Home Tech Why doesn’t Windows have a decent PDF editor?

Why doesn’t Windows have a decent PDF editor?

Why doesn’t Windows have a decent PDF editor?

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Image: Foundry

In recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of familiarizing myself with the many PDF reading and editing programs available for Windows. But it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. Not that there aren’t any decent programs out there–there are several that work well. But time and time again, I’m struck by how lucky I’ve been to be a regular Mac user.

Mac OS has a built-in program for simple PDF editing ever since Mac OS X first saw the light of day in 2001. Microsoft has had 22 years to take inspiration from Apple, but Windows still lacks a proper PDF program. Fortunately, the new Edge has a decent PDF viewer that can also be used to mark up and annotate, but adding and deleting pages requires third-party software.

In fact, after testing about ten programs, including Adobe’s Acrobat Pro, I haven’t found anything that’s as easy or as smooth as Apple’s Preview, especially for simple editing. For example, copying a page from one PDF to another takes a few seconds with drag-and-drop in Apple’s program. No Windows program comes close.

Another thing these programs can’t do is copy text from PDFs without line breaks. Select, copy, paste–how hard can it be? But in everything from Acrobat to free programs like PDF Gear and Aschampoo PDF, the pasted text gets line breaks or a new paragraph after each line, resulting in a lot of extra work. Preview manages this brilliantly in 99 out of 100 cases.

Further reading: The best PDF editors for Windows

In Preview, it only takes a few seconds to delete selected pages or copy pages from one file to another. Here I move pages 24 and 27 from the higher file so that they fall between the current pages 29 and 30 in the file on the left.


Unholy alliance between Microsoft and Adobe?

Microsoft hasn’t commented on the matter, but if there’s a common theory as to why this is the case, it’s that the company (at least in the past) had a fear of being targeted by competition authorities, as with Internet Explorer.

In the mid-2000s, Adobe threatened to report Microsoft to the European Commission if the company baked “save as PDF” functions into Office programs, but the situation is not quite so tense today. Windows has long had a built-in virtual PDF printer that Adobe doesn’t seem to have a problem with. In addition, Microsoft has added several other new programs and features to Windows that previously could have been met with the same complaints about unfair competition with third-party developers.

That leaves another possible, more sinister explanation: Microsoft has simply chosen not to step on Adobe’s toes in order to promote its good co-operation with the Photoshop developer.

If that’s true, it may have made sense 15 years ago, but today it’s something all ordinary Windows users have to suffer and the only winner is Adobe, which can continue to sell Acrobat with all its advanced features to users who may only need to merge and rearrange their files.

Nothing wrong with imitation

When someone does something really good in software, it doesn’t take long for others to follow suit. Those who are negative call it plagiarism or copying. A more positive view is that these developers are taking inspiration and learning. Apple and Microsoft have mimicked each other many times over the years, to the benefit of users of both operating systems.

I’m not the only person wondering why Windows has no alternative to the Mac’s Preview. Search Reddit or any other forum for computer enthusiasts and you’ll find many more.

Apple doesn’t have a patent on the ideas for how a PDF editor can work, so how it can go over 20 years without any Windows developer even looking at Preview and doing something similar is a mystery to me. The only explanation in my mind is that no one is willing to pay for something that can only do basic editing, but does it very well. In that case, the hope lies with Microsoft.

This article was translated from Swedish to English and originally appeared on pcforalla.se.

Author: Anders Lundberg, Skribent

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