PDF software – PDF-XChange

Ok, so I should actually be studying. BUT, I really just need a break, and to write something that isn’t academic gibberish. So I’ll write a brief product review.

This software is awesome. Completely awesome. I began with the free version, and used it for a very short period of time, then bought the full package. (I was using the paid version of Drawboard, and the old phrase “chalk and cheese” is most applicable here. TBF, Drawboard is a LOT cheaper, and you do get what you pay for in this instance.)

I’m a student, so I’ll approach it from that POV. I’m doing honours, which is all about research and writing, so a large part of my time is spent reading. I use both a desktop and a Surface Pro 3 (which, I must say, is also a terrific product).

Keyboard shortcuts (1)

You can, pretty much, give EVERYTHING in the program a software shortcut. If you’re a complete nerd, this is extremely useful, but it’s also quicker even if you’re just a normal user.

Range of highlighting and comments sidebar (2)

Excellent range of highlighting colours (again, far better than Drawboard) and you can see them in the “comments sidebar” where you can just click on each highlight to go straight to it, no scanning the document to see where your highlighted portions are.

Search function (3)

Highly usable search sidebar, which includes exclusions, individual word colouring (4), etc..

OCR (5)

I downloaded a PDF today from Sage Journals and it was just pages of images, meaning I couldn’t highlight text, copy it, etc. One click of the OCR button on the toolbar, and a few seconds later, 22 pages has been converted into text, making it simple to highlight passages, copy citations for looking up in the library, and so on. It’s not perfect, but it’s still incredibly usable, and it’s about to have a new version launched after a complete rewrite.


Stellar. Both the email support, and the forums they run. Really really useful. Having years worth of accumulated knowledge is invaluable.


it won’t sync settings across devices in the same way that MS Word and many other programs will. You can export the settings, take that file to the other computer and import it, but it’s a lot more hassle that way. You also can’t auto-backup the settings, as they’re in the registry, which is also most annoying.

Yep, that’s about all I can think of for negatives.


You can get the package for half-price just by asking for a code and providing proof of enrolment. But upgrades aren’t discounted (nor is the service package) and I had to really push support to get this info, so decide on what you want before buying, as upgrading later will negate some of your savings. I wasn’t sure what I’d need later on, so I bought the top-level offering. Less paranoid people will no doubt not need to do this.

Total Nerdery

Remember I said you can shortcut everything? Well, if you’ve got a macro keyboard or pad (or both, like, ummm, some weirdos…) you can map those hotkeys to them. Speeds things up no end (once you’ve memorised the macro key placement…)

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