Hot on the heels of my writeup of PDFMeNot yesterday, reader Bonexaw tipped us off about PDFescape, another Web based Adobe Acrobat replacement. This time around, PDFescape pulls double duty not only as a free PDF reader, but also as an editing tool and Web host for PDF files.
PDFescape lets users fill out forms--one of the most commonly used features (besides reading). Additionally, the authoring tools let users create their own forms and send them out to others to fill out and send back. The best part is that the entire system is set up to avoid recipients having to touch a piece of software.
PDFescape's editing tool feels a lot like a simple desktop application, with a toolbar up top, and a workspace that's set up with a file source list, and a tool pallet. The one major drawback is that there's no zoom toggle, making it a pain to use for general reading unless you're got a monitor with a large horizontal resolution, or don't mind panning with your mouse. Otherwise it's simple, intuitive, and definitely a step up from Adobe Reader if you need to change something on a PDF file and don't want to shell out for Acrobat, or use a third party editor.
To help keep the service afloat there are small ads on the side of the editing and reading environment. Small watermarks are also added to each published PDF form, which users can get rid of using credits that can be bought in increments ranging from $.50 to $1 each, depending on how many you're buying. The real money, however, is in publishing, which is a paid service. It's aimed mostly at employers or other businesses that need to host a PDF with forms online. Publishing credits are considerably more expensive than the "premium" credits, but offer a year of hosting, increased file sizes, and automated sending of completed forms.
I still think PDFMeNot is the go-to service for opening up the occasional PDF file you come across, but PDFescape's publishing tool offers a whole lot of features in a small package that make it much better for publishers trying to escape Acrobat's price tag. Of course if you end up shelling out for the publishing credits, you might be better off investing in a copy of Acrobat and a Web host instead.