• Price When Reviewed: 2070 . 1575

  • Pros: Easy to use; large range of tools; can be automated.

  • Cons: Very expensive; can’t import Acrobat profiles; slow to load documents.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

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If you have to deal with externally created PDFs, PitStop Extreme could be a godsend – albeit a pricey one. Many Digital Arts readers will be painfully familiar with the situation where a major change is needed shortly before deadline, but the person who has the file is inaccessible; or the one where a pre-designed ad needs to be updated and nobody seems to have the original document.

If Acrobat Professional were just a little more helpful, this wouldn’t be such a problem; however, it’s not, and editing the text or layout in PDFs is impossible beyond basic tweaks.

Open a PDF in Pitstop Extreme and after a lengthy wait, you’ll have a fully editable document, with an interface reminiscent of Illustrator 3, give or take some odd shortcuts. You can edit text, move, scale and rotate objects, change transparency, insert pages, change fill colours, edit bleed, and place images.

After you’re done, the software will let you preflight the document according to your chosen profile, and then save it. And if you suspect you’re going to be making the same changes to a lot of PDFs, you can set up Photoshop-like actions.

Admittedly, it can’t work wonders. If you don’t have a font installed and the PDF doesn’t have all the necessary glyphs for the text embedded, it won’t be able to do anything. Depending on how the document was created and what layering is involved, certain objects may prove uneditable or even come out as several composite objects that you won’t be able to change easily. Its colour spaces also stop at CMYK, so don’t expect to be able to add spot colours and varnishes.

Slightly more tediously, it has its own set of profiles for preflighting and can’t import Acrobat profiles; while it has a good set, with more available online, if you have a custom profile provided by your printer, you’ll have to manually tweak the settings.

At over £2,000, this is a colossally expensive program and you have to be anticipating a whole lot of production disasters on some really expensive projects to be able to justify it. Nevertheless, while it’s not as powerful in some areas as you’d hope, it far exceeds Acrobat’s puny editing toolset and could well save your bacon one day.