Tech Audit

'Acrobatics' with a Twist--No Adobe

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We tried Adobe Ac­robat in Lotus Notes mail, and it did the job very well. It al­lowed us to take one, some or all of our e-mails and preserve them in an Acrobat file. Attach­ments were also preserved in our limited testing. Similar Acrobat buttons add functionality to Microsoft Office applications.

But with success comes imitators. Do an Internet search of “PDF utilities” and you will find a plethora of Acrobat wannabes. Third party applications that do some of what Acrobat does, or extend what Acrobat does, range in price from free to more than $170. The third party applications tend to focus narrowly, and some beat Acrobat regarding certain functions. Some are low cost enough to merit consideration by the cost conscious.

Acrobat Alternatives

Among the various options to try are:

• Abbyy PDF Transformer 2.0. This is a favorite of ours. Its op­tical character recognition func­tionality is superb. Transformer appears to have the best OCR of any Acrobat imitator, even better than Acrobat itself. We OCR’d a low quality fax with good results.

Drag and drop makes it easy to use. The interface is pleasingly simple. It takes a pre existing PDF and can transform it into a Word or Excel document, HTML, text, RTF (rich text format) or a searchable Ac­robat document. Formatting preservation in Word or in RTF is strong. (We did not test HTML.) And it comes with a utility that will convert Word, rich text, text or HTML into a PDF file.

Transformer is limited regarding the types of files it handles, but its focus enhances its simplicity. At $100 it is an inexpensive, elegant power tool. What it does, it does very well.

• FileCenter 4.0.0. It’s a versatile $150 tool that can be used as a replacement for your Windows Explor­er file browser. It integrates with the search function and directly handles the input of TIFFs, JPGs and several other formats, but not Acrobat.

We did not find a way to save as RTF, or save to Word, or preserve text formatting after OCR, except as part of a PDF.

But the tool is interesting and mer­its a free download trial at filecenterpro features.html. Despite some limitations, it has features that distinguish it from other tools, and a version with fewer features is available for $50.

• The eCopy Desktop. It has a strong interface and great function­ality, and costs $169 per license in packets of five. It is particularly good at creating image stamps. In fact, it’s scary how simple it is to capture a scanned signature and stamp it on just about anything. Its interface permits manipulation and reordering of large groups of images. It handles many formats. And one problem it solved for us is easily taking an image that appears visually within e-mail and turning it into an attachable, named file. But Bates numbering costs extra and eCopy’s printing options are weak.

• Nitro PDF. This claims to be a complete PDF creation and editing solution. It is under $100 and includes Bates numbering and lots of other features. The help file is more than 300 pages. Its printing options are strong. Nitro PDF’s interface is not as simple as eCopy’s, but its power is comparable.

• CutePDF Writer. A free utility, it creates PDF files, and it won’t do much more by itself. But CutePDF Writer Compan­ion claims to add several features such as merge, extract, insert or delete pages, rotate pages and crop pages, and it includes security, headers and Bates numbers.

We did not try Companion; it can be downloaded free with advertising called When U Save. The adware can be avoided by purchasing CutePDF Profession­al for $50. As electronic filing fuels the drive toward a paper free law office, it behooves legal professionals to become literate with digital tools such as Acrobat and its imitators, facilitators and enhancers. You can become acrobatic without being an acrobat.

David Beckman and David Hirsch are lawyers in the firm of Beckman & Hirsch in Burlington, Iowa. Contact Beckman at [email protected] or Hirsch at [email protected]

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