Adobe currently markets three editions of its Acrobat software for creating PDF documents, the cheapest being Acrobat Elements which costs £50 per seat as long as you purchase a minimum licence for 1,000 seats. ScanSoft’s PDF Converter Professional 2, at £50 again, does everything Acrobat Elements can do and a whole more. Far from just being a PDF creation utility, it lets you edit PDFs in Word format – something not even the £395 Acrobat Professional edition can match.
The package is essentially a bundle of ScanSoft’s PDF Create! 2 and PDF Converter 2 utilities. PDF Creator 2 adds a PDF virtual printer to Windows so that you can generate PDF documents from any program through their Print dialogue windows. The installation also adds a PDF Create! menu and toolbar to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, allowing you to produce PDFs with one click. Doing so allows you to preserve clickable internal and Web links, and convert selected style levels to PDF bookmarks.
A new PDF Create! Assistant lets you generate PDFs from multiple source files in multiple formats, batch fashion. ScanSoft has upgraded the PDF generation options themselves to support font embedding, image compression and Acrobat’s 40-bit/128-bit security properties. You can even create the very latest version 1.5 PDFs complete with support for superior JPEG 2000 compression.
The problem with creating PDFs is that it’s a one-way process. Unless you invest in expensive plug-ins and high-end tools, the best that Adobe Acrobat can do to allow PDF content to be edited is to extract its text to RTF format. The PDF Converter 2 utility, the other half of the ScanSoft package, goes the whole hog by converting the entire document, including text, graphics and layout, to Microsoft Word native format.
You can then edit the document as you would any Word file and optionally export it back to PDF when you have finished. Other than the lack of anti-aliased type edges and perhaps some font substitution, the PDF and Word versions of the document look practically identical. Again, the new edition of the utility supports version 1.5 PDFs including those containing layers. It can even recognise Acrobat form layouts so that you can fill in the Word versions on-screen.
The only thing that PDF Converter 2 can’t handle at all is multimedia: embedded movies, sounds and rollovers do not survive the transition to Word format. But then this is not a package targetted at multimedia authors nor those who use PDF as a delivery medium for pre-press. Nor would you use it for collaborative reviewing and commenting; for this, you would need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard 6.0 (which costs over £300). But for the everyday exchange and editing of business documents using PDF and Microsoft Office, PDF Converter Professional 2 is faster, cheaper and simpler.
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