Experimenting with pdf editors
Sorry the blog has been sort of lifeless recently. I’ve been busy with thesis formalities over the last month and a half. The second review came in (in September), I had to get my final exam (a viva of sorts) scheduled, get prepared for it, pass it, get my “defence” scheduled, prepare for that (write a refutation of the reviews and put together a presentation of my thesis), and get through with that as well. And then I had to wait for official approval. As of this Tuesday I am allowed to use my new title. 😉
Anyway, this post will be very vaguely related with what I usually write about, but the last 10 days or so in my life have been all about pdf editing. I am involved in the preparation of a Festschrift for a professor I owe a lot to. I’ve been called in as a sort of last minute replacement. The volume was supposed to come out by early November, for the professor’s birthday. But some of the main actors are having health problems, there are also funding issues. It became clear that the book won’t be published until some time next year (and it’s already 2 years in the making). So a group of people decided to prepare a sort of home-made advance copy: have one copy of the text professionally printed and bound. But in order to do that, we had to be able to enter last-minute corrections in the texts. We got the pdf-s of the prepared book from the publisher. The only problem was: how can we easily make corrections in pdf files? Thus began my quest for a cheap and easy to use pdf editor.
I was looking for 2 things:
1) The ability to make corrections in the text, such as deleting words, correcting typos etc. Preferably without having to worry about fitting the text into the space of a line/paragraph.
2) The ability to change paragraph alignment. Through an oversight the entire book is aligned to the left, and we would like it to be justified.
Now, odd as it may seem, there aren’t that many programs around that can do both of those things easily. In fact, out of the 5 pdf editors I have now tried (the top 5 that came up in a Google search) – only one can do both of those things. Heck, only one can do either of them! Yeah, I was surprised…
There are pdf editors around which allow you to edit the text content in a pdf. But most of them allow you to edit only one line at a time. So if you remove too much text, the line is left empty-looking, and you are forced to “manually” move a word or two from the line below. I hope you get my drift: you have to edit every single line of the paragraph one by one, deleting from below the words you have just inserted above. The same goes for inserted text: if it’s too long, you have to personally deal with the part that “sticks out” – move it to the line below, and possibly move the text that’s left over in that line to the one below it. Etc. Etc. Quite a chore.
I can’t rule out the possibility that the editors I have tried do in fact have a workaround for all that. But it certainly isn’t readily available and I don’t have the time to read lengthy manuals at the moment. Especially since one program is capable of performing the task without a problem. It’s called The Infix PDF Editor (from Iceni Technology). First of all, what you get to edit here is not a line but the entire paragraph, with the text automatically flowing between lines. So if there are too many characters in a line, Infix automatically makes all the readjustments. It will even add an additional line to the paragraph if necessary.
The second task, changing text alignment, seems even more difficult for most pdf editors. In fact, of the ones that I’ve tried, Infix appears to be the only one which has that option! Perhaps others have it too, but it’s hidden somewhere. In Infix the alignment icons are part of the default toolbar. So it’s all done as in a standard text editor.
Now, I’m not the sort of person who talks all about their experience with a new piece of software unasked, even when that experience is very pleasurable. But as it happens, the people at Iceni Technology are implementing a clever viral campaign. They promise to reward people who describe their positive Infix experiences with a free lincense. Now, as pdf editors go, Infix is quite inexpensive (a license to edit 3 documents costs 30 dollars). But since what I’ve written above is a sincere description of my experience, I see nothing wrong in sharing it with other people, and hopefully Iceni will reward me with a license, and I’ll save some money. I’ll let you know if they did in the comments section below.
(The demo version of their program is fully functional but leaves a watermark on all pages of an edited document. You can remove the watermark at any point, once you get a license. At least that’s what they say – I haven’t had a chance to try yet.)