Turn PDF files into editable documents

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Software is easy to use but can take time'lots of it

The Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format standard is a great way to share information, but it has its limits. For example, how can users easily extract and edit the in- formation they receive in PDF files?

The Abbyy PDF Transformer from Abbyy Software can take those static PDF files and turn them into editable Microsoft Word or Excel documents. This means no more retyping and no more awkward copy-and-paste exercises for folks who work with a lot of PDFs.

In the GCN Lab's test, the program in- stalled without a hitch. Once on a system, you can begin a transformation several ways. Programs such as Word will have an extra button called PDF Transformer. When you click on that button, you can open up a PDF as if you were opening a Word file.

Alternately, from your main desktop or wherever you store PDFs, if you right click on a PDF file one of the options will be to transform it. When you select this option, the document will begin the transformation into Word, Excel, text or HTML format.

Depending on the speed of your system, this transformation can take a while. A 60-page PDF took almost 10 minutes to transform on an older 500-MHz system. Even on a top-of-the-line 3-GHz system, transformation could still take several minutes.

The transformation was not 100 percent perfect, but it was close. As a test document we used a press kit given to reporters when the new Iraqi government was seated. Overall the text translated fine, including the long names of some of the ministers. But the map of Iraq shrank considerably.

Aside from minor formatting issues, one of the main reasons the PDF Transformer is so accurate is that optical character recognition is part of the process. In addition to simply moving text, the program also scans the document with OCR technology, using fuzzy logic to compensate for less-than-perfect OCR results.

No hacker tool

The PDF Transformer also works with standard PDF security features. If a document is password-protected, the password must be entered. You can't use the program to get around security.

That said, the PDF Transformer does enable one good workaround. If you have a Word file of several megabytes, you could convert it into a PDF file and perhaps cut the size to less than one megabyte. In its PDF format, you could more easily FTP or e-mail the document, and the receiver could convert the PDF back into a large Word file if he chose.

Because PDF Transformer works within the Acrobat security framework, it is not a hacker tool. The software is a worthwhile tool for almost any office, especially those that deal with large numbers of PDFs.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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