If tonight’s experience is any indication, my goal of 100% transformation from Windows to Linux is probably not going to happen.
Tonight I was asked my one of my clients to change a single page of a PDF document hosted on their website. No problem in the pay-to-play land of Windows, right? You fire up your ridiculously-priced copy of Adobe Acrobat Professional and use the Replace Page menu option. Dead simple. On Linux? Not so much.
Editing PDFs on Linux
If all you need to do with PDF on Linux is view and print, your options are numerous and quite stable. If you don’t like Ubuntu’s built-in PDF viewing support you can opt to download and install Adobe Reader from the Canonical Software Repository. Of course, that’s only if you miss all of the bloated and unnecessary features that make Adobe Reader what it is today.
If you have to create or edit existing PDF documents, you’re options are few and finicky. I tried two methods: the first was to install PDF Edit from the Ubuntu Software Center. PDF Edit has lots of features, but it couldn’t open the document that I needed to modify. Upon further research I found that OpenOffice.org has a PDF Import extension. I installed the extension, and it too had problems opening my document. Perhaps something was wrong with my docuement?
I installed Adobe Reader as described above so I could verify that my PDF file would open using an Adobe product and so I could view it’s metadata. Reader opened the document without any problems, but within the document metadata I noticed that the document had been created using the HP scanning software at my client’s office. I tried opening other documents created with that software and verified that they opened in Adobe Reader, but not in PDF Edit or in OpenOffice.
This isn’t so much a solution considering I still had to have Windows and Acrobat Professional available to solve the problem. I opened the documents in Acrobat Professional and performed a “Save As.” The new documents were now editable under both PDF Edit and OpenOffice.org’s PDF Import extension.
PDF Edit was able to quickly and easily replace the page that had changed within the document. If it is able to open my documents in the future, this is what I’ll use to make changes to PDF documents on Linux. The OpenOffice.org plug-in still has a long way to go. It does exactly what I expected and what Microsoft Word import utilities have done for years: butchers your document. But at least it opened!
I may find myself updating this post in the future as I have more experience editing PDF’s on Linux. My initial impression is that “it’s close, but no cigar. PDF Edit almost worked, and if it is able to open and edit my PDF’s in the future I’ll consider this a success. OpenOffice.org’s plug-in works just as good as other PDF Conversion utilities: it will import your document and keep most of your text intact, but any graphics or stray marks in your PDF document will make your converted document almost completely unusable.