Review of Nuance PDF Converter 4: Small Yet Full of Features

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PDF Converter 4 from Nuance is only available for PCs. It essentially performs the opposite function of its sister product PDF Create 4. That is, PDF Converter 4 converts PDF files into fully formatted documents or into spreadsheets complete with graphics. Once this is accomplished, the user is able to edit those documents and integrate them into other applications. The program is compatible with other tools such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook, as well as Corel WordPerfect.

Installation & Setup (3 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

Like PDF Create 4, the installation and setup could not have been easier. However, this remark also has to be qualified. Yes, the installation was easy, but only to a point. That is, the initial steps were trouble-free and used pleasant- and professional-looking dialog boxes. This made for a good experience that tended to build confidence. The functionality of these initial steps was also straightforward and the process went smoothly–at least initially.

What’s Not:

The following was performed using a secure computer with no Internet connectivity. It was assumed that this was a worst-case scenario that would reveal the most about the installation and setup.

Once the initial stages are complete, the final stages quickly become a nightmare. In order to complete the installation, one soon discovers that they have to go to the Nuance website to retrieve an 18-character serial number that is not accessible unless one has their order number handy. After obtaining the serial number, the user is asked to type it into a dialog box. More often than not, this causes the appearance of an “invalid number” warning. This is because the character system used on the Nuance website microscopically distinguishes between a zero and the capital letter “O.” Thus, absent a strike-through zero, an “O” looks like a zero and vice versa. This wreaks havoc on the user until the correct combination of zeros/Os can be typed in. As a result, the installation process is stalled. However, once the user makes it through this, there’s another surprise in store: the user is then asked to produce a 60-character activation key, which of course requires another trip back to the Nuance website. But in order to obtain the activation key, the user has to type in their serial number again. This is not a happy prospect, especially if the user has to go through the process of figuring out the correct number of zeros/Os a second time. At any rate, all of this could have been avoided if Nuance hadn’t over-managed the process in the first place. Not only that, but they could have at least put a standard “Print this page” message on their website with a short procedure so that the user knew what they were getting into and could prepare adequately. Lastly and to make matters worse, this same nightmare has been replicated on Nuance’s other products, in particular PDF Converter’s sister product PDF Create 4, reviewed elsewhere on this site.

User Interface (5 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

The UI is simple and straightforward just as it should be. [See image 1] It’s easy to use, easy to look at, and friendly in every respect. Functionally the same is true. For example, The Open File button functions just like the familiar File -> Open menu in Word and opens the usual menu hierarchy so that the user can find whatever file(s) they wish. This makes for a very comfortable experience. It has an easy to use Preview button and an up/down arrow selection that allows the user to reorder the file list. Furthermore, the minimize function doesn’t close the application like it does in PDF Create 4, and the size of the application is appropriate and leaves nothing hidden. It also has a converter assistant and tool buttons for Microsoft Word and Outlook. Overall, the UI is straightforward, easy to use, and has all the functionality that one would need.

Product Features (5 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

PDF Converter 4 (Standard) includes an attractive set of features also found in the professional version.

· Converts PDF documents into the following formats: MS Word, Excel worksheets, Excel workbooks, and Corel WordPerfect. It also converts scanned image PDF files into Word, Excel, and Word Perfect formats.

· Converts PDF files without running native applications and converts in all applications that support RTF format.

· Retains PDF headers and footers in Microsoft Word and retains format layout and column flow.

· Has RealSpeak text-to-speech capability.

PDF Converter 4 is also compatible with numerous applications and Microsoft operating systems: Acrobat , Acrobat Reader , Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007, and Microsoft Windows 97/2000/XP/Vista.

Overall, the feature set is attractive and contains everything that one would expect in a standard version of a product of this type, and even a little more.

Performance (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

This program contains a decent number of performance-related selections that were exercised as follows: An attempt was made to stress the program as much as possible by converting a list of documents that had been merged from several sources using PDF Create 4. [See images 1 and 2]Various combinations of file sizes and file types included various types of graphics and colors were merged. These attempts were on the whole, unsuccessful in causing anything that would be considered a serious problem–more on that below. These tests indicate that conversions of normal documents produce normal-looking documents and that overall this program appears to perform the way its supposed to.

What’s Not:

Beginning with an original PDF document with tabbed words such as “WHAT TABBED WORD,” the conversion to Word ends up as “W H A T T A B B E D W O R D.” This same spacing phenomenon was seen in sections of the test documents that contained a combination of gibberish and normal text. For example, “????” became “????as . fdi sk. net/cgi -bin/mt/mt" as a result of the conversion.

Conversion speed will be different for different machines. Therefore, those who are concerned about this might want to find a demo version and test it before making a purchase. It should be pointed out that the professional version boasts an improved speed of up to 300 percent, so this might be a more attractive option.

Help & Support (2 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

Nuance offers online support through their website, by phone, and in a Reference Guide. The online support consists of Email button selections in two different categories. The first of these is Desktop Products, with selections to email either technical support or customer service. The second of these is Dictaphone Support (N/A in this case), with one selection to email technical support. The same is true for phone support; within Desktop Products, there are selections to obtain phone-support information for either technical support or customer service. Dictaphone Support also has one selection to obtain phone support information, but only for technical support. The Reference Guide that comes with the program is very well done. It contains attractive graphics and screen captures with text box pointers, and is written and presented in a very clear and concise manner. Overall, help and support coverage for this and the other products by Nuance is complete.

What’s Not:

First off, don’t ever use their phone system. It’s very expensive and costs a whopping $19.95 per minute after one initial free call. Good questions here would be, “What if a customer finds a bug? Is Nuance then asking them to pay for the privilege of reporting it?” Moreover, there is no indication of a “no charge” policy if this is the case. Therefore, with these things in view, phone support is effectively nonexistent. Secondly and a lesser concern, the Nuance website (and the support section, in particular) is a little busy and hard to look at. This would tend to slow down the user who needs to get something done quickly.

Price to Value (4 out of 5)

What’s Hot:

PDF Converter 4 (Standard) is extremely affordable compared to other PDF conversion products. The price to value is very good as it provides many of the features found in more expensive products. It is well worth the cost and can be easily recommended.



PDF Converter 4 is a small package with so many features that a professional version would probably be redundant. This package has some minor conversion problems, but overall it’s not expensive, and it anticipates just about every possible scenario. Overall, it’s a good little package and well worth considering.

Adobe Acrobat, Scansoft PDF Converter Professional, Scansoft PDF Create! 4.