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PDF Studio 5 review


Needs Mac OS X 10 or later

Review Date: 4 Sep 2008

Price when reviewed: (about £30)

Reviewed By: Tom Gorham

Our Rating 3 stars out of 5

With Apple's Preview offering everyday editing and annotating tools, and the high end dominated by Adobe's Acrobat Professional, Qoppa PDF Studio 5, a cross-platform PDF workflow program, has its work cut out to be noticed.

So is it good enough to merit a place on your Mac?

The program's interface is certainly striking enough. The main window holds a viewing area topped by a garish, chunky toolbar and bordered by a tabbed pane that shows page thumbnails, annotations or document attachments.

PDF Studio's main role is as a PDF annotator. As well as various circle, line or pencil graphic annotations, you can add text annotation through a Sticky Note that encloses annotations in a lurid yellow box, free text annotations or - new in this version - Typewriter annotations. This lets you type text directly onto a PDF page. It would be a stretch to call it configurable - you can't change typeface or size - but it's handy for quickly adding text to a form. Perhaps the best thing about PDF Studio's annotations, though, is that, unlike in the latest version of Preview, they appear in the body of the document when printed.

PDF Studio's annotation features extend well beyond text. You can add audio comments and attach files to PDF documents either directly or as part of an annotation. These links transferred alongside the PDF and remained valid when we opened the file in Acrobat Pro. Preview didn't see them, however.

However, PDF Studio is more than an annotator. Its Scan to PDF function works in a similar way to the comparable feature in Acrobat Professional, using your scanner's Twain driver to save a scan directly to PDF. You can set post-scanning parameters, including resolution and position in the current document. The Extract to Text command works very well, taking text from a document and saving it to a text file quickly and accurately. PDF Studio also has a stamp feature that lets you apply either simple text stamps or images to a document. The program comes with predefined stamps, but you can easily add your own text or image.

Business users will like the way you can batch actions, such as adding page numbers, dates, images or permission settings to files, as well as PDF form editing functions. You can save completed forms or export them to FDF or XFDF format, but there's one form editing caveat: PDF Studio can display push buttons in forms, but it doesn't support associated actions.

PDF Studio has two big problems. The first is that many of its features are little better than those available in Preview. The text markup tools are similar - PDF Studio's additional 'squiggly underline' option surely won't sway many - and its ability to extract, rotate and add pages loses lustre when you realise Preview in Leopard can do the same thing. A similar criticism could apply to the image export tool, although we like the way you can batch export pages to Jpeg, PNG or Tiff formats.

PDF Studio's cropping tool is marginally more powerful, as you can configure it to crop the bleed box, trim box or art box, but we're not sure how useful this will be in practice, given the lack of other high-end tools such as preflighting. It's also more awkward than Preview for quick cropping, as you can't drag to select a crop area.

The second big problem is usability. Written in Java, PDF Studio doesn't feel like a Mac application. Menu items are oddly located and its file navigation dialog window will be almost unrecognisable to Mac users. The program, built in Java, also feels sluggish when switching between functions, and the PDF window is slow to adjust when you resize the document window. There are other problems, too: you can't search the program's help file from the Help menu in Leopard, and there's no live searching of documents as there is in Preview.

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