Because PostScript-to-PDF conversion technology is integrated into OS X's Quartz 2D, any Mac OS X application can draw images on screen from high-resolution PostScript/EPS data instead of low-resolution bitmap. This means you can print PostScript-quality documents on all printers, even on non-PostScript devices. Your documents always look their best, no matter what printer you use.
Adobe introduced its Portable Document Format (PDF) file format back in 1993, with the objective of establishing a cross-platform standard for formatted documents, and while it was at first slow to catch on, it is now extensively supported by the Mac OS, Windows, and Linux platforms.
Apple Preview 3
Included with every OS X install, Apple's Preview application, especially since OS X version 10.3, is actually a very decent PDF viewing and file conversion program.
In Preview, you can easily select text within a PDF document and copy it to the Clipboard. The formatting in some documents can make contiguous text selection a challenge (a good reason to also have Adobe's own freeware Reader app. in your suite - see below), Preview lets you drag to create a selection, even jumping across gaps. The Tiger version of Preview also lets you fill in PDF forms.
Preview makes OS X's built-in faxing feature more convenient. When you open an incoming fax, Preview renders it as a PDF, enhancing resolution and quality for improved legibility.
When several images are open in Preview at the same time, you can view them as a a full-screen slideshow without leaving the application. Just choose Slideshow from the View menu or press Command>Shift>F. The contents are displayed using the full screen, and controls at the bottom of the screen let you move from item to item, or to end the slideshow. Once Preview is in Slideshow mode, if you click the "Index page" button in the onscreen toolbar, you will get a "contact sheet" array of all the images. Double-clicking anywhere except on the toolbar will hide the toolbar for true full screen viewing. Click again to make it reappear.
When you have an image open in Preview, pressing Command-Delete will transport it to the Trash, which can be a handy organizational time-saver. You can also drag the image's thumbnail manually from the sidebar to the Trash.
Preview can also rotate images. The rotate tools are not included in the default toolbar button set, but you can add them using the customize toolbar options. Clicking Rotate will rotate all pages in the PDF document. Option clicking rotate, will only rotate the page you are currently viewing.
Preview even has basic image correction tools (brightness, contrast, saturation, and so forth), whose dialog box can be opened from the Tools menu. However, proceed with caution because there is no undo option, and the only way to restore previous values is is to revert to the last saved copy.
Preview is an excellent PDF utility, and may be all you ever need if your needs are relatively modest, but you can get more out of OS X's PDF capabilities by employing other third-party applications. Some that I use include:
Adobe Reader 8.10
Of course the quintessential PDF application is Adobe's own Acrobat, and its freeware viewer app. companion Adobe Reader (formerly Acrobat Reader).
When Apple vastly improved OS X's Preview PDF application with the OS 10.3 Panther release, I pretty much switched to it and quit using Acrobat Reader, which I had never much liked from back in Mac OS Classic days, and Preview was just so much quicker and slicker.
However, Adobe Reader 6.0 turned out to be and massive improvement over Reader 5. The user interface was significantly improved, with larger, more attractive toolbar icons. There were twice as many sidebar information categories: Pages (formerly Thumbnails), Layers, Signatures, and Bookmarks. There were twice as many configuration panes in the Preferences as well.
Another improvement was more intelligent text selection. You can select text from a single column in a multi-column document, unlike Acrobat Reader 5 , which selects across the full row of columns. That is one area where Adobe Reader 6, 7, and 8 also beat Apple's Preview in functionality. Preview also selects across the columns....... or so I thought when I originally posted this article.
[ Update and correction. Reader "MV" from Sweden writes:
"In Preview, to select a column of text, hold the alt key, then click and drag. Go crazy and select a colum of letters! That's why I still don't use Acrobat."
Tried it and it works like a charm. You learn something new on the Internet every day. :-b I'm remiss in not having RTFM ("read the fine manual") more carefully, for upon closer peruals indeed it states:
"To select only a portion of text horizontally (for example, to select only one column in a two-column document), choose Tools > Text Tool, then press the Option key and select the text."
Just for good measure, I checked, and the Alt/Option modifier works for single column text selection in Skim (see below) too.
I thank MV for the tip and heads-up.
Reader 8 is even better yet, building on the improvements introduced in versions 6 and 7 and enhancing some of them. The interface has been updated again, and looks cleaner. Reader 8 includes the new interface, new tools, more document viewing options, online meeting capabilities, support for more secure workflows, and more.
Another major improvement is in startup time - which was traditionally an Adobe/Acrobat Reader bugbear. It's still not nearly as fast out of the blocks as Preview, but hey; it's a humongous 112.6 MB versus Preview's 5.2 MB, and it's at least less ponderous starting up than earlier versions.
Adobe Reader 8 features (some):
The redesigned, easier to use Reader 8 interface lets you choose the reading mode to fit more content on the screen or the two-up mode to view page spreads without excess space in the middle. Choose the reading mode to fit more content on the screen. Zoom in, pan over, or leverage the loupe feature in Reader 8 to take a closer look.
With Adobe Reader 8 you can instantly collaborate with virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time using the Start Meeting button in to access Adobe Acrobat Connect software and deliver online training and support or communicate with remote audiences in real time.
For the first time, use Reader 8 supports digital signing of Adobe PDF documents, allowing recipients to more confidently view and verify the authenticity of PDF files.
For large volumes of information, such as technical manuals, Reader 8 can condense any type of PDF file into a single booklet for printing. Print only the desired pages on two sides of paper or in a smaller type size to save time and paper.
The new Beyond Adobe Reader start center in Reader 8 can be used to review information, on demand,
Adobe Reader 8 lets you find and retrieve any PDF document or a phrase in a document within seconds. Search for words in page content, annotations, bookmarks, form fields, or document metadata within any PDF file on a local machine.
Reader 8 truly cross-platform, and is supported on Microsoft Windows Vista; Windows XP Professional, Home Edition, or Tablet PC Edition with Service Pack 2; Microsoft Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4; Windows 2003 Server; Mac OS X 10.4.3 to 10.4.9. Future versions of Reader 8 will also work on Linux, Solaris 10, HP-UX and AIX.
You can also extend the functionality of Adobe Reader using the Acrobat 8 SDK, now available free of charge from:
The read out loud capabilities in Reader 8 have also been improved.
Reader 8.0.1 is the best Adobe Reader yet. I like it a lot, and it's the application I turn to when I need full feature support, especially for its superior text selection capabilities.
However, it's just tooooooo big and slow-starting to use as my default PDF application (that would be Preview).
In summary, Reader 8 offers:
Better overall performance for faster launch times and real-time zooming and panning
Improved search features - search for words in annotations, bookmarks, form fields, or metadata, and search within open PDF files or any PDF file residing on local machines. Find and retrieve any Adobe PDF document or a phrase in a document within a matter of seconds.
Easily search for and highlight object data, such as Microsoft Visio drawing objects
Fill out and submit forms
View and organize digital editions (formerly eBooks) and view them in landscape or portrait mode
Rapidly select text and images using a unified selection tool
Save a wide range of files attached to PDF documents, such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, and multimedia files
Download the free Yahoo! Toolbar with Pop-Up Blocker
Open PDF files on a broad range of devices and platforms, including Mac OS, Palm OS, Pocket PC, UNIX, and Windows
View and share photos and create Adobe PDF slide shows by using free Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 Starter Edition.
Apply digital signatures and complete filled-in form data when enabled by Adobe LiveCycle™ Reader Extensions software.
Adobe Reader is freeware
PowerPC G3, G4, G5 or Intel processor
Mac OS X 10.4.3 to 10.4.9
128MB of RAM (256MB recommended for complex forms or large documents)
170MB of available hard-disk space
For more information, visit:
Adobe strongly recommends upgrading to Adobe Reader 8, available from the following site:
Yep 1.6.4 PDF Document Management Utility
OS X's PDF integration has resulted in most Mac users accumulating a lot of PDF files, and while more and more programs are acquiring the ability to open and read PDFs, organizing and searching all those PDF documents is another matter. Perhaps you've wished there was something like an iPhoto or iTunes application for cataloguing and organizing your PDFs. Well wish no more, because there is - a demoware utility called Yep.
Yep locates all the PDFs on your computer and displays them in a simple, intuitive, iPhoto-like interface. You can tag, sort, move, rename and more to all your PDFs, but it doesn't stop there. Yep can also help organize data files you have in hard copy, since it includes integrated support for many scanners with which you can import your paper stuff and archive it in PDF documents on your hard drive that can be accessed using any application that reads PDF files and edited with many.
Instead of creating a multi-nested hierarchy of folders in which to store your PDF documents, Yep's simple, powerful tag feature allows you to tag and retrieve documents easily. To augment tagging, there is a collection organizer similar to the ones in iTunes and iPhoto that facilitates the creation of ‘smart collections’ in which you can organize hundreds or even thousands of, say, academic papers on your computer.
Yep version 1.6.x also introduced a way to see your documents in a hierarchical ‘Finder-like’ view with an enhancement the Finder doesn't have; if you click on a folder in the Tracking Locations panel, you will see all PDFs in that folder and below.
You can create PDF documents with Yep, store them wherever you want to, or just leave them where they light when you save. Any document in Yep can be tagged, commented on, emailed, printed, viewed and shared. Yep taps into OS X's Spotlight search engine, which makes creation of its own index faster.
Microsoft Word documents and all other proprietary document formats can be saved as PDFs, which Yep will then keep track of. However, happily, Yep doesn't store your PDFs in a proprietary database of its own that obliges you to continue using Yep to get at your stuff. Documents are stored on your hard drive wherever you want them located with filenames that you choose. Yep leaves all the existing PDFs on your hard drive in their original locations as standard PDFs that can be read by Preview, Adobe Reader, or what-have-you.
One Yep disadvantage is that it does not support PDF document editing,
New in version 1.6.4:
1.6.4 fixes a bug that slipped into 1.6.3, plus another drawing one in the tracking panel that sometimes occurred while dragging to it
New Feature: You can now pick the page of the PDF you want as the thumbnail page. Open a PDF in Yep's internal reader, and use the right click menu to pick which page to use for the thumbnail
Fixed bug where some smart collections would pick all or no documents, and ignore the tag settings
Fixed problem where tagging an untagged document would remove it from the right panel without warning
Mailsmith support added by including a new applescript in the application package
Dialog wording about moving files to trash cleared up
Sometimes files were left open, meaning the trash could not be emptied, etc
Fixed a rare but serious problem where using unix links to folders on other volumes could cause the name of a document to change
Fixed problem where tagging an untagged document would remove it from the right panel without warning
Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Yep is $34.00 demoware.
For more information, visit:
For my full review of Yep, visit:
Papyrus Office 12 Office Suite
Exporting to PDF format is normally a "one way street": PDF files are normally not editable (and if so, then only in a limited fashion, excluding some text processing features). However, If PDF document editing is a feature you need, check out Papyrus OFFICE 12, which now creates editable PDF documents - well, sort of. Papyrus documents in Portable Document Format are really PAP / PDF Hybrids - true PDF, but editable in Papyrus (Note that Papyrus 12 can't open or edit standard PDF documents, but only PDF Hybrids created in Papyrus)
Papyrus OFFICE 12 offers a simply elegant solution for this problem: since the PDF format permits embedding binary data, Papyrus 12 simply includes the necessary text information (in other words, the Papyrus file itself) in the PDF file, which then remains available for Papyrus to read.
The resulting PAP/PDF hybrids are a unique invention for Papyrus 12, and permit complete PDF compatibility for files that may be re-edited at any time, without restriction. Since Papyrus files are remarkably efficient, the exported PDF files are increased only marginally in size, but most important, they remain completely compatible with every PDF display and print program. The document type PAP/PDF (optionally using the extension *.PAP.PDF, or simply *.PDF, as you choose) can be opened and read with any version of Acrobat Reader, but because of the "hidden" text data in Papyrus format, it remains freely editable when opened in Papyrus 12 - Papyrus handles PAP/PDF files as normal Papyrus documents.
In Papyrus 12 you can create editable PDF files simply by saving any Papyrus document as a PDF file. The resulting PDF will be cross-platform readable, no matter what computer or operating system is used. It is also supported natively for display and print by OS X's Preview application and Adobe's Adobe Reader application. For text documents intended for Internet distribution, for doctoral theses, scientific papers, or for any sort of information archive, PDF is ideal, being supported by every significant operating system (Windows, Mac OS X, Unix, Linux, Windows Mobile, Palm, OS/2, etc.) to display (and print) documents corresponding exactly to the original, intended form. The PDF format used by Papyrus largely follows the ISO-standard recently defined for "PDF/A", and will be adjusted by R.O.M. to completely fulfill this important new ISO definition.
Papyrus's ability to create editable PDF documents is an extremely useful feature no other Mac OS word processor offers, to the best of my knowledge.
The PAP/PDF Format should be especially interesting for anyone who needs to archive documents. Until now, there has never been a universal format that could be so easily modified and updated. An extra benefit of the editable PDF format is that it is no longer necessary to Search for the original text file used to generate the PDF - the information needed is already there. If you choose, Papyrus can also generate "pure" PDF files (not including the embedded data in Papyrus format). This may be desirable for files that should not be modified by the recipient.
Apple Macintosh (Mac OS X, version 10.2.x to 10.4.x)
Windows (9x up to XP)
Papyrus OFFICE 12.5 is word processing, spreadsheet, desktop publishing, and relational database software, including online help and English-language example files sells for $99.00. Everything you need to install Papyrus can be delivered via Internet. The Papyrus package includes the complete online help and a tutorial, a license key file and your personal installation key code. All you need is an e-mail account and an Internet browser.
For more information, visit:
Skim 0.5.1 PDF Reader and Note-taker for OS X
An interesting and handy new freeware PDF utility is Skim, designed to help you read and annotate PDF files, particularly scientific papers, but is also great for viewing any PDF file.
Skim has a three-pane user interface window, with the table-of-contents thumbnails on the left, the document window in the middle, and a column for you to index and edit your annotations on the right. Skim also supports a full screen viewing mode which lets you concentrate on content without distraction. Skim's Viewing pAges Side-by-side mode lets you display more of a document on the screen
You can search PDF files, bookmark them, add notes, highlight sections, and take "snapshots" for easy reference. Skim can also open PostScript (PS) files, converting them to PDF.
Your annotations are displayed in the main document window in "Stickies" style yellow (or whatever color you specify in the preferences) boxes, You can highlight important pieces of text, and underline or strike out text.
You can bookmark a page in a PDF document so you can quickly return to it, much like a web browser's bookmarks. Skim also lets you add lines to a PDF document, to highlight relations between sections. These lines are saved with the document, and will appear when viewed by other Skim users, but the lines are not saved in the PDF data itself, so other PDF viewer applications will probably not be able to display them. You can also use Skim to give presentations of a PDF document.
Another thing I love about Skim is that it starts up really quickly - bout eight seconds on my 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook.
Skim is a scriptable application, and responds to AppleScript commands that let you automate tasks.
Skim features include:
* Viewing PDFs
* Adding and editing notes
* Highlighting important text
* Making "snapshots" for easy reference
* Navigation using table of contents or thumbnails
* View all your notes and highlights
* Convenient reading in full screen
* Giving powerful presentations
* Handy preview of internal links
* Focus using a reading bar
* Magnification tool
* Extensive AppleScript support
* Support for Apple Remote Control
* Interaction with LaTeX and PDFSync
* Spotlight support
* Highly customizable
The price (free) is certainly right, and it's a quick download, so there's no reason not to have skim in your PDF tool arsenal.
See the Appendix at the end of this article for the latest Skim version release notes.
Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
For more information, visit:
PDFView 0.14.3 Open Source PDF Viewer
Adobe Reader is an impressive and powerful application, especially for freeware. However, using Reader is like swatting flies with a maul hammer sometimes, when all you want to do is take a quick look at a PDF.
A free Open Source alternative is PDFView - a simple OS X application to display PDF files. OK, but Apple's Preview, which comes bundled with OS X, is also a simple application that displays OS X files, and you already have it, so why would you want to use PDFView rather than Preview?
The main reason is readability. PDFView's main window opens up maximized, with the zoom level defaulting automatically to the highest possible to fit the document into your screen (you can set alternate default zoom levels in the preferences).
When you open a file with PDFView, you can display it as big and readable as your screen will allow, with no more necessity of zooming in to read those small characters. This feature is overkill on my 17" widescreen PowerBook, but will be much appreciated when using a small size display, such on 12" or 13" laptops.
PDFView, whose compressed download file is a svelte 1.4 MB, starts up in two seconds (literally), and opens documents more quickly than Adobe Reader or even Preview. PDFView's latest versions support also full screen mode, to make it even easier to read your documents.
PDFView supports (hooray) copying as text, although unfortunately, like Preview it doesn't "smart select" columnar text, which Reader does.
There is a Cocoa drawer that displays large enough thumbnails of Web pages that you can get an idea of what's on them.
The program's toolbar can be hidden with a keystroke or menu selection, and is also customizable.
In summary, PDF View is a nice little production utility when you don't need or want all the Adobe Reader's high-end overhead.
Unhappily, PDFView is no longer in development, although it is is still available. However, Skim has pretty much taken up the slack and then some.
For more information, visit:
Skim 0.5.1 Release Notes
Changes since 0.5
Added some more sorting keys for use in text export templates.
Reorganized document info window, with some new properties.
You can now navigate through a presentation using mouse clicks.
New toolbar items to open color, font, and line panels.
Added an optional status bar, displaying the page number, number and pages, as well as information about the tool mode, if it applies.
You can now print documents from AppleScript.
Pdfsync from AppleScript now goes separately through the go command instead of the open command.
You can now quickly rotate through tool modes using Shift-modified arrow keys.
Prevent caching of update info for updater.
Fix the default text export templates.
Allow other active application windows in front of Skim in presentation mode.
Show the keywords in the document info window.
Fix notification of file changes on disk.
Fix a crasher that occurred when reverting a document containing notes.
Prevent setting negative sizes from AppleScript.
Skim can now find text export templates also in the local or network domain.
Move Skim windows to the background when switching to another application in full screen or presentation mode.
Hitting tab while editing a text note now end the edit. This fixes text note editing in PDFs with fillable forms.
Make sure the document's print settings are used for printing.
Fix full screen window layout when the full screen window moves to another screen.
Changes since 0.4.1
You can now hide all notes and highlights.
Remember last exported type.
Keyboard shortcut for Export.
Use menu button on Remote Control to switch between scrolling and navigation/zoom.
You can now change the sort order of the note table.
You can now display only certain types of notes and highlights in the note table.
AppleScript support for revert of a document.
Allow dragging of the reading bar from the region outside a page in any tool mode.
Greatly enhance file update checking. Use kqueue notifications instead of a timer and check for complete PDF files.
Smart auto-cropping of all pages separately, but keeping the same size, for unevenly scanned papers. Accessible through Control-Command-K.
Improvements to magnify tool.
Hidden defaults for magnification tool sizes.
New hidden default for the maximum document page history length (SKMaximumDocumentPageHistoryCount).
Extensions to AppleScript support. Support for selections, additional note properties; new revert, find, and join commands; allow creation of markups; many new properties for documents, pages, and notes.
You can now change the icon type of anchored notes from the note's window to some standard proofreader marks.
Hidden default for icon type of anchored notes (SKAnchoredNoteiconType).
Skim now saves the file type and creator code.
The reading bar is now shown on the thumbnails.
Add border/line properties to circle, box, text and line notes. Accessible through a new inspector panel and AppleScript.
Allow setting the interior (fill) color for circles and boxes. Select the check button at the bottom of the color panel.
Add a TeX editor perset for LyX.
You can now reopen snapshots from a previous run.
New preferences for line styles and interior colors.
You can now change the colors and line styles of notes using drag and drop.
Hidden default for the timeout of Apple remote switch indication.
You can now open DVI files with Skim. These are first converted to PostScript using the dvipdfmx tool, which must be installed as part of a ghostscript installation.
New color swatch toolbar control to easily use a few default colors.
Use old-style check for network availability for the updater, as the newer API is not reliable for dial-up connections.
Never add a new note on a click in note tool mode, because undoing such an addition can also remove a text edit in progress.
Update the window title when the document is reloaded; the number of pages can change.
Avoid possible crash due to tool-tip when reloading a document.
Fix Apple bug for AppleScript support for saving with arbitrary file types.
Fix AppleScript support for note color property.
Add help about cropping pages.
Start and end points for arrow notes in AppleScript are now relative to the page, and changing them automatically changes the bounds.
The side panels in full screen mode are now hidden when you switch to another application.
Renamed "Arrow" to "Line", as it now allows more general line styles. Also change some keyboard shortcuts.
Enable Password menu item for encrypted files that are flagged as unlocked, as the latter is unreliable in PDFKit.
Fix tab-loop for PDFs with fiallable forms. Also add some help about fillable forms.
Fix issues with updating the color panel.
Fix saving of window frames for shared windows.
Scroll reading bar to visible when it is moved.
Default text templates now sort the notes according to the page.
Fix a bug that prevented adding notes in note tool mode on some places on the page.
Snapshots are now reopened after reverting a document.
The page chooser toolbar item now uses the page label (logical page) rather than in index.
Increase maximal width of page column in note table.
Links are now active in move tool mode.
The rotation of text notes is now saved.
Charles W. Moore
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