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PDF Converter Professional 4 - A Complete PDF Solution?

written by: Julie•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/5/2011
4

PDF Converter Professional 4 is the product you'll want to seriously consider if you are looking for a good, affordable alternative to Adobe Acrobat.

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    Introduction

    I teach college courses and use PDF files extensively as handouts in my classes. I create most of my files in Powerpoint, Word, and Excel and then convert them to PDF files to distribute to my students. I have used Adobe Acrobat for years, but I consider Adobe Acrobat to be expensive, bloated, and a resource hog. I was very interested to try out PDF Converter Professional 4.

    I installed PDF Converter Professional 4 from CD. The installation took several minutes to complete, but it was quite easy and did not require much user intervention. Since the software installs conduits in most applications and browsers, I was prompted to close all applications and could not work on my computer until the installation was complete.

    PDF Converter Professional 4 is comprised of three separate modules:

    • PDF Converter Assistant allows you to convert PDF files into Word, Word Perfect, Rich Text Format documents, or Excel workbooks. You can load up multiple PDF files and convert them, one right after the other, in a type of batch process. PDF Converter Assistant also includes an optical character recognition (OCR) option, which can be used to convert scanned documents to text files.
    • PDF Create! Assistant allows you to create PDF files from many different source files. You can load up multiple files and created individual or combined PDF files, one right after the other, in a type of batch process.
    • PDF Converter Professional 4 includes some commonly used editing functions similar to some of the ones you will find in Adobe Acrobat Standard. Within this module you can create new PDF files, edit existing files, tag existing files, create digital signatures, highlight text, make notes or attach text or audio files to PDF documents. This module also includes a reading option that enables the computer to read aloud PDF documents.
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    Price to Value

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    At a retail price of $99.00, PDF Converter Professional 4 sells for a third of the cost of Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard. PDF Converter Professional 4 does not provide all of the same functionality as Adobe Acrobat 8 Standard, but it provides the most commonly desired features. In some respects, it provides more functionality with its PDF Converter Assistant module.

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    Installation & Setup

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    PDF Converter Professional 4 installation was straight forward and did not require much user intervention.During installation you are given the option to enable or disable the integration of PDF Converter Professional 4 in other programs. [see image 1]

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    Product Features

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    PDF Converter Professional 4 allows you to create, edit ,and export PDF files to Word, Word Perfect, RTF, and Excel files.PDF Converter Assistant allows you to convert or export PDF files into Word, Word Perfect, Rich Text Format documents or into Excel workbooks. It converts straight text and tabulated data to Word or Excel very well.

    PDF Converter Assistant includes an Optical character recognition (OCR) feature that can be used to convert scanned documents to text files. PDF Create! Assistant allows you to create PDF files from many different source files. You can load up multiple files to process in a batch type process. PDF Create! Assistant allows you to create separate PDF files for each document you load. You can combine files into a single PDF document, or you can overlay files as one PDF document. PDF Create! Assistant supports all Microsoft Office file types as well as PDF, BMP, GIF, HTML, TXT, and many others.

    PDF Converter Professional 4 allows you to touch-up text , objects, select objects as well as link, crop, auto-form typer or apply a digital signature to a document. You can add form controls, attach hard or sound files to a document and draw different shapes. Other options include highlighting text, adding notes and text boxes, or stamps to a file. You can protect a document, search and archive documents, and read text aloud. This module includes a document management system, a PDF optimizer and, of course, you can print a PDF file. The automated reader option, which allows the computer to read aloud PDF files, works pretty well and is easy to understand. PDF Converter Professional 4 includes an option to set the Reader volume and rate (reading speed).

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    User Interface

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    PDF Converter Assistant provides an easy way to load multiple PDF files and convert them in a batch process. There are several buttons you select to choose the PDF files you wish to export. Then choose the document layout (standard, legal, spreadsheet or form) and the file type (Word, Word Perfect, or Excel) of the outputted file to run the conversion job.

    You access the OCR feature through the document layout option.

    [see Image 2]

    PDF Create! Assistant has an intuitive point-and-click user interface that is simple and easy to use.

    You select the files you wish to convert to PDF format by selecting a prominent Add button found at the top of the screen. After you’ve selected all the files you wish to convert, you can move them around to get them in your preferred sequence by selecting an Up or Down button.

    [see Image 3]

    You choose whether you wish to create individual PDF files, combine the files into a single PDF, or overlay the files into a single PDF file. You also choose the quality of the outputted file (standard, draft, publishing, company confidential or tagged PDF) by selecting a down arrow and choosing the desired options.

    After you have selected the relevant files and options, you select a “Start Converting" button and the job starts running in the background. You can return to the PDF Create! Assistant module and set up another job to run.

    PDF Converter Professional 4 has a very friendly and intuitive user interface that alleviated the need to spend much time reading through the manual. I was working with the software within minutes of installing it to my computer. The interface is much easier to understand than the Adobe Acrobat interface.

    PDF Converter Professional 4 seamlessly integrates the PDF Converter Assistant and PDF Create! Assistant modules into it through the inclusion of buttons and menu options. [see Image 4]

    What's Not:

    Some of PDF Converter Professional’s options are difficult to find:

    • The OCR function is found in PDF Converter Assistant’s document layout option and each time I wanted to use this option, I spent several minutes hunting for it.
    • The Preferences option, which integrates PDF Converter Professional 4 into installed applications (Internet Explorer, Word, Excel, Outlook, WordPerfect Office, ) is found in PDF Converter Assistant’s File option.

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    Performance

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    On the whole, PDF Converter Professional 4 runs very well. It converts files and creates PDF files very quickly and somewhat faster than Adobe Acrobat. The software is feature rich, user friendly, and can be easily accessed from within frequently used applications. PDF Converter Assistant 4’s OCR feature worked reasonably well for the couple of scanned documents I converted into text files. The OCR feature could easily be used to convert faxed files into text files.

    What's Not:

    PDF Converter Assistant does not always convert hyperlinks appropriately when converting files from PDF to Word.

    PDF Converter Assistant doesn't convert files that include a mixture of text, tables, and images very well. The user documentation recommends that mixed files be divided by text type and converted separately. This recommendation probably works well for pages that are exclusively devoted to a particular text type, but does not work well for pages that include a mixture of text types. For instance, I converted a technical document that included text interspersed with schematic images on several of its pages. The document also included several tables with embedded screen prints. Many of the schematic images were converted to black boxes; converted tables were skewed; and tables that included embedded screenshots did not convert very well. I have included a couple of before and after images for your review.[see Image 5 (before conversion)] [see image 6 (after conversion)][see image 7 (before conversion)] [see image 8 (after conversion)]

    When I first installed PDF Converter Professional 4, I did not change any of the default installation settings, therefore PDF Converter Professional 4 was set as the default PDF reader on my computer. Later, I found I could not open PDF files directly from several different web sites. I discovered this was an issue for many different users and was not isolated to my usage of the application.

    I could not easily change the file association for PDF files back to Adobe Reader, so I uninstalled the software and reinstalled it. When I reinstalled PDF Converter Professional 4, I deselected the option to use it as my default PDF reader when using Internet Explorer.

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    Help & Support

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    PDF Converter Professional 4 includes both a hard and electronic Quick Reference Guide along with a fairly comprehensive help menu.

    What's Not:

    Even though the Nuance website provides online support for PDF Converter Professional 4, I found the online knowledge base and other online support to be quite limited.

    Nuance’s support policy seems rather stingy:

    • Users are allowed only one free support call, with all other support calls priced at $19.95 each.
    • Users can pay for email support at a price of $9.95 per incident.
    The website includes a user forum, but there is no PDF Converter Professional 4 application forum. Finally, the user documentation needs to be updated to reflect the menu changes in Office 2007.

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    Images

    Installation&Setup1PDF Converter Assistant1PDF Create! Assistant1PDF Converter Professional1Before Conversion1After Conversion2Before Conversion2After Conversion2
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    Suggested Features

    To be a complete PDF solution, Nuance needs to address the software’s issue when opening web-based PDF files. The software documentation needs to be updated to address the changes in Office 2007 (versus Office 2003) .

    The difficulties I experienced when converting PDF files that included a mixture of text, tables and images was not surprising. The ease of converting or exporting PDF files is dependent on the quality and format of the file that was used to create the original PDF file). Likewise, the effectiveness of the optical character recognition option is dependent on the quality of the scanned file.

    I recommend this software as an inexpensive alternative to Adobe Acrobat. On the whole, PDF Converter Professional 4 worked very well and performed better than expected. Despite its inability to handle web-based PDF files, I plan to use it to create PDF files in my future work.

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    Conclusion

    PDF Converter 4 Professional is very easy to use, runs quickly and without issue. Overall it provides users a great experience.