PDF Converter Professional 4 from Nuance Communications is the tool you are looking for if you like the idea on being able to convert documents to and from PDF, unlock PDFs, merge PDFs, convert almost any file to PDF, and do many other PDF-related tasks. Move over, Acrobat.
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PDFs are everywhere. The format has became the standard way to exchange documentation (confidential or not), electronic invoicing, user guides, bank statements, and more. If you use a computer for anything, you have probably dealt with PDF files at least once.
One of the first things I do when I install a new workstation is to install Acrobat Reader. A lot of people do the same. Usually I work with Adobe Acrobat or one of the freeware PDF printers out there to create my PDFs. I use it for proposals, home banking transactions, and so on. As I found out in the course of this review, PDF Converter Professional 4 can cover all of these needs and more.
PDF Converter Professional 4 comes with three main tools:
PDF Converter Professional: Create, edit, and view PDF files.
PDF Create Assistant: Create any number of PDFs based on different files.
PDF Converter Assistant: Convert PDF files to Word documents, or other formats.
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PDF Converter Professional 4's user interface is simple and user-friendly, and the context integration with Windows Explorer is really nice. Also, PDF Converter 4 does a good job integrating with the other two components (Create and Converter).
PDF Create Assistant and PDF Converter Assistant could use some work to make them leaner.
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Price to Value
For the amount of features and tools you get with PDF Converter Professional 4, it’s a no-brainer that it’s a good value for the money; more so if you consider the price tag that comes with Adobe Acrobat. PDF Converter Professional 4 is meant to be a much cheaper alternative for users who don’t need all of the features of Adobe Acrobat but still need a good tool to deal with PDF files. If you can live with some minor issues with setup in Vista, then you've got yourself a winner here.
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Installation & Setup
In the setup, Nuance included a lot of options in how to integrate PDF Converter Professional 4 with other applications. [See screenshot 5] Integration with Office, Explorer, IE, and Outlook can be configured at setup. On top of that, PDF Converter 4 includes support for multiple languages. [See screenshot 4] This may contribute to the size of the setup: 200 MB for the 32-bit edition and 200 MB more for 64-bit.
Installing PDF Converter Professional 4 on XP was painless and easy. On Vista, however, it was not as easy. First, I’m one of those users who doesn't mind much when a setup package tells you to close the other programs; I had Outlook 2007 running. My bad, I know. Funny thing was that the setup reported me as having Word 2007 open. [See screenshot 1] But I didn’t have Word open. [See screenshot 2] After closing Outlook and starting over, it told me that Explorer was the problem now. [See screenshot 3] What! Explorer? OK, now this was strange. So I decided, hey, I’m one of those guys who doesn't need Explorer to run a setup, so I open Task Manager and terminate the Explorer process. How nuts is that? Well, it did the job for me and the setup continued without a problem. Was this a setup issue, a Vista issue, or user issue? Your guess is as good as mine. It was the first setup I ever saw with this issue. Anyway, if you have the same issue, now you will know how to solve it.
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PDF Converter Professional 4 is the tool you will use to write PDF files. It does not have the fancy looks of Adobe Writer, and it does not have all of its functions, but it does the job really well. It has almost anything you need to make a PDF file, and then some. For instance, when creating a new PDF file you will notice that you can create a new file from an existing file, clipboard data, or combine multiple files--you name it. [see screenshot 6] It’s not as easy as editing a Word file, I give you that, but then again, if you need to do it in Word, you can, and then just save it to PDF.
I decided to make a test using photographs I took. As an amateur photographer, I like to have my photographs at their maximum resolution. So I took a few and converted them to a PDF file. For that I used the Create Assistant. I have detailed the steps in images below in this review. [see screenshots 8, 9, 10,11] It was really easy to do the whole process and the result was a high-definition PDF file. I’ve opened it in both PDF Converter Professional [screenshot 13] and Adobe Acrobat [screenshot 14]. As you can see, it created one page for each picture and the result is what I expected. Thinking on my context, this will save me tons of time when I decide to send a book to print on one of those book-printing services that are becoming more popular on the Web. I just have to compose my pages in Photoshop, and then convert all images in one go to a single PDF file, and that’s it; a book is done. Plus to that, check out the profiles options in screenshot 12. You can have different profiles for different scenarios.
Creating files is not the only feature on this package. You can also convert a PDF file to a Word document, for example. I did just that using the PDF Converter Assistant. The steps are pictured in screenshots 16 and 17. As you can see, it’s as easy as it gets. I also tried the context menu on Windows Explorer and it’s even easier--you only get the screen you see in screenshot 15.
PDF Converter Professional 4 integrates very well with Office, Outlook included. Being able to save as PDF instead of printing a doc to a PDF printer is quite a nice feature. I tested this with Office 2007 and it works very well.
While testing on Windows Vista with Office 2007 installed, I had a problem converting a PDF with high-resolution pictures into a Word document. After converting, Word would crash (Word automatically opens after converting). Then, when I tried to open the converted file in Documents (the default location), the photographs were completely black in the file. I still have to do some more testing on this, with different resolutions. It did work fine with other PDF files that didn’t have such big images. I can’t say for sure if this is as Word issue or a PDF Converter bug.
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I’ve tested this product on XP and more recently on Vista. This is relevant for the review so here are the specs of the machine:
Toshiba Tecra M5Centrino Core 2 Duo 2.33 GHz2 GB of DDR2 RAM
One of the things I noticed right away was performance. Some tasks, like PDF converting, take their time. As you can see, this is a high-end laptop for professional use. I use it with some quite demanding software like Visual Studio, SQL Server, and others. My first experience with PDF Converter 4 was a mixed bag. Sometimes it was quite fast doing some tasks. But then, for no reason, it would take much more time than I would expect to do the same task again. As we all know, performance is not something that we can easily evaluate only based on the specs of a workstation. Other factors have influence depending on the software you are running. And in the end, the software did work as expected most of the time.
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Help & Support
Help was useful in some cases. I didn’t use it much, but when I did, I found what I was looking for. The fact that I didn’t have to use the help to learn how to use the features reflects positively on PDF Converter Professional 4's ease of use.
The F1 key does not work in PDF Converter Professional 4's editor (at least, not in the main edit window). If you click Search, for example, and then press F1, the context help for Search does not open.
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Some work on the interface may be needed--the program feels a bit antiquated in some aspects. And some performance tweaking may be needed--I had mixed results on my testing and at times it was quite slow to perform tasks.
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PDF Converter Professional 4 is a well-packaged product. PDFs are ubiquitous these days, and PDF Converter 4 is a solution that allows you to not only author PDFs, but to convert to and from PDF format. For my personal use, I see major advantages for authoring books with photographs. It was so easy to convert a bunch of images into a PDF file that now I’m seriously considering doing this more often. I did have some issues setting up in Vista and converting large files with high-resolution images to Word, but all things considered, PDF Converter Professional 4 is a good product and a good alternative to the more pricey Adobe Acrobat.