Awhile back, I covered PDFelement, a cost-effective Adobe or Bluebeam alternative that lets you create, modify, and edit PDFs as if they were Word files. I reviewed PDFexlement 5 and liked it because it was full-featured, yet lightweight. It’s perfect for splicing together PDFs, rotating pages, etc., but it can also do much more, like apply markups, perform OCR, and encrypt PDFs.
Since my last review, Wondershare has released PDFelement 6. All the features that I liked in PDFelement 5 are still there, but it got a nice redesign and a few other new tricks up its sleeve as well. I took PDFelement Pro 6.3 for a spin. I’ll show you what’s new.
What’s New in PDFelement 6?
The most obvious change is the look and feel of the program. The previous version was already lightweight and easy on the eyes, but now it’s been redesigned to be even cleaner. The menus are in ribbon-style tabs with a “backstage” File menu that will be very familiar to Microsoft Office users.
Here’s the Home tab.
Here’s the View tab.
The Comment tab.
The Edit tab.
You get the idea.
You’ll notice that there’s a common set of tools—the Select, Hand, and Edit tools—that follow you around to each tab. This is pretty handy since you’ll be switching amongst these often.
Edit Graphics-based Objects in PDFelement 6
PDFelement 6 lets you rotate, mirror, crop, and—my favorite—replace images in a PDF. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to recompile an entire PDF from the source file just to swap out an image (for example, replacing an old logo with a new one). The image editing capabilities are nice, too, when you’ve converted a file to PDF and things don’t line up quite how you want them to. Check it out:
To edit images and graphic-based objects in a PDF, just click the Edit tool in the Edit tab. Select a graphic and begin manipulating it.
You can center the graphic horizontally or vertically on the page or you can drag and drop it to wherever you want it to be.
You can also rotate, mirror, flip, and crop it.
And here’s the handy dandy replace feature:
Add Attachments in PDFs
With PDFelement 6, you can attach any file to a PDF. These get embedded right into the PDF with icons. To add them, go to the Comments tab and click Add Attachment.
When you mouse-over the icon, you get a description of it. When you double-click it, it opens. In this example, I’ve attached a PDF of the article that’s linked in the text.
You can use this to attach any file. It can be an image, a video, an MP3, heck you can even attach an executable if you wanted to. In this example, I’ve got a PDF of a floor plan and I’ve attached a photograph for “inspiration.”
Multi-Tiled Screen Display
I’d like to say that my day job never requires me to view multiple PDFs side-by-side. But that’s just the kind of glamorous career I have. PDFelement helps my cause with its new multi-tiled screen display feature. This works a lot better on a screen with better resolution than my clunky laptop. But you get the idea. Click View and then Tile and you can arrange your tabs either horizontally or vertically. You can drag and drop tabs into different windows to merge them again.
This is a feature that exists in the much more expensive Bluebeam Revu that I really like. Glad to see it in PDFelement.
XFA Support Added to PDFelement 6
PDFelement 6 now lets you open, read and fill XFA-based forms. If you know what XFA PDFs are, then you already know that you care about this. And please ignore the very basic explanation that I’m going to give the rest of the readers in the following lines…
XFA PDFs are XML-based forms that are wrapped up in PDFs. If you’ve ever done an InfoPath form on SharePoint, you kind of know what I’m talking about. XFA PDFs are sort of similar to Acroforms in that they are both standards for making PDF forms that users can fill out. But XFA forms are meant to be more dynamic in their layout, whereas Acroforms are pretty static in their look and feel and how the information and fields flow.
The big thing about the XFA standard is that it’s a proprietary Adobe format. Adobe’s XFA format was adopted for use with its LiveCycle platform, and you have to use Adobe products to create XFA forms. Some PDF viewers can’t even display XFA PDFs. Look what happens when you try to preview one in Chrome:
You get this message: “Please wait… If this message is not eventually replaced by proper contents of the document, your PDF viewer may not be able to display this type of document.”
PDFelement can show it to you and fill out the form:
So, XFA is a little niche-y. And it’s possible that XFA will be going away sometime soon.
But the good news is that if you’re looking for an Adobe alternative for handling XFA PDFs, PDFelement can do it. So, if you’re only maintaining an Adobe license to support legacy XFA forms, then you may want to consider PDFelement.
Form Field Recognition
This new feature is pretty cool. You can take a non-fillable form—let’s say an invoice template you have saved as a Word document—and you can automatically change it into a fillable form. Just go to the Form tab and choose Form Field Recognition. It’ll automatically detect the fields for you.
Here it is before:
PDFelement 6 is a major feature upgrade the builds on the good stuff that PDFelement 5 already had going for it. Some other new features that I didn’t mention:
- Support for scanner-to-PDF – Yes! No more converting from TIFF to PDF from my scanner…
- Export data automatically to Excel – I used to convert Bluebeam PDFs to spreadsheets, then fiddle with the formatting so I could parse the data. Using PDFelement’s intelligent form automation seems like it could be much easier.
- PDF/A Support – Another obscure thing where if you know what it means, you probably care.
- Improved editing compatibility and accuracy – Even more Microsoft Word-like than before in its ease of editing.
- Batch PDF Processing
- …and more – See this PDFelement 5 vs. PDFelement 6 comparison for more info
PDFelement 6 pricing starts at $99 for a single license, but you can get discounts for bulk licensing or if you are upgrading from PDFelement 5. If you are currently scraping by on a free PDF editor, I highly encourage you to give the PDFelement free trial a spin. I’ve been lucky enough to use only professional PDF editing software for the past several years, and I simply can’t tolerate any of the free options. While I would never dream of buying Bluebeam or Adobe Acrobat, I am very happy to have PDFElement for working at home and for personal use.
What PDF editor do you use? What’s your favorite feature? Which feature do you wish it had? Let us know in the comments below!