Tag Archives: Acrobat

The Lost Art of Clipping

(This is a copy of my Loose Wire Sevice column, produced for newspapers and other print publications.)

By Jeremy Wagstaff

One of the lingering peculiarities of the web is that it’s not easy to save any of it.

This is somewhat weird. You’d think we’d have figured out that this was something people wanted to do quite a lot: If you like something you see or read, surely it’s a natural enough thing to do to want to keep a copy of it somewhere?

Back in the days of newspapers, we’d be clipping things all the time. We had a whole department at the BBC doing just that; if I needed background on Laos, say, I’d call up our secretary who would call up someone else who would magically deliver me a buff folder containing all the newspaper clippings on Laos. I felt like I was in MI5.

Nowadays we’ve got Google. Or if we’ve got the budget, Lexis Nexis or Factiva. But what about if we want to do the clipping ourselves?

Well, there are options. None is perfect.

First off, there’s Evernote, which you’ve heard me talk about before. For Windows and Mac users, it does an excellent job of saving anything you ask it to, whether it’s text or a screenshot.

(Tip for Windows users: Don’t bother with the new beta version of the software, which is not good. Go with the old one until they get their act together.)

But Evernote is by no means perfect. You’ve still got to select the text, or the bit of screen you want to save. And this can be fiddly, because most web pages now are optimized for ads, not reading, so the chances are that just dragging a mouse over the text in question will include all sorts of detritus you don’t want.

In which case, try a browser bookmark called Readability (free from lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/). When you visit a page you want to save—or part of which you want to save—click on the Readability button and all the detritus will disappear, leaving just the main article on the page. It’s great for saving stuff, but also worth using if you’re having problems reading web pages cluttered with ads and other bits of nonsense.

(It does a remarkably good job of this, but it does sometimes leave out important bits, such as the date of the articles, material which I find useful to save.)

Another weakness of Evernote is that it assumes you want to save all this material to one big database. Most times we do, but sometimes I find I am just saving bits and pieces for a specific task or project and would rather keep them all in one place separately.

Another weakness of Evernote is that it assumes that what you’re clipping stuff only from the web. While it will let you drag other material into Evernote using the mouse, or the clipper application, Evernote is aimed primarily at users of the browser.

But if we’re gathering material we’re probably gathering them from other sources too, such as Acrobat PDF files, or Word or Excel files.

If that’s your game, then I’d recommend a new tool called Topicgrazer. From the makers of Topicscape, a 3D mind mapping-file organizing application, Topicgrazer simply grabs everything you choose to copy to the Windows clipboard, and stuff it in one text file, with links to the files or wepages the material came from.

It’s a simple but powerful tool, and works remarkably well. Even things that are notoriously difficult to copy, such as spreadsheet cells, handle well. It’s not the most beautiful of apps, nor the most customizable, but it’s surprisingly good. Topicgrazer costs $10 from Topicscape.com.

Another tool I really like for its simplicity is something called CintaNotes. CintaNotes does something similar to Topicgrazer—one keystroke saving whatever you have selected in whatever application–but instead of copying it into one document, it creates separate entries, where the title is the name of the file, or the webpage.

CintaNotes also saves the source of the material as a link. CintaNotes is free from cintanotes.com, and was put together by a 29-year old native of Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk called Alex Jenter.

Where it differs from Topicgrazer, and where it comes closer to Evernote, is that it saves all these entries in a chronological roll, one after the other. And like Evernote it lets you add tags. In fact, it’s a bit like Evernote’s younger sibling.

But maybe that’s its strength. Evernote is intended to capture everything you might ever want to capture. CintaNotes, though powerful, is perhaps best used as a specialiist cabinet, where you just keep stuff that is specific to one project. It loads faster than Evernote, and doesn’t take up much space, so you might find it more to your liking if you’re not a serial clipper.

There are other tools out there. Some folk just copy and email themselves stuff they like the look of, and there are add-ons for Firefox and Chrome to help you do this. The Opera browser has its own note-taking application, which works well—so long as you only want to save stuff from the web.

I don’t think any of these applications help in one regard: highlighting and annotating text. Perhaps it exists, but I’ve not yet found an application that lets you add highlight to text you find, and add your own notes in a seamless (and easily retrievable) way. After all, that’s what we’d do with those newspaper clippings of old: We’d highlight the bits that were relevant, and could rarely resist scrawling our own comments in the margin.

There are other bits of our clipping past I’d like to recreate: The feel, the smell, the atmosphere of those little scissored flakes of newsprint, carefully layered in those buff folders. Even if the clip was only a few weeks old, you couldn’t help feel you were somehow handling a slice of history. The mere act of cutting out the article, stamping it with the date, and adding it to a folder lent it importance, reverence, that Evernote and its ilk don’t quite capture.

Maybe it’s too much to ask, but I’d love to get a bit of that back.

Serial Number Killers

image

I’ve been mulling the issue of registering and activating software of late, and while I feel users generally are less averse to the process of having to enter a serial number or activating a program before they can use it than before, I think there’s still a lot of frustration out there.

And I know from clients that it’s a balancing act between upsetting users and not encouraging those who seem unable or unwilling to pay to have a free ride.

It seems to me to boil down to this: Users who have paid for software expect to be able to use it out of the box. It would be like taking a bread maker home and having to call the manufacturer before you can start making bread.

What’s more, customers shouldn’t have to cope with silly technical problems that aren’t their fault. The example above is from my efforts to test Adobe’s latest version of Acrobat. The initial installation failed, and now it’s blocking the legitimate serial number it previously accepted—on the same machine. I still haven’t found a way around this problem, so my ardour for things Adobe has diminished a little.

The problem is that it’s fixable. I can yell at Adobe and hopefully I’ll get another serial number. But that’s not going to happen now—when I need it. It’s going to happen in 24, 48, 72 hours’ time. By which time I may feel like a mug for buying the software in the first place.

Here’s a possible solution: An automated temporary serial number that will work until a proper serial number can be available. This could be delivered online—say, a bot on IM, where you enter the serial number that’s not working and get issued a temporary one that does. Or a product could come with two serial numbers, one a permanent one and one a backup one.

Once customer service comes online and fixes the problem, the emergency serial number can be deactivated. As it lasts only for, say, 48 hours it would be relatively worthless to pirates. It will also push software companies to ensure they get back to frustrated customers within the allotted time or risk further wrath.

Either way, software manufacturers have got to make it easy for users to get around the limitations, and frailties, of the registration and activation process. Users should never be left in the lurch for even an hour if they’re a legitimate customer. It’s up to the software companies to address this issue. Perhaps something like this already exists, but if not I think an emergency serial number might be an answer.

Confessions of a PDF Hater

There’s a lot of discussion about the ongoing spat between Microsoft and Adobe over whether Microsoft will be able to install PDF/Acrobat support in its next version of Office. This should be as straightforward as PDF support in OpenOffice — where you can choose to save (well, print, technically speaking) a file as an Acrobat PDF. But it’s not. Allowing a niche, free, office suite like OpenOffice to add this for free is one thing, but for the market giant Microsoft — who are preparing a PDF rival, XPS — to do it is another. So as things stand at the moment, Office users will be abe to have PDF support, but not out-of-the-box: They’ll have to install it as a download plug-in. Not too arduous, but as comments on the blog of Brian Jones, Microsoft’s Program Manager, suggest, a lot of folk won’t do that.

Everyone’s talking about this issue, blaming Microsoft, blaming Adobe, but no one seems to be asking a question I’ve been mulling for years: Why are Adobe Acrobat files so hard to use, and the Adobe programs to make and maniuplate them so darned user unfriendly? I’ve been using Acrobat reader and Acrobat for years, and each version I hope is going to be a little more intuitive and easier to understand. And yet every time I try to do something a little bit different or more complicated than simply saving a file or extracting a line of text I run into problems.

I’ve found no straightforward, wizard-type way to tweak a saved file to balance reduced file size with reduced quality of images. This means that I — and I’m sure lots of other folk, including a friend of mine who yesterday received a PDF file from a major international organisation that was 7 MB in size, had Chinese characters that appeared as gibberish on her screen — can’t easily use what should be the most powerful features in what should be a great program.

And don’t get me started on the naff way that the Adobe Reader includes a promo for the Yahoo! Toolbar — how low do you have to stoop? — and, next to it, a helpful search box. How many people have entered text in that box thinking it’s to search the active PDF document, only to find that it’s actually a Yahoo! search box?

Acrobat2

Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that it looks remarkably similar to the Adobe “find” box that appears if you hit Control+f:

Acrobat3

It’s telling that most of the best PDF tools are not actually Adobe’s at all, but simple PDF makers that bypass the whole Acrobat maker process. (My list of these programs is here, although it needs some updating. Here’s a free PDFCreator which will allow you to print to PDF from any Windows program.)

Sure, PDFs are great for the security measures they build in, and they have definitely changed the way people exchange and collaborate over documents. But usability has not improved. So if Microsoft or anyone can come up with a better format that’s easier to work with, I’m all for it.

Social Acrobats

You’ve got social bookmark sharing, photo sharing, now you’ve got social Acrobat file sharing: Yummy! Personal PDF Library.

Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it might have its uses. I just can’t think of any right now.

Oh, and it’s brought to you by the guys behind Print(fu), which will turn a PDF file into printed book.

Another Way To Clean Up Text

I’m a huge fan of Text Monkey, a small program which allows you to clean up text copied from elsewhere. It’s a godsend, but it’s not the only one out there. Text Cleanup does the same thing, but also cleans up Acrobat PDF files, particularly

all the extra line breaks that Acrobat puts in, and restor[ing] the paragraphs to what they were originally.

Text Cleanup costs $25. Text Monkey Pro costs $30 but also comes in a lite version for free, with many of the features of the fully paid up version.

The PaperPort View

Further to my column in this week’s WSJ.com/AWSJ on PaperPort Pro and PaperMaster Pro, here are some e-mailed answers from Bob Anderson (ScanSoft Regional Director Asia Pacific and Japan) in response to my questions about PaperPort Pro:

1) What are the improvements in version 10 (PaperPort Professional 10) over previous versions?

A) Faster and easier folder navigation with Bookmark Workspaces and Split Desktop. Bookmark Workspaces allow you to bookmark your most widely used folders and quickly jump back to them when you need them. Using the Split Desktop you can also look into two folders at once to move files quickly and easily between them or to simply compare the contents of two folders at the same time.

B) A new All-in-One Search Engine and Index Manager for faster and more flexible indexing of scanned files and faster retrieval of documents you search.

C) PDF Support

a) PDF Create! PaperPort includes the capability to create PDF files from all of your MS Office documents or any other PC application with PDF Create! – just like Adobe® Acrobat®. PDF has emerged as the universal standard for sharing and archiving documents and images. The PDF format lets you send any document or image to anyone, regardless of whether they use a PC or a Macintosh® computer, and they can view and print the file – exactly as it looked on your computer – without the need to have the application that was used to create the original file. Now, there is no need to buy any additional PDF creating software – PaperPort 10 Professional does everything you need.

b) PDF Combine, Stack, Drag&Drop, Cut, Paste and Delete Manipulating PDF files is easier. Accelerates the creation and assembly of custom documents by mimicking the way you work with paper documents. Easily add or remove pages, reorder them or create new documents with drag and drop tools that making working with electronic documents as simple as working with actual paper documents on your desktop.

c) PDF Security PaperPort protects your information by allowing you to set security options for individual documents. Keep your content locked down by requiring a password to view or print sensitive information.

d) PageViewer PDF Rendering – Resolution Adjustable Customise the view on your desktop by increasing or decreasing the resolution of graphics in PageViewer mode to optimise PaperPort’s performance to suit your needs.

D) Superior document assembly capabilities that make working with digital documents as easy as working with real paper by using automatic conversion to PDF, Page Thumbnails and the Split Desktop. Page Thumbnails allow you to cut, copy, paste, delete and rearrange the pages of a PDF document. You may drag whole documents of ANY format (print capable) into the Page Thumbnails of a PDF document. The ability to assemble documents as easily as dragging pages or documents from one document to another is greatly enhanced by the Split Desktop that allows you to merge documents across two different folders.

E) Faster and more productive scanning with a new scanner interface that provides for “One-click Scanning” and “Batch Scanning” capabilities

F) PaperPort SET tools (Scanner Enhancement Technology) are on the desktop for fast document image corrections. The PaperPort SET Tools allow you to rotate, auto-straighten, convert document colours, adjust image colour, hue, etc. all with a right-click on any image document.

G) Unparalleled ease-of-use and accessibility to PDF creation functions, including password protection, integrated throughout PaperPort and popular Microsoft applications.

2) What kind of users, and usage, are you aiming at? Do you have any interesting customer stories about how they’ve used PP, or perhaps your own experience?

We are looking to provide comprehensive desktop document management solutions for individual knowledge workers in the small business marketplace or for functional workgroups in large organisations.

A) Document Management – Anyone that wants to eliminate the use of paper as their primary means of storage and retrieval will become more organised using their computer and PaperPort. This includes home, home office and any business application that currently relies on a paper process and is looking for a way to organise, find and share information more easily and efficiently.

B) Scan-to-Desktop – With the proliferation of network multifunction and digital copier devices, scanning has really become a mainstream business function. PaperPort Professional helps millions of professionals to eliminate paper and to streamline the way they work with all of their documents. With PaperPort, you can easily scan using any connected or networked scanning device including flatbed, All-in-One and Multi-Function Devices. PaperPort supports WIA, TWAIN and ISIS scanner drivers as well as important industry-standard formats including PDF, TIFF and MAX. Its unique ability to work with desktop, network and departmental scanners and even digital copiers make it an invaluable productivity application for organisations of all sizes. Users can e-mail, fax or send documents to repositories on a networked file server with a simple drag-and-drop.

We have many interesting customer case studies that are attached as separate files.

3) This kind of product has, in my view, remained quite niche. People still appear to be somewhat resistant to the idea of committing their paper to a scanner. Is this true, and if not, do you have any statistics to support your view? If it is the case, how are you going about convincing users to change their habits?

Document scanning adoption is increasing as improved, affordable networked multi-function and workgroup/departmental devices penetrate new market segments. Recent research by organisations such as Gartner Group and IDC shows that the adoption of scanners – particularly in the enterprise in a networked environment – has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Multi-function devices and networked or departmental scanners with automatic document feeders is the fastest growing segment for scanner manufacturers, growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent a year (source: Gartner) while colour multifunction devices are experiencing double digit growth. These scanners are being used primarily for document scanning (rather than photo scanning as may have been the case in the past), and e-mailing attachments has become more commonplace than faxing paper documents. As these devices continue to grow in popularity, so does the need for document management software such as PaperPort that allows people to not only get paper into a PC, but also to organise, find and share that information once it is in a digital environment.

The popularity of document management software also becomes particularly evident when we look at our customer base – nearly 4 million people use PaperPort, and say that, after e-mail, it is the application that they use most on their PC. We do recognise that we will likely never see a truly “paperless office,” but there is indeed a need for document management software such as PaperPort that allows digital and paper information to coexist and work together more efficiently.

According to Keith Kmetz, program director, Hardcopy Peripherals Solutions and Services, IDC, “The proliferation of network multifunction and digital copier devices, combined with intuitive applications such as PaperPort, has finally made document scanning a mainstream business function. Products like PaperPort Professional 10 give organisations the ability to deliver the benefits of scanning, PDF and document assembly to every business desktop.”

4) Where do you see the future of this kind of product? Is it going to morph into other products that index users’ documents (Desktop Search, etc), and do you see any combination of products like PP and voice recognition? After all, character recognition and voice recognition would appear to be cousins, and ScanSoft have strong footprints in both areas.

PaperPort is an environment to manage all kinds of documents. Scanning, document assembly and desktop search are all critical components in the document management lifecycle. PaperPort All-in-One search is already a comprehensive desktop search tool allowing you to search all scanned paper, image and text document types including PDF.

So where in managing documents do our customers need the most improvements to increase their productivity and find value in the next version of PaperPort? Voice recognition is definitely an area of growth as the accuracy of the technology allows for greater acceptance. Document collaboration, distribution and the effective use of multifunction devices are all areas where there is still significant opportunity for improvement and productivity. More and more multifunction devices are replacing single purpose machines making scanned documents more accessible and therefore the tools to manage those documents at the desktop are in greater demand.

With regards to the character and voice recognition, ScanSoft’s optical character recognition (OCR) technology can be used to create an index of a document by converting the ‘picture’ of the textual information within a document into computer text. Similarly, ScanSoft’s AudioMining technology can be used to create XML speech indexes of every spoken word contained in an audio and video file; in short, AudioMining does to audio and video what OCR does to a document. For the enterprise, particularly in industries where recording telephone calls is a requirement (such as banking, insurance, etc), AudioMining can be used to jump directly to a specific location in a conversation. Public Web users could also benefit when searching for training videos, research talks at universities, government hearings and news conferences, etc.

5) The PP interface hasn’t changed much in a decade, arguably. Is this version a major GUI revamp, or are you sticking with what you have?

I’d say we accomplished a lot of both. We have a very large user base that is quite familiar with the features and functions of the program that are directly tied to the easy-to-use interface. We wanted to make changes that specifically enhance the productivity of document assembly, search, PDF creation, password protection and management to further the concept of “electronic paper” without compromising where our customers have already found significant value.

Also worth noting is that PaperPort is available in multiple languages in both Western and now in Asian language versions. ScanSoft added Chinese (Traditional & Simplified), Japanese & Korean with OCR in the native language to the product line-up during the later half of 2004. The Asian version is coming to market through our various customers including OEM, licensees and general distribution partners

6) Why is one not able to preview documents in thumbnail view (in other words, being able to see all pages of the document in thumbnail, while being able to see full size preview of a page in the same window by clicking on one of the thumbnails), a feature common in other programs as far back as 1998? I’ve always felt this to be a key weakness in PP.

PaperPort 10 features Page Thumbnails on both the PaperPort Desktop and within the PaperPort PageViewer. We have also added significant value to these thumbnails by allowing you to cut, copy, paste, delete and rearrange the pages of a PDF document. You may drag whole documents of ANY format into the page thumbnails of any PDF document for automatic conversion to PDF and easy document assembly (See PaperPort menu item “View:Page Thumbnails”).

7) Another weakness I’ve felt exists has been the OCR. Given ScanSoft’s strengths in this field, why is PP’s inbuilt engine not more powerful?

The features of PaperPort OCR are dedicated to specific tasks within PaperPort and are generally adequate for most business purposes providing an appropriate amount of value for our customers. To enhance the OCR capabilities a customer may add professional OCR speed, accuracy and value by purchasing ScanSoft OmniPage which will automatically upgrade the PaperPort OCR capability.

8) Where does Acrobat/PDF fit into all this? Both you and PaperMaster now support direct-to-PDF scanning, and products like Fujitsu’s ScanSnap use it by default. Is this the way things will go? Have they already snuffed out alternatives? What are the advantages of this, and are there disadvantages? Adobe’s interface, in my view, doesn’t make it easy for users to tweak, annotate or fix PDF files.

The greatest challenge to streamlining document-based processes in business is the fact that there are two incompatible dominant electronic document formats – Microsoft® Word and PDF. Microsoft Word provides professionals with a rich environment for document creation and collaborative authoring but the editable Microsoft Word format is not well suited for electronic publishing and online document storage. Conversely, PDF has expanded from its traditional roots as a design and pre-press tool to an electronic file sharing standard providing business users with a format that is well suited for the distribution, viewing and archiving of documents.

The result is that Microsoft Word is the standard for authoring and editing business documents, while PDF is becoming the preferred way of distributing and sharing business documents online. The pervasiveness of Microsoft Word (400 million) and Adobe® Acrobat® Reader (500 million) gives rise to the need for document management solutions that enable the seamless movement of documents between the two dominant formats.

However, traditional solutions for PDF creation and management, such as Adobe Acrobat, are not priced or designed with the business user in mind. The ScanSoft family of PDF products – PDF Create!, PDF Converter, and PDF Converter Professional 2, address this need by providing business professionals with the ability to more seamlessly move between the two dominant electronic document formats – Microsoft Word and PDF.

We extend this PDF support into PaperPort Professional 10 as well, by including not only Scan-to-PDF and the ability to convert any format to PDF, but also ScanSoft PDF Create!, which allows users to quickly create a PDF from any PC application, or merge multiple files into a PDF. We also continue to support and make available our own internal “PaperPort Image” format as well as supporting TIFF, JPEG, GIF and BMP as long as our customers require these formats. We also believe that a true desktop management system encompasses scanned file formats as well as popular digital application files.

Adobe Opens The Door A Crack?

Wired reports that the upcoming version of Adobe Acrobat Reader — the free version of its authoring software that lets folk read the resulting Portable Document Format, or PDF files — will let “users make comments or editing changes for the first time, if the original creator of the document uses Acrobat 7.0 and authorizes it”.

A more carefully worded version is on Adobe’s website that says that “when enabled by Acrobat 7.0 Professional authors, you can now leverage robust commenting tools and actively participate in document reviews.” What “leverage” means here is anyone’s guess, but it sounds like a weasel word that doesn’t quite mean “access” or “use”. (Interestingly, a longer piece on the PDF Zone makes no mention of this feature.)

Still, if true this is a great idea and long overdue, and while Adobe claims, Wired says, that it’s part of a “larger goal to turn Acrobat into a flexible platform for assembling documents from beginning to end, making it a more useful collaboration tool among workgroups”, it probably has as much to do with the burgeoning industry of third party tools that let folk make and alter Adobe documents quickly and more cheaply than the Adobe Acrobat authoring program allows ($450 for the Pro version, $300 for the Standard edition). If you want everyone in an organisation to use PDF, you can’t expect them all to shell out several hundred bucks just to add a few comments to a document as it passes their desk. (Check out my list of alternative Acrobat software.)

I’m a fan of Acrobat but hate the price, and also the interface, particularly the menus, which look like they’ve been put together by Martians. Adobe is apparently addressing that too, collapsing menu structures, according to TechSpot, “so you don’t have to go out through lots of different hierarchies”. Hear, hear.

I can well understand that Acrobat is great for pushing documents through organisations where lots of people need to throw in their tuppennies’ worth. But I guess for most people what is really needed is a three stage process: a good, clean, intuitive editing environment, a good, clean intuitive commenting environment, and a straightforward document lock-down, where the final document looks the same on all computers, all printers but can, where relevant, be easily accessed and the contents copied and pasted elsewhere. To be honest, I’ve never found any of these stages particularly easy with Acrobat. Is it just me?

Acrobat Converting Software

Here’s a list of services and products that create documents in Adobe’s  “Portable Document Format” (PDF). (Much of this is drawn from Merle’s article on WebProNews)

Software that creates PDF files from other files

  • PDFMoto: A Web publishing system that converts documents you create in any Windows application into PDF. They offer several different versions, so pricing varies, but they do offer a free version that is limited to 50 documents.
  • PDF995 : Free software that allows you to create PDF documents as easily as hitting the “print” key from within any application. The free version has an advertising splash page that comes up everytime you run the program but you can purchase “keys” for $9.95 each to remove them if they bother you.
  • Txt2PDF: a Perl 5 program that converts your old text docs to PDF format. Runs on any platform that supports Perl. From $40.
  • Gymnast: freeware text to PDF creator for Windows.
  • CutePDF Printer: totally free. This software has no annoying ads or banners. Choose print from within any application to create a PDF instantly.
  • Win2PDF: Windows NT, Win 2000 or XP. From $35 to $70.
  • PDFCreator: an open-source project on SourceForge.net, installing as a printer driver. (Thanks cmswire for this one, and pointing to the original story.)
  • pdfFactory: quite advanced PDF creator, including multiple documents into one PDF, preview and font embedding.

Suites that include PDF conversion

The following office suites include PDF printing as part of the standard package:

Other products, such as PaperPort ($100 to $200) and PaperMaster Pro ($200) will allow you to scan or convert a file to PDF as part of the program’s overall document management system.

Online Services

  • Adobe Look in the left hand column for the button that says “create PDF online.” You can create up to five documents free; after that you’ll need to pay $10 a month or $100 per year for unlimited usage.
  • GoBlc Free online conversion service that will email you the results.

Software to convert PDF files

Software that turns an Acrobat file into something you can edit in another program:

  • PDFConverter: converts PDF to Microsoft Word (this won’t work with scanned image PDF files) ($50)
  • OmniPage: converts any kind of PDF file into an Office document; will also scan or convert an existing document into PDF ($600).

Going To PDF And Back

Here’s a list of services and products that create documents in Adobe’s Acrobat “Portable Document Format” (PDF). (Much of this is drawn from Merle’s article on WebProNews)

(This list will be expanded on and updated at loose wire cache, this blog’s more permanent library.)

Software to convert files to PDF

Software that creates PDF files from other files:

PDFMoto: A Web publishing system that converts documents you create in any Windows application into PDF. They offer several different versions, so pricing varies, but they do offer a free version that is limited to 50 documents.

PDF995 : Free software that allows you to create PDF documents as easily as hitting the “print” key from within any application. The free version has an advertising splash page that comes up everytime you run the program but you can purchase “keys” for $9.95 each to remove them if they bother you.

Txt2PDF: a Perl 5 program that converts your old text docs to PDF format. Runs on any platform that supports Perl. From $40.

Gymnast: freeware text to PDF creator for Windows.

CutePDF Printer: totally free. This software has no annoying ads or banners. Choose print from within any application to create a PDF instantly.

Win2PDF: Windows NT, Win 2000 or XP. From $35 to $70.

PDFCreator: an open-source project on SourceForge.net, installing as a printer driver. (Thanks cmswire for this one, and pointing to the original story.)

pdfFactory: quite advanced PDF creator, including multiple documents into one PDF, preview and font embedding.

Suites that include PDF conversion

The following office suites include PDF printing as part of the standard package:

OpenOffice

StarOffice

WordPerfect Office 11

Other products, such as PaperPort ($100 to $200) and PaperMaster Pro ($200) will allow you to scan or convert a file to PDF as part of the program’s overall document management system.

Online Services

Services that

Adobe Look in the left hand column for the button that says “create PDF online.” You can create up to five documents free; after that you’ll need to pay $10 a month or $100 per year for unlimited usage.

GoBlc Free online conversion service that will email you the results.

Software to convert PDF files

Software that turns an Acrobat file into something you can edit in another program

PDFConverter: converts PDF to Microsoft Word (this won’t work with scanned image PDF files) ($50)

OmniPage: converts any kind of PDF file into an Office document; will also scan or convert an existing document into PDF ($600).

News: The Free Version Of Office Is Out

 The free, open source Office suite, OpenOffice, is now officially into version 1.1, including enhancements such as “revolutionary” XML file format, one-click PDF (Adobe Acrobat) export and Macromedia Flash export for presentations and drawings, according to The Register.
 
 
There is is enhanced MS Office file compatibility, accessibility support and a faster load times. Supported languages include English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese (simplified & traditional), Korean and Japanese. Of course, it’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris.