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Review: Attack Of The PDF Clones

New versions of inexpensive PDF converters offer credible alternatives to Adobe's Acrobat.
ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3

Nitro PDF, ScanSoft's PDF Converter Professional 3 is positioned to compete with Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Standard, rather than Acrobat Pro. But while Nitro PDF focuses exclusively on creating and editing PDFs, PDF Converter Professional 3 has a broader range of functions, including the ability to convert from PDF to DOC, WPF, RTF, and XLS formats, and a handy single-click process that lets you fill out any PDF form.


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PDF Converter Professional is available for $99 as a download from ScanSoft or in standard retail packaging. Either way, the software must be activated online for uninterrupted usage. In addition to the main application, the setup installs two other modules, PDF Create! Assistant and PDF Converter Assistant. PDF Create! Assistant lets you batch-convert selected files and file types to PDF, while PDF Converter Assistant handles file conversions from PDF, and can be used to tweak file settings prior to converting. Some of these functions can be performed from within the main program as well.

In my tests, PDF Converter Professional matched Nitro PDF's speed and proficiency when it came to creating and modifying PDF files. In fact, the programs offer remarkably similar toolsets, security, and collaboration tools, and even many of the same menu choices.

Of the two, however, PDF Converter Professional has the better overall design. For example, besides placing the expected sets of PDF-conversion buttons in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, PDF Converter Professional adds several convenient commands to the standard Windows menus of those applications. Under the Edit menu, for instance, there's an option for opening a PDF file (selecting it automatically launches PDF Converter Assistant to handle the conversion from PDF). The program's FormTyper function, which lets users fill out PDF forms, works like a charm and can be a true timesaver in any office environment. The application also provides abundant onboard help and a Quick Reference Guide, compared with Nitro PDF's paltry level of assistance.

Interestingly, both programs offer the same useless selection of clip art, and rely on a clip art folder to hold images for insertion into a PDF. (What' s wrong with having a simple Insert/Browse command?) Moreover, while both programs have Crop functions, neither offers a straightforward Cut option. I also found the text-editing in both applications awkward to use: Both edit by the line, rather than by the word (although it is easy to edit individual words within larger selections). Also, the ScanSoft product, like Nitro PDF, does not automatically convert Web pages to PDF.

Still, these are relatively minor annoyances. With its full-strength cross conversion features, comprehensive onboard help, and very useful PDF form-filling capability, ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3 is both an able competitor to Adobe Acrobat Standard and the low-cost PDF converter to beat.


ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3
ScanSoft, Inc.
www.scansoft.com
Price: $99
Summary: Despite its low price, ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3 is a well-designed PDF converter with a surprisingly robust feature set.