Smile makes some of my favorite software. In total I own 6 of their products: PDFpen Pro for Mac (two versions), PDFpen for iPad, PDFpen for iPhone, TextExpander for Mac, and TextExpander for iOS. 1

Today they launched version 6 of their PDFpen and PDFpen Pro application for the Mac.

PDFpen Pro is $40

PDFpen Pro is a powerful PDF editor. It has the simple editing functions typical of what you would expect even on an iOS app: highlighting, notes, commenting, shapes, stamps, signatures, deskewing, resampling, cropping, etc..

The real power comes from its other editing abilities.

Redacting Information

You can redact text either by deleting it and replacing it with a black bar, a la spy movies, or delete it completely and leave it blank.

Example: The ACR has an excellent handout on a certain disease but one line is outdated. Rather than re-creating the whole PDF, just remove the one outdated line.

Example: Need to send your tax return to some company, but don’t want your social security exposed? You can do a search and replace redaction through the entire document in just a few seconds.

Make Non-Fillable PDFs Fillable

It seems to be a bad habit in medical administration to use a scanned copy of an old paper document for application forms rather than creating fresh, fillable PDFs. We both know that we will never change the archaic practices of established medical organizations like state medical boards, but that doesn’t mean we have to be slaves to them.

Rather than suffering this indignity, open the PDF with PDFpen Pro and choose Edit > Create Form Fields. PDFpen Pro will go through and find all the places that should be fillable and create them. Now you can complete the PDF as easily as is possible and email it back.

Here’s an example I did with my own consult order form:

Clearly the second option is more professional and easier for the user to complete.

If you happen to be one of those “established medical organizations” I mentioned, then you can make your own forms fillable now and save your customers time and yourself the hassle of trying to read doctor handwriting.

I also used this in my clinic to turn the radiology departments order form into a fillable PDF that automatically inserted the correct days date, my signature, and a pick menu of the common reasons I order imagine studies with the associated ICD-9 codes.

Create PDF Forms

Especially if you are a professional (individual or organization), the forms you host on the internet should be clean, fresh PDFs that are fillable, rather than blurry, tilted, off-center scans of old word documents. PDFpen Pro has complete features to create fillable PDFs including check boxes, radio buttons, drop-down pick lists, and fillable text boxes. You can create new PDFs from scratch in PDFpen Pro, or import PDFs created in other applications like Word or Pages and add the fillable areas.

Turn PDFs Into Word Documents

An interesting new feature of PDFpen Pro version 6 is the ability to take a PDF document and turn it into an editable Word document. I’m not sure if this is a feature I’d use myself since I can already edit PDFs with PDFpen Pro and I don’t use Word, but other professionals have told me that this is something they’re really excited about.

David Sparks, lawyer, has an excellent blog post with an 8 minute video including an example of this.


Want to send out a PDF to others but either make sure that your intellectually property is marked, or that it’s clearly labeled as a draft? PDFpen Pro can easily watermark every page of a document so that your message is clear.


In addition, I also use PDFpen Pro to OCR documents for me. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and is the process by which computers take a flat image and find the words inside that image. For example, you are probably aware that when you type a document you can search inside that document for a specific word, but if you have a picture in that document and there happens to be a word in the picture it will not find the word. When you scan a document or take a picture of the document, the words themselves are not recognized. To make the words machine readable, you need to use OCR.

PDFpen Pro has a fast and accurate OCR. When I scan bills, contracts, patient records, and any other documents, I always make sure to OCR them so I can later search within the document. If I take a photo of a document with my iPhone, it uploads to a Dropbox folder and PDFpen Pro OCRs the document so it’s searchable later.

Example: You have 100 pages of outside records on a patient. You want to know if they have previously been on azathioprine. If your document was scanned without being OCR’d, which has been the case in every clinic and hospital I’ve worked at, then you have to flip through every page manually looking for the word. On the other hand, if you OCR’d the document, then you can just search for azathioprine.

You can open a document in PDFpen Pro and have it OCR the document for you. Better yet, you can get really nerdy and use scripts written by others to watch for any new PDFs added to a specific folder (for example, your patient records folder) and automatically OCR them without bothering you.

I also use this technique whenever I’m on a webpage with image text that I want to save and manipulate. I take a screenshot that is automatically saved to the desktop, I add “OCR” to the file name, and PDFpen Pro sees that (via a Hazel task) and automatically OCRs it for me.


PDFpen and PDFpen Pro can be bought either on the Mac App Store or directly from Smile. The MAS version includes iCloud syncing, which is not available with the direct purchase option.

The MAS versions are on sale today and tomorrow only.

PDFpen is $30.

PDFpen Pro is $40 and includes these features that are missing from the non-pro version:

  • Convert websites to multi-page PDFs, complete with hyperlinks
  • Create and edit cross-platform fillable PDF forms
  • Create and edit document Table of Contents
  • Create form fields automatically in a non-interactive form
  • Edit document permissions to restrict saving, printing, copying, etc.

This compares with Adobe Acrobat XI Standard for $139 and Adobe Acrobat XI Pro for $199.

I own the Pro version from the MAS.

So, now you know and if I see you putting non-fillable, scanned PDFs on your website, doctor, I will make fun of you.

  1. It’s only fair if I point out that on iOS, I actually prefer PDF Expert