PDF Alternatives

Another app: Cisdem PDFMaster advertises that it can convert PDFs to EPUB. ($60-$90).

How well a conversion can work will depend on how each pdf is constructed. Text in a pdf isn’t necessarily a text flow, but a positioning of each character on the page, and some pdf generators can do that randomly from a human point of view. Pages with tables, images, captions, side bars and such are particularly likely to be hard to convert.

If you want to try a free solution, calibre, an open source ebook manager, has conversions from all sorts of formats to all sorts of other formats. I’ve used it a few times on already OCRed not very complicated pdfs to get decent epubs. There are a lot of options available, and it can be fiddly, but in most cases I’d choose it over any web site converter, especially if there are even minor privacy implications.

That product is no longer made by/sold by Smile Software, which is defunct.

It is now sold by Nitro:

Nitro Pro Essentials and Nitro PDF Pro ($130/$180)
Pro version adds OCR and forms creation

USERS HATE THIS NEW PRODUCT. See user reviews here:

Users say that the Nitro PDF products are very buggy. PDFpen was never popular for its interface (it was mostly popular for its feature set and pricing), and its interface hasn’t gotten better, while competing products with better interfaces have come available.

While working w/PDF Pen Pro was fine, it deteriorated quickly after it became Nitro. Also, Nitro’s customer service/support was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. After about a year using the Nitro application, I ditched it; just wasn’t worth the effort.

Everytime I had a problem w/the app, Nitro blamed it on “an Apple OS upgrade” even tho there was never any correlation between the timing of the app’s malfunctioning and a recent OS update. :woman_shrugging:t3:

I was responding to answer @sf.ross

UPDF Beware. I signed up for UPDF and paid and got something like an Enterprise app and I can’t figure out how to license it. Via emails, UPDF keeps giving me the run around because all I want now is to get my refund to my credit card. I don’t need anything this difficult just to license it. I should have gone to Cisdem. Patrick

Mark Weinberg (@marktheweinberg) sent me this recommendation of UPDF to share here.

UPDF is a great PDF app and an alternative to musclebound “made for business” PDF programs (now with introductory pricing)

For years, I enjoyed using the applications by Smile Software, going back to the days when the company was called Smile on My Mac.

Smile’s PDF Pen was a nimble, easy-to-use program.

Smile (smilesoftware.com) still makes TextExpander and updates it often.

But in 2021, Smile sold its PDF Pen technology to Nitro Software Limited.

Nitro apparently is aiming exclusively for the business market. It described itself when it bought PDF Pen as: “a global document productivity software company driving digital transformation in organisations around the world.”

It looks to me like Nitro wants to marry its PDF programs with Microsoft Office to appeal to business users. There’s no way to know how long Nitro will support PDF Pen.

I wanted an easy-to-use, friendly, PDF program that quickly lets me combine PDFs, edit them, and perform OCR when needed.

I tried the heavy-duty Readiris PDF program offered by Iris Software (irislink.com), which is now owned by Canon. But it was so musclebound and festooned with features that I found it difficult to use.

UPDF by Superace Software (UPDF.com) filled my need for a user-friendly, full-featured PDF processor.

It’s even more user-friendly than PDF Pen. It has many help features built in, and offers an online user guide.

UPDF lets you redact text, and add comments, watermarks, headers, and footers. One feature it lacks is the ability to scan documents directly into the program. But the macOS lets you easily scan pages from its Printer Utility, without the need for third-party scanning software.

Superace makes UPDF for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

I bought a perpetual license, and there’s also subscription pricing available. Superace says it may charge me in the future for “major upgrades,” so keep this in mind when you’re shopping.

You can try out UPDF with a free version that has some limited functionality.

UDPF is available now at introductory pricing. There’s no indication how long special pricing will last.

UPDF has Artificial Intelligence features which I don’t need. The AI features cost extra. They are: summarize, translate, explain, and write on particular topics.

Superace also is in Enterprise and Education markets and offers special pricing for those segments of the market.

If you’re looking for a PDF program that has a truly intuitive interface, has cross-platform versions, and won’t overcomplicate your PDF experience, give UPDF a try at UPDF.com.

I’m still using Nitro PDF Pro Essentials, for which I got a free license, converting from PDFPen Pro. I also anticipate needing a replacement at some point (preferably something I can use on Linux, macOS, and Windows, if anyone knows of such a program).

The one feature I particulaly like in Ntro/PDFPen, and use a lot is what they call PDF Workflow, so that when I go to print something, I can select “Open with PDFPen Pro” from the PDF menu in the print dialog and have it automatically open in that application.

(Even though the application is now Nitro-branded, the Workflow still says “PDFPen Pro”.)

Do any of these other programs suppot something similar? Or is there a way to replicate that function?

Thank you.


This is actually a standard feature of MacOS. You can add any application to that menu. What you need to do is put an alias in the folder [user home] → Library → PDF Services. You can do this by:

  1. opening the folder (in the Finder, cmd-shift-G for Go to Folder and then paste in ~/Library/PDF Services/)
  2. find the application you want to add to the PDF menu, and while holding down cmd-opt (⌘+⌥) drag the application’s icon to the folder you opened in step 1, this creates an alias to the application
  3. rename the alias created to whatever you want to appear in the print dialogue’s menu (e.g. Open with UPDF)

As a side-note, while you continue to use Nitro, you can rename the existing alias that is in this folder to use the Nitro-branded name instead of PDFPen Pro.


Thanks @Jolin

That’s really useful to know and very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to answer.


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I discovered today that Affinity Publisher lets me edit PDFs. If you already own the Affinity apps it might be enough for most things.

When I use Calibre it usually shows ‘0%’ and a spinning wheel. It never makes any progress at all.

After this thread, I bought UPDF. The reason why I’m waking up an older thread is that I have been getting lots of e-mails from them begging me to write a good review of it, for which they will pay with a gift card. I have unsubscribed from their e-mails but they continue to send them. This does not make me feel good about my purchase.

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I have been considering it. This REALLY gives me pause. Did they stop the begging mails? I’d be amused to know if they offered a specific amount of gift card “currency”.

They said they would send a $10 Amazon card, and I still get the occasional mail from them. They must be willing to spend a lot of cash in getting good reviews, as I assume they send such mails out to all registered users (though maybe it is just to recent purchasers?), and, of course, who knows if they actually follow through and pay up!