Low-Cost PDF Alternatives

IT managers who don't want to fork over $449 for Adobe's Acrobat 8 Professional should consider lower-priced alternatives.

Users have relied on Adobe Systems Acrobat Professional for years, not only for its PDF creation capabilities but also for its workflow and collaboration functionality. For users who only need to create and convert PDF documents, though, there is little reason to shell out the $449 for Adobes Acrobat 8 Professional.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of Acrobat 8 Professional.

As IT managers begin to think about and plan their Microsoft Office 2007 deployments, they should also remember that Microsoft offers a free downloadable plug-in that introduces PDF creation capabilities to the office productivity suite.

But there are also plenty of PDF alternatives on the market that dont require the $679 for an Office 2007 Ultimate license. These range from free applications, such as CutePDF (www.cutepdf.com) and PrimoPDF (www.primopdf.com), to $99 converters, such as Nuance Communications ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 4 and ABBYY Softwares ABBYY PDF Transformer Pro 2.0.

eWEEK Labs installed both ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 4 and ABBYY PDF Transformer Pro 2.0 on a Toshiba Tecra A8 notebook to see how they compared with Acrobat 8 Professional.

Both ABBYY PDF and ScanSoft PDF can be used to create and convert PDFs with minimal hassle. The programs feature tool bars that are accessible from Microsoft Office 2003 and earlier. Both applications also work with any program that prints.


There are, however, some differences between ABBYY PDF and ScanSoft PDF and between the two apps and Acrobat 8 Professional that IT managers should keep in mind.

PDF conversion using ABBYY PDF took longer than with ScanSoft PDF or with Acrobat 8 Professional, but the utility handled the task of converting PDFs into Microsoft Word or Excel, HTML and .txt formats fairly well. The program also added the ability to create PDFs directly from Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Visio.

ABBYY PDF has a good set of security tools, including the ability to password protect a PDF and to limit another users ability to edit or make comments on a PDF.

PDF conversion with ScanSoft, on the other hand, was relatively quick, and the converted documents retained more formatting than either ABBYY PDF or, in many cases, Acrobat 8 Professional.

ScanSoft PDF also offers the ability to drag and drop files in multiple formats and then merge the files into a single PDF file, and we could create WAV files from our PDF documents using a text-to-speech tool in the software.

As in Acrobat 8 Professional, it is possible to scan a static PDF form with ScanSoft PDF and let the software identify the blanks on the form so they can be filled in.

While ScanSoft PDF offers more advanced features than ABBYY PDF, it lacks Acrobat 8 Professionals ability to allow users to review and comment on documents using Adobe Reader. It also lacks Acrobat 8 Professionals integrated Web conferencing capabilities.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on image editing and Web publishing tools.