- Adequate document conversion
- Useful ‘Search and Redact’ feature
- Clunky video import
- Interface needs some consolidation
- SharePoint integration didn’t work properly in tests
If your PDF tasks are basic and your budget is tight, PDF Converter will do the job.
You can save big bucks by choosing Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 7 ($149 as of November 18, 2010) over the standard for Portable Document Format software, the $449 Adobe Acrobat X Pro–and you can accomplish with PDF Converter much of what you can with Acrobat.
Unfortunately, PDF Converter Enterprise 7 seems to have set its sights on the previous edition of Acrobat, and thus it lacks some of Acrobat’s best new features. It lacks some of Acrobat’s sophistication, too. For instance, PDF Converter does not allow you to embed live Web content into your PDFs, as Acrobat X Pro does, and Acrobat X Pro’s collaborative tools are certainly more powerful than PDF Converter’s.
Share and SharePoint Alike
On the other hand, PDF Converter has far more Microsoft SharePoint integration, allowing you to check out PDFs or other types of documents located on a SharePoint server (and true to its name, PDF Converter will convert non-PDFs on the fly, over the network, to PDF). I was able to set up a connection to a SharePoint 2007 server, and I could see documents on the server from within PDF Converter. I had trouble, however, getting PDF Converter to open them–I frequently saw ‘file not found’ or ‘file is in use’ errors. That could be the fault of my particular SharePoint server setup, of course; a Nuance representative demonstrated accessing files from a different SharePoint server with none of these problems, and claimed that complaints about SharePoint access are rare.
PDF Converter Enterprise 7 also has more-extensive scanning integration than Acrobat X Pro does. You can set up your scanner to scan documents as images, or you can make them searchable or both searchable and editable; you can even scan and automatically redact information. I wasn’t impressed with its ability to create editable documents from scans, though; when I scanned a Verizon Wireless bill, some text became garbled in the editable version, and the software had converted the company’s name from an image to “yeti onwireless.” Naturally, your success depends on the type of document you’re trying to convert–scan something composed entirely of monospaced Courier text, for example, and you’ll get excellent results.
PDF Converter’s ability to import video files seemed pretty clunky, too. The application was extremely slow to import video files, and some would not play in PDF Converter until I reset the application’s preferred video player (Flash, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or ‘Windows Built-in Player’). But even if I didn’t reset the playback setting, the files I created with PDF Converter played with no problems in Acrobat X Pro on another computer. PDF Converter cannot import YouTube videos, as Acrobat X Pro can.
The video-import dialog box, by the way, gives you an incredibly confusing array of file types–you’re supposed to choose from categories such as ‘Windows Built-in Player’, ‘Windows Media Player’, ‘Most Common Formats’, ‘QuickTime’, ‘Macromedia Flash’, and ‘All Files’. Setting aside the fact that Adobe swallowed Macromedia several years ago, the .avi format is in three of those categories, and .wmv is in two of them. The dialog box would be easier to use if Nuance were to narrow the categories substantially, or simply allow you to select a video file without them.
Search and Ye Shall Find
That unnecessary confusion extends to other areas of the application’s interface, too. The Preferences settings box shows duplicate entries; for example, click ‘Forms’, and it will drop down a ‘Forms’ subcategory, even though both ‘Forms’ display the same content.
You’ll also see a Search tool and a Find tool–and their functions overlap, though Nuance says that Find is more useful for hunting down terms one at a time. The Search tool, however, is pretty powerful, because you can use it to find–er, search for–certain types of information, such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or a custom pattern. It did a great job of digging up these types of data and then either highlighting the items or redacting them, at my choice. I tried to use it to find dollar amounts in bills, using the custom string of “$XXXXX,” and the application found most, but not all, of the amounts.
Regrettably, in the search function you’ll encounter more confusion: If you’re merely searching, you use the search command under one menu, but if you want to search and redact, you choose another tool that lives under another menu, even though the commands look almost exactly the same.
Converting documents from PDF to Microsoft Word worked adequately, but I experienced a few problems. The Word document that PDF Converter produced had a few areas with incorrect vertical line spacing, in part because the software inserted a return after some of the lines of text, and it substituted a different font and dropped some letters. The multipage PDF I exported to Microsoft Excel didn’t import a green header row or row shading (then again, neither did Acrobat X Pro).
Perfect for Basic PDF Tasks
Still, for basic PDF creation and editing, PDF Converter does a perfectly adequate job. You can add notes, create forms, and password-protect files, of course. For those functions and many more, you can get work done about as easily as you can with Acrobat X Pro. And if you don’t need SharePoint integration or redaction capability, you can opt for Nuance’s PDF Converter Pro 7, which omits those features but costs just $99.
So then the question becomes, do you really need Acrobat X Pro to accomplish all of your PDF tasks, or can you get by with PDF Converter Enterprise 7 (or one of either product’s variants)? If price were no object, there’s really no question–Acrobat X is a more capable, more polished product. But if you’re trying to squeeze your nickels or your PDF tasks are modest, PDF Converter Enterprise 7 is a good choice.