Friday, May 1, 2009

Comparison of Free PDF to Word Services

Our Free PDF to Word service has been public for about 6 months now. Although this in and of itself is pretty neat, this kind of service isn't that uncommon.

What is uncommon about our free service is that it produces extremely accurate conversions to Word. Although you can obviously see this yourself with your own files (again, for free) comparing our free service to another free service in this post is informative.

One such service, Zamzar, has been offering free (among other file conversions) PDF to Word conversions for some time now, albeit with a few problems in the resulting Word files.

We've used a sample [PDF] from E&E Publishing which when converted demonstrates several differences between Zamzar's free PDF to Word conversions and our own. Some of the issues include:

1. Text Flow

Conversions from Zamzar always put converted text inside text boxes. This works very well for a few specific kinds of documents (e.g. invoices, forms, flyers) but is problematic when you need to make significant changes to a document.

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For most documents using our default reconstruction mode that we describe as "Flowing" is much better. This creates documents the way you'd normally create them in Word and allow you to add or remove sections naturally. Add a paragraph and text below it will "flow" down, remove one and the text will flow up and fill in the missing space.

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2. Images

If you're going to convert a PDF file to Word, you obviously want the images to look the same in the Word DOC as in the PDF file.

Although this isn't always possible (for example, CMYK images in a PDF file must be converted to RGB in Word) it is possible in most cases to get a very similar result in Word.

Our software does a great job of this, as you can see below:

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Unfortunately the result from Zamzar has a significant reduction in image quality:

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3. Tables

Putting tabular information into tables makes reformatting them much easier than putting them into text boxes.

Our Free PDF to Word site detects tables and makes real tables in the converted result:

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Unfortunately Zamzar does not:

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4. Rotated Text

Rotated text is a tricky feature to get right, but when you do it can make your result in Word much easier to repurpose:

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Zamzar puts rotated text into multiple staggered text boxes, which unfortunately in this case may be worse than simply not converting it at all:

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Zamzar offers a great service and we suggest people take a look at them when they need to convert one of the many file formats they support. However, for PDF to Word conversion we've found that our service does a better job and suggest that you see for yourself.