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4/29/2010
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Jake Widman
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Foxit, Solid Documents Release New PDF Tools

Two new programs for working with PDF files have become available this week. Foxit Phantom PDF (for Windows) is for creating and manipulating PDF files, while Solid PDF to Word for Mac is for turning PDF files into documents editable by standard office programs.

Two new programs for working with PDF files have become available this week. Foxit Phantom PDF (for Windows) is for creating and manipulating PDF files, while Solid PDF to Word for Mac is for turning PDF files into documents editable by standard office programs.Version 2.0 of the all-in-one Foxit Phantom PDF Suite adds the ability to work with multiple files at once, such as batch converting several to PDF. You can save the result as separate PDF files or as a single merged PDF. You can also create a new PDF file directly from within the suite, rather than going through the usual process of creating a document in some external application and converting it to PDF.

One way to populate that new PDF document would be to scan pages into it. That's another feature supported by the new version -- direct scanning to a PDF file, rather than scanning to a graphics file and then importing it.

The program also offers other ways to add content to a file, including video and audio. And if a reviewer wants to comment on several instances of the same issue, they can now just type the annotation once and copy and past it elsewhere.

The suite, which supports Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (full requirements here) starts at $129 per license for 1-4 users, with the first year of support free ($29 per year per user thereafter). Current users of Phantom PDF Suite 1.x are entitled to a free upgrade at least through the end of the month.

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Besides creating PDF files, businesses sometimes need to "un-create" them -- to turn them back into editable documents. That's the purpose of Solid Documents' lineup of PDF tools, which now includes Solid PDF to Word for Mac, the company's first Mac product. Solid PDF to Word does exactly what you'd expect from the name: it converts a PDF document to a Microsoft Word or related format. Conversion options include .docx Word format, plain text, Rich Text Format, HTML, .xlsx Excel format, and .csv. The company also claims conversion to Apple Pages format, but that isn't an option in the trial version I downloaded.

In addition to choosing the output format, you can also choose the approach to conversion. "Continuous" reconstruction recovers text formatting, graphics, and text flow but does not attempt to retain layout; "flowing" reconstruction retains page layout and columns as well; and "exact" reconstruction uses Word text boxes to recover the complete page layout as well as possible.

A quick test with the trial version reveals a lot of potential difficulties with the conversion process. Primarily, there's no word recognition, so if there's uneven spacing in the PDF file, the converted Word file will have passages like "An e a gle so aring." Users will have to balance the amount of work involved in cleaning up the text versus the need to preserve the layout -- in many cases it may be easier to just copy and paste the text out of the PDF.

Solid PDF to Word requires Leopard or Snow Leopard and costs $60, with a free trial version available.

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