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>A PDF editor, a PDF annotator or a PDF filler?

Is SimplePDF a PDF editor, a PDF annotator or a PDF filler?

Profile picture of Benjamin André-Micolon
January 14, 2024
Benjamin André-Micolon

Well! A bit of everything!

The origins of SimplePDF

Four years ago, after countless frustrating hours searching for a PDF filler (seriously, who hasn't Googled "free pdf filler?"), I decided to take a good look at what was available.**

And it didn't exactly look good.

Most of the supposedly free only PDF editors and fillers came with unpleasant surprises:

  • The "by the way, it's not free" case: you spend 30 minutes filling a PDF, and just as you click download, a "enter your credit card" popup ruins your day.
  • The "do you like my watermark" case: your carefully filled PDF now proudly boasts a "filled with PDF Software" watermark right in the middle of the screen.
  • The "it's free but it doesn't work" case: you want to fill your PDF, but the tool is so broken that it's practically useless.
  • The "it was never a PDF editor in the first place" case: some websites let you edit a PDF for a small fee, but surprise! After 15 days, you're hit with a $50 charge.

Sure, everyone needs to earn a living, and building software isn't cheap.

But what didn't sit right was the blatant misrepresentation of something as "free" when it wasn't.

That's just misleading and dishonest.

Preview from Apple, my savior

But then I stumbled upon Preview from Apple, one of the best pieces of Software in my opinion that does a wonderful job for most of the basic PDF operations.

It does not edit existing text, but it allows to rotate, merge, add text, pictures, signatures...

Why one of the best? Because it's packed with features but you only discover them as you start using the software. And it's just simple, it's not bloated with features that only one person, every full moon, will be using (yes, some PDF editors have "emoji stamps" as a feature).

So naturally, once I had discovered Preview, I started using it.

And the more I used it, the more the simplicity grew on me. I took a second look to see what was out there, and Preview was still the simplest and best in my mind simple PDF filler.

Then it hit me: I'm fortunate to have a Mac, but what about those without one? What about Windows users, or Linux users looking for a PDF editor?

(I know that there are plethora of PDF editor / annotator / filler on Windows and Linux, but none that are as simple as Preview)

That was my cue: let's build a simple PDF editor that is as "Preview-like" as possible: no bells and whistles, just focus on delivering the features that 90% of the users will need.

The 10% remaining usually have very specific needs:

  • civil engineers and architects need to measure things in PDFs (I've heard that Bluebeam is great for that)
  • lawyers need to redact information or number each pages for easy reference (bates numbering)
  • etc...

And I specifically did not want to cover these 10% remaining: SimplePDF was meant for the mass, with simple needs.

Building SimplePDF: a PDF filler, a PDF annotator, and a PDF editor

In that order!

I aimed to tackle the most significant pain point with PDFs: filling them. So, I began by building a straightforward PDF filler...

Until I realized that most companies (and even countries) use non-fillable PDFs—mere prints or scans of a paper form, often created using Photoshop or equivalents (shoutout to Photopea, an excellent free alternative).

Enter the annotation part: the ability to add text, pictures, signatures. With this, SimplePDF evolved into a PDF annotator.

Then came cases where I needed to submit identification documents and bills, usually expected as attachments. That's when the idea of a "merge PDF" feature struck me as something many would find useful.

And just like that, SimplePDF transformed into a PDF editor.

I hope this all makes sense! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

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