PDFtk Pro – Review of an excellent PDF Toolkit

I will review PDFtk Pro, the perfect complement to Foxit PDF Reader, in this article. PDFtk Pro allows users to quickly split, merge, rotate, watermark, stamp and secure PDF files. The PDFtk Pro GUI has a limited number of settings that makes manipulating PDF-files really easy. In my personal opinion it is the Swiss army knife among the PDF Toolkits.

PDFtk Pro screenshot 26

PDFtk Pro – Manipulate PDF files in 3 steps

PDFtk Pro has a simple graphical interface, which is build around three basic steps from input to creating a new output PDF-file:

  1. Add input PDF-files;
  2. Set optional processing features;
  3. Create new output PDF-file;

I will cover each of the PDFtk Pro building blocks and its features in the following sections.

PDFtk Pro screenshot 23

Add input PDF-files

First step is to add input PDF-files, via the add PDF-button on the left.  You can copy or remove selected input PDF-files and order the input PDF-files via drag-and-drop. Their pages will be copied and merged to create your new output PDF-file.

“List the pages to copy using a mix of page numbers (e.g. 1,3,7) and page ranges (e.g. 1-3,12-4,20-8). You can also append “even” or “odd” (e.g. 1-10even). You can list the same page numbers or ranges more than once. You can also list the same PDF document more than once.”

This approach gives extreme flexibility to quickly split and merge pages from one or more PDF-files, which I haven’t seen at any other PDF creator.

PDFtk Pro screenshot 31

Set optional processing features

Second step is to configure optional processing features for the output PDF-file. You can see 4 buttons on the left in the middle section of the PDFtk Pro program window. In the PDFtk Free version it is not possible to set the optional processing features !

  1. Rotate pages
  2. Watermark
  3. Advanced
  4. Secure

You can select and configure none, one or more of these optional features via one-button click.

Rotate pages

PDFtk Pro provides the option to rotate pages for the output PDF-file. You can choose among the options:

  • Clockwise 90 degrees;
  • Counter clockwise 90 degrees;
  • Upside down 180 degrees;

PDFtk Pro allows you to watermark the output PDF file, for example as draft or final. You need to select an input PDF-file, from which the first page will supply the watermark/stamp content.

“The watermark is placed behind the PDF page content. To place it in front of the PDF page content, click the Stamp check box. “

Surprisingly it is not possible to select a single picture to watermark the output PDF file. However I will create a few watermark PDF files to be able to quickly watermark with PDFtk Pro.


PDFtk Pro has an advanced button in the optional processing block. This button unlocks a wide variety of  (advanced) command-line options. You can find a complete overview of the command line options on the PDFtk Server Man Page.

“The placeholder %%PDFTK%% will be replaced by the PDFtk command. The placeholder %%PDFIN%% will be replaced by the merged PDF from the workspace above. The placeholder %%PDFOUT%% will be replaced by the output PDF filename.”

Examples can be found on the PDFtk Server Examples page.

“Encrypt a PDF using 128-bit strength (the default), withhold all permissions (the default) will look like pdftk 1.pdf output 1.128.pdf owner_pw foopass."


PDFtk Pro allows to protect the output PDF-file. You can set a password to open the output PDF-file or set a password to remove security settings for the output PDF-file.


Create new output PDF

When you hit the create new PDF button you can automatically let PDFtk Pro:

  • Do nothing;
  • Open output PDF-file in default viewer;
  • Show location of output PDF-file;

My default option here is to open the output PDF-file in Foxit Reader, so I can view/check the output PDF directly.

The four buttons on the right from teh create new PDF button: Report bug, Show logfile, Open online help, Reset form don’t much of an explanation. 🙂

PDFtk Pro screenshot 33

Concluding thoughts and wrap-up

Where Foxit PDF Reader is my preferred PDF reader is PDFtk Pro my preferred application to quickly split, merge, rotate, watermark, stamp and secure PDF files. Or as the description on the PDF Labs website shows:

“If PDF is electronic paper, then PDFtk is an electronic staple-remover, hole-punch, binder, secret-decoder-ring, and X-Ray-glasses. PDFtk is a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents.”

PDFtk Pro has a simple graphical user interface, but provides an extensive set with options to create an output PDF-file. The command-line options described on PDFtk Server Man page, gives endless flexibility in how to create, split, merge, rotate, watermark and sercure a PDF-fle.

PDFtk comes in a free version as well. PDFtk Free has all the options of PDFtk pro, except the optional processing features. However for the fair price point of only $3.99 I would advice the PDFtk Pro version.

Overall PDFtk Pro is the Swiss army knife among the PDF Toolkits.

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