Software Review: Converting PDFs to Almost Any Format

Feb. 7, 2008
Need to quickly and easily turn PDFs into different file formats?

You might appreciate deskUNPDF Professional V2.0 software. The program lets users convert PDFs to Word for editing, HTML for Web presentation, Excel for recalculations, and — interestingly — to formats based on the OpenDocument Format (ODF) standard, an ISO technical specification that includes “open” alternatives to the familiar DOC, XLS, and PPT file extensions. These alternatives include ODT for text documents, ODS for spreadsheets, and ODP for presentations. Here, “open” means the standard can be used in developing any kind of software application — whether free, open source, or commercial.

According to the developer, deskUNPDF is the only commercially available PDF-to-ODT converter. So it is potentially of interest to those working in applications that provide ODT as a default file extension, such as OpenOffice and IBM Lotus Symphony (both are free to download, use, and distribute) as well as Google Docs, which provides a free way to save, share, and edit documents online. ODF is said to be increasingly used worldwide by businesses and governments as their default document format.

There has been a lot of buzz lately on interoperability, and “openness” can be considered an important component of it. So, I decided to test deskUNPDF’s ODT conversions. The tests would involve creating PDF files from a highly graphic, heavily formatted Web page, and a simple Word document, converting them to ODT files, and then uploading them to Google Docs.

I downloaded a free trial of the converter at Next came downloading IBM Lotus Symphony. This was necessary to view or edit converted files because users must have native applications installed on their local machine. For example, to turn a PDF into an OTD requires installing Symphony, or a similar program that provides OTD as a default file extension. I already have Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional, so it was not necessary to download a program to generate PDFs.

Next, I generated a PDF of the Machine Design Web site. I started deskUNPDF, checked the Open Office box, and then opened the PDF in the converter. After saving the file as an ODT, the converter’s results were almost identical to the PDF. But in uploading everything to Google Docs, I lost all the document’s formatting, which suggests limited support for ODT in Google Docs. In contrast, converting a PDF of the Word document and uploading the OTD hardly changed the document at all.

Overall — leaving the online application aside — the converter works quite well. Usually, all that is needed is to select the output format, open the PDF document, and click the Convert button. However, advanced options are available. A Preview function lets users see how converted documents will look, highlighting the text, font size, and format of each page to be converted. In addition, a new batch function is said to let organizations quickly convert PDF archives to ODF.

The software comes f rom Docudesk Corp., 7160 N. Dallas Pkwy., Suite 530, Plano, TX 75024,

—Leslie Gordon

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