Thursday, May 21, 2009

Headers and Footers in Free PDF to Word Services

Earlier this month we compared the conversion quality of Free PDF to Word and Zamzar. Although we touched on many features our service supports, one that we didn't explore was detecting and creating headers and footers when converting PDF files to Word.

In case you haven't used them before, headers and footers are located near the tops and bottoms of a document in Microsoft Word, typically outside the margins of a document. They are usually the same in an entire document, although it is possible to use different headers and footers for different sections. To create or modify them simply double click near the top or bottom margins of a document in Word.

The full extent of how to work with them is outside the scope of this blog post, but a Google search for headers and footers will likely get you the information you need.

Why Headers and Footers Matter

Surprisingly, few Word documents that customers send us make use of headers and footers (Apparently manually correcting each page number is fun for people. Or they're paid by the hour).

In short, headers and footers allow you to make a change and have it reflect in the rest of the document. Unlike styles (another way to manage large documents in Word), they are really easy to use and can quickly save you time when you create or modify a document.

A good example of this is when the company you work for is bought out by another company and you need to quickly update a document [pdf] with a new logo.

Once you've converted the document to Word using Free PDF to Word simply open the header and copy and paste the image into your favorite image editor:

Make the changes you need and then copy and paste the result back:

This change is reflected in other parts of the document. Given that this particular document is over 20 pages long, the time saved is very noticeable.

One nice side affect of detecting and creating headers and footers when converting from PDF to Word is that the result is smaller. In this case the result from Free PDF to Word is about 1/10th the size of the result from Zamzar (357KB vs 3900KB).

What Zamzar does with Headers and Footers

When converting a PDF file to Word, headers and footers are placed in the body of the document. In their converted result of the example document you can see that the entire background has been placed as one large flat image that cannot be separately easily:

Changing the header and footer in this case requires making the same change to almost all the pages in the document.

Not using headers and footers also makes it harder to add pages to existing documents. If you add a page break to a converted Word DOC from Zamzar the result will be a blank page:

Doing the same thing with the result from our Free PDF to Word service results in a page with the same header and footer as the page above it:

Page numbers in the rest of the document are also updated automatically with the result from Free PDF to Word. Unfortunately the result from Zamzar requires manually changing each page number if you add or remove pages.


In this case the result from Zamzar looks very nice. If you only have to correct individual lines of text their result is quite usable.

If however you need to make significant changes to the document their converted result requires large amounts of manual corrections. When this is the case using the result from Free PDF to Word will save you time and hassle. We encourage you to try this for yourself and let us know what you think.

Credits, fine print, etc.

Thanks to GlassFish for hosting the document we used as an example. Thanks to Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart of Sun for making the document in the first place. We are not affiliated with Sun, GlassFish or Oracle.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.