Wondershare PDF Converter Pro Review: Fewer Features, Mixed Performer
At a Glance
One-trick-pony software applications often play useful roles, especially if they have secondary advantages such as a lower price, smaller memory requirements, or the ability to run well on older systems. Wondershare's PDF Converter Pro ($80 as of April 27, 2012) certainly has a narrow focus, offering fewer features than competing PDF utilities; unfortunately, it costs nearly as much as those competing programs.
PDF Converter Pro converts PDF files to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, image, ePub (with the ability to add your own book cover), and text formats, but it can't convert files from those formats to PDF. Wondershare, the program's maker, points out that recent versions of Microsoft Office have PDF creation capabilities built in--but many other Windows applications lack PDF output, and I would expect to find a PDF creation feature in an app like this.
Furthermore, the application exclusively performs conversions; it doesn't let you open or edit PDFs. So you can't edit text, add audio or video, or secure PDFs; and you can't create forms, add comments, redact text, or add a digital signature to one. In other words, it doesn't do 75 percent of what Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 7 ($149), Foxit Phantom PDF Business ($149), Nitro Pro 7 ($100), Soda PDF Pro + OCR ($100) and Adobe Acrobat X Pro ($449) can do. Most of those products come in versions that cost less and have a reduced set of features, and yet PDF Converter Pro doesn't do much of what those versions do either. Wondershare offers a $100 product, PDF Editor Pro for Mac, that it says has many of these missing features, and it is planning a Windows version of PDF Editor Pro as well.
If PDF Converter Pro handled conversion better than any of its rivals, it might be worth the cost; but in my tests, its output was fairly undistinguished overall. The Pro version includes an OCR function for creating editable text from scanned documents, though you can't scan from within the application; instead, you must scan the document, save it as a PDF file (because the application recognizes only PDF files), and then import the scanned PDF into PDF Converter Pro. I used the application on a 58-page monochrome computer manual; and with OCR turned on, the application required 4 minutes, 15 seconds to convert the manual into a Microsoft Word document; that's about twice the amount of time other applications required. The resulting document contained mostly fixed-width (specifically, Courier) text, and many of the graphics were severely overcropped. When I turned OCR off, the application sprinted through the same document in just 50 seconds, and the results were much better, with variable-width text and good-looking, properly reproduced images. Despite the lack of OCR, I could edit the text in this document. To its credit, the application didn't crash or balk, as some other PDF utilities have with this particular test document; and it handled the page sizes correctly.
PDF Converter Pro produced poor results with a Verizon Wireless bill when I left OCR on, reproducing the Verizon company logo as "vefl70nw?re/ess." When I turned OCR off, the logo reproduced correctly, but this time, none of the text was editable. The difference in how the two documents came out reflects how they were created: The computer manual was designed to contain searchable text, whereas the wireless bill was scanned as an image file (despite its being a PDF). Many PDF applications that work with your scanner and include OCR capabilities can create searchable PDFs, but PDF Converter Pro can't.
I liked PDF Converter Pro's ability to create multiple-page HTML files from lengthy PDFs. The program even creates linked bookmarks for each page. But the quality of its conversions into HTML was unremarkable.
PDF Converter Pro can queue as many as 200 PDFs for conversion at one time, and you can easily instruct the application to convert specific pages of each document. For example, you can have it capture only pages 1 through 4 of the first document, all pages of the second document, and pages 39 through 65 of the third document. However, you can select only one output file format per batch, so if you queue 200 PDFs, they'll all be Word documents (or Excel documents, or HTML documents, or whatever).
You can use PDF Converter Pro to bypass some PDF security measures, too. If the document has security set up to prevent you from printing it, changing it, or copying its text, PDF Converter Pro ignores the restrictions. This enabled me to use PDF Converter Pro to convert copy-protected documents into editable Word documents. The company touts its ability to bypass this security on its website, and it even sells a separate product called PDF Password Remover, a "small and easy-to-use PDF cracker." Neither product will allow you to bypass security that requires a password to open a document; if you instruct PDF Converter Pro to convert a PDF that requires a password to open, the app will tell you that you must enter that password before you can convert the document.
During installation, Wondershare didn't warn me that I'd be receiving popup ads in my system tray. The first time I saw one (telling me that I could win a new iPad), I thought my system had a virus, until I figured out that Wondershare was behind them. The popups, which you can't turn off without uninstalling the software, are an unacceptable annoyance.
One Trick Is Not Enough
As many buy-direct companies do, Wondershare offers lots of deals on its website, so I suspect that it often sells PDF Converter Pro at a discount. It would take a very substantial discount, however, to make this program worthwhile, because it simply doesn't have the features that its many competitors do (and those competitors often sell at a discount, too).