Two new $99 programs from Nuance and ABBYY take dead aim at Adobe’s $499 Acrobat Professional and offer to do nearly the same thing for much less. (Note: PDF stands for “portable document format” and means that any digital image saved in that format will look the same on a screen or in print regardless

PDF Converter 4 of the kind of computer you are using or the software it was created with.) The two programs create PDFs and convert existing PDFs into editable documents.
Nuance’s PDF Converter Professional 4 did a great job of duplicating a complex newsletter layout. Holding onto the formatting while making a PDF editable throws many PDF programs for a loop, so this was a big plus. On the minus side, we tried to convert an accounting PDF document into a Word or Excel file, and while it preserved the formatting and text perfectly, it left out the numbers. That was a pretty big minus.

Next we turned to ABBYY, which has long been our favorite maker of OCR products, software that makes any scanned page of text editable. It can also convert a document to HTML code, which can be posted directly to the Web. ABBYY’s PDF Transformer 2.0 Pro did a terrible job of preserving the layout and formatting of our test newsletter. But it did a fantastic job preserving everything in the accounting document.

Acrobat ProOften, people want a PDF document to be searchable by key words, using just the free Acrobat Reader. Both programs can handle this, but the ABBYY program is the first utility in its class that translates static, image-only PDF files into searchable PDFs in one step. Nuance can also convert text into speech, by the way, enabling PDFs to be published as podcasts.

The Nuance program allows readers to collaborate on a document; ABBYY does not. You can send a PDF to colleagues and they can highlight passages, cross out words, stamp things “confidential” and type in comments that appear PDF Transformer 2in colored call-out boxes. This is similar to Adobe’s Acrobat Professional 7. The recipient of a PDF from either program can view all of your comments, highlight passages, etc., and needs nothing more than the free Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded from Adobe.

What’s a user to do? Well, all the programs discussed here have free trial versions, so you can try them out and see which is best for your purposes. You can find out more and get those trial versions at

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