out there. But I think that even they will agree with me when I say that there are a lot of poorly designed PDF manipulation apps floating around on the Internet.
As an unrelated product of circumstance, my need for PDF manipulation apps has decreased since I became a Mac user. However, all of those frustrating memories came rushing back when I was given the opportunity to check out PDFactory from the folks at Appthology. An app that promised to be the perfect balance between the power of Adobe Acrobat and the slim-profile native glory that is OS X’s very own Preview had to be worth a try, right? Hit the jump to find out exactly how PDFactory holds up!
The PDFactory interface, while simplistic, is quite nice. I have, on at least one occasion, voiced my partiality to the fabric-like texture that serves as a backdrop in several Apple apps, and it is used to a satisfactory effect in this app.
The screenshots included in this review were all taken in full-screen mode, but rest assured the only difference in windowed mode is the window control buttons in the upper left.
The controls in the toolbar cover almost all of the functionality the app has to offer, and the functions not found in the toolbar are available via contextual right-click menus (such as “Insert Blank Page”). I’ll discuss the functionality a bit more later.
PDFactory sports, aside from the toolbar, three main areas. The top bar displays all of the different PDF documents you’re working with. The usefulness of being able to work with multiple documents in PDFactory cannot be understated. Your documents will be lined up in a row in this area of the window, and will facilitate page-rearrangement as if your documents were folders in a Finder window.
The area that takes up a majority of the app’s screen real-estate is where the pages of your selected document are displayed. You can click and drag pages around the document to reorder them, or select groups of pages to move or delete in bulk.
Finally, the bar at the bottom of the screen offers two separate controls for ease of use. The first is a thumbnail slider. This familiar tool allows you to resize the thumbnails in the field above. The dark-colored field that is, by default, displaying the text “Select Pages” allows you to select pages by number. You can separate numbers by commas to select multiple pages, or use the built-in presets to select all even or odd numbered pages.
The meat of PDFactory is in its ability to handle document construction and manipulation. As I mentioned above, most of this functionality is available via the toolbar at the top. I’d like to note here that from what I’ve found, PDFactory does purely non-destructive edits. This means that whenever you execute a command that would otherwise reduce the number of documents that you’re working with (such as “Merge Documents”), the app will create a new document with the desired properties instead, leaving your original documents in-tact.
The second button on the toolbar is “Split.” Clicking this button gives you a placeable divider that you can drop in between pages. This will set the split point, and create a second document with all of the pages afterward. It’s as simple as that, and just as with the Merge command, Split creates two new documents rather than destroying your original.
The toolbar also contains some standard commands, like Rotate and Export, as well as the ability to copy all text on a selected group of pages to the clipboard. But one last feature I want to draw attention to is the “Slim Down” button. Slim Down lets you adjust the quality of your document in order to create a smaller PDF file. This is particularly useful if you have a habit of scanning and archiving large paper documents like magazines or instruction manuals.
There is some confusion when it comes to saving your documents that should probably be addressed in an update. There is currently no File > Save feature for new documents created with PDFactory, but when you close a particular document, it will prompt you to save. Functionally, this isn’t a big issue, but searching for a “Save As” option was a little bit frustrating at first.
As I stated before, I currently don’t use PDFs very often–as ebooks and an export format for email almost exclusively. However, I do know what it’s like having to work with PDFs on a daily basis, and if you have the luxury of doing so on a Mac, PDFactory is a swell little utility that can ease the tedium. The ability to work with multiple files at once is probably the strongest selling point that the app has, but that feature alone gives the other features that that can be found in apps like Preview even more value. And at $1.99, PDFactory packs in a ton of value.
If you work with PDFs on a regular basis, we’d love to hear what you use to manipulate your files. If you’ve tried out PDFactory, let us know what you think!