Completely Unsolicited Bluebeam Revu Review 2

During my first year in public accounting, we moved to a paperless environment (though the amount of paper that accumulated on my desk would indicate that “paperless” was a bit of a misnomer). To make our lives easier, each tax accountant was given a PDF markup program called Bluebeam Revu. If you haven’t heard of Bluebeam Revu, it’s because the program is basically the Jones Soda of the PDF document world: it might be better than Coke, but good luck finding it at McDonalds. But now that I’m stuck using Adobe Acrobat, I’m realizing how good Bluebeam Revu really was.

Don’t get me wrong – I think Adobe is a great company with the best products in many of their chosen markets. Adobe Acrobat is just not one of them. I’m using the standard version, which might be slightly limited vs. Adobe Acrobat Pro, but it still doesn’t do all that I’m used to from Bluebeam Revu.

Here’s a typical tax situation: we receive a PDF document from the client (or payroll department, now that I’m in the corporate world). With Adobe Acrobat, I can add a couple notes here and there, slap on a footnote, and send it on it’s way.

But let’s say only about a quarter of the information on the page is relevant, and the rest is a distracting mess. In Acrobat, the best I can do is make a few notes and highlight the good stuff, but everyone opening the workpaper still has to wage through globs of irrelevant muck.

Frog in Muck

Come on, I just wanted a frog.

Enter Bluebeam Revu. Suddenly, the PDF Document becomes my (nerdily accounting) canvas. Don’t like half the page? Cover it up with a white rectangle. Want to move a particular section onto another sheet? Take a snapshot of the area you want and paste it on another page.

This latter feature is actually the inspiration for this review. I had to scan in a bunch of tiny Certified Mail confirmations one at a time. Bluebeam Revu would have let me scan them all in at once (or at least as many as could fit on a page) then paste the relevant information where I wanted it.

It’s pretty awesome. But it gets even better. Want to highlight a particular portion of text? Use the highlighter, or put a box around it, or a weird squiggly circle enveloping it. You name it. Don’t like the text? Edit it. What if it was scanned in and isn’t recognized as text? Then white it out and type over it.

Something that we do over and over again in the tax world is compare two different versions of a document. Bluebeam Revu makes this easy. You can either put the two documents side by side in separate frames and have them scroll down in synchronization, or you can even have Bluebeam Revu analyze two documents and highlight the changes.

Bluebeam Revu was also a lifesaver when our tax return system printed returns out incorrectly (our US tax system is complex enough that not even our expensive software got everything right). When things were wrong, Bluebeam Revu provided so many different tools that invariably one of them would get the document looking the way we wanted it to.

crooked tower

Looks straight to me

That’s not to say Bluebeam Revu didn’t have limitations. For example, the scrolling feature I mentioned above worked great when the documents were the same length, but add in a page here or there and suddenly you have to scroll each one in turn. It also didn’t hand out candy, and never told me when something was on my face.

So Bluebeam Revu isn’t perfect. But when PDF creation is a must, moving from Bluebeam Revu to Adobe Acrobat feels like stepping off a plane into the 1700s.

Now all I need to do is convince my company to migrate over. You’d think it’s be easy, with the price being lower than Acrobat and all. But people are stuck in their ways.

But maybe I can wear them down. Then I can finally have my plane back.


NOTE: We used Bluebeam Revu to start, but them moved up to Bluebeam Revu eXtreme. I didn’t really notice the difference, but I’m sure there is one.

UPDATE AND DISCLAIMER: After posting this review, someone at Bluebeam reached out to me and offered me a copy of Bluebeam (and a shirt, though I haven’t received it yet), which I happily accepted. But I didn’t write this with any hope or intention of getting the software, and it in no way influenced the review.

Follow my rantings @TimJGordon

Picture by Tammi L Coles and Photon Pink