Monday, July 5, 2021

PDFpen Acquired for $6 Million

Sam Chandler:

Today, I’m excited to announce Nitro’s acquisition of PDFpen, the much-loved suite of PDF productivity apps for Mac, iPad and iPhone developed by Smile, Inc.


With the acquisition of PDFpen, we have found the perfect complement and addition to extend the Nitro Productivity Platform to even more customers and users. The PDFpen team has deep roots in developing intuitive, easy-to-use and highly popular apps for Mac, iPad and iPhone users, and we’re thrilled to be adding their expertise to expand Nitro’s core capabilities across those platforms. And, we’re just as excited to welcome the phenomenal PDFpen team to the Nitro family. Together, we share common values, an intense focus on the customer and a relentless passion to transform how the world works with documents.


We are excited to announce the acquisition of PDFpen by Nitro. We at Smile believe Nitro is well placed to take the PDFpen product to the next level.

I don’t really understand what this means for Smile, since I thought they had some of the same people working on both PDFpen and TextExpander.


Update (2021-07-13): Adam Engst:

Nitro will pay $6 million in cash for PDFpen, and the entire PDFpen team will be joining Nitro. Sam Thorpe noted that Nitro was extremely interested in the team’s roadmap for PDFpen and appreciation of the nuances of developing for Apple-focused customers, so it seems safe to say that we shouldn’t expect to see significant technical or interface changes. The name will also remain the same, though likely with some Nitro cobranding. What may change eventually is the licensing model, with subscriptions being offered after a few more major releases.


The recurring revenue generated by the subscriptions will help pay for developing the integrations with other systems—document signing, analytics, SDKs, and so on—that large organizations find compelling.


From Smile’s perspective, the PDFpen acquisition allows the company to focus on its TextExpander business, which has been growing in terms of employees and platforms.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

I owned the Smile PDF products (Pen & Pro) for many years. But they're slow, clunky and unreliable on my MAC. OCR was often dreadful and searching a mess. Acrobat is a million miles better but now too costly for an individual to use on subscription. So I default to the Readdle PDF Expert which is OK but limited and IMO ugly. Would love to see NITRO give the Smile product some of the speed, facility of the Windows versions of its software.

6 million seems a bit low for such a sophisticated engine.

Maintaining a PDF parser/renderer/editor is kind of a lot of work; hundreds upon hundreds of pages of specs, and weird edge cases that aren't specced (but you want to be bug-compatible with Adobe). They're not the first vendor to give up, and I guess Nitro is more focused on this space. Can't blame them.

@Peter That’s interesting to hear, as I always thought PDFpen worked well for me, and was a well behaved Mac app, and I don’t recall hearing complaints about it.

At present, PDFpen is neither great nor atrocious Mac software. (By comparison, Acrobat Pro positively IS atrocious Mac software.) It has quite a few UI quirks, and its OCR engine has been pretty bad for years. (You'd think it would at least be able to use a dictionary.) I once got in touch with a tech support rep who was pretty enthusiastic about a UI improvement that I recommended and assured me he would pass the request along. Predictably, my suggestion was never implemented and the flaw remains.

Ergonis's Typinator is much better than TextExpander and does NOT require a subscription.

Maybe PDFpen is now in better hands. We'll see.

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