PDF as a document type requires no introduction. It is everywhere, it is unavoidable and it is here to stay. Through the years there has been many solutions for creating PDF files, and with the newer versions of Microsoft products, the ability to create PDF files on the fly is more convenient than ever for the average user.
For the power and corporate users, there is a need to push beyond basic conversion of a document into PDF format. With PDF/A-1 being the global electronic archiving standard for long-term preservation, the need for a full featured software that can create, manipulate, edit PDFs, and is is capable of checking for PDF/A compliance becomes much more important.
Nuance Power PDF Advanced is a full featured offering aimed at medium to large organisation. Nuance was kind enough to provide a review copy for DigitalReviews.
The installation of Nuance PDF Advanced is as simple as following the bouncing ball. The installation wizard made life simple with very little interaction required.
With the Advanced version of the software built specifically with medium to large organisations in mind, I went digging a little deeper for a network deployment guide. After all, what self respecting network administrator would deploy software on an individual basis? Thankfully Nuance Power PDF Advance provides a Nuance Customization Kit for SMS or SCCM type deployments.
For the corporate environment, Nuance Power PDF Advanced is certified with Citrix and Windows Terminal Services thin client deployment and use.
Out of the box, Power PDF Advanced has LexisNexis CaseMap support if CaseMap is detected on the system.
There are also connectors for the following electronic document management system (term used a little loosely here):
- Xerox Docushare
- EMC Documentum
- eDOCS (nee Hummingbird)
- HP Trim
- iManage Work (aka WorkSite)
- Microsoft Sharepoint
Nuance Power PDF Advanced is a feature rich software for creating, editing and manipulating PDF documents. At a baseline level, it caters for all the essentials one would expect without fuss. These include:
- creation of PDF from file, clipboard, blank document, scanner, webpage.
- convert PDF files to Microsoft Word, Excel formats
- convert from image type PDF to searchable PDF
The newer versions of Microsoft products provides a PDF printer, or a save as PDF format option. Nuance takes it a step further by adding a new toolbar into the Microsoft Office suite and Internet Explorer to make it more efficient to create and distribute PDF documents.
There are the expected annotation and markup tools: notes, callsouts, highlight, underline and draw tools. Nuance leverages another product from its portfolio - Dragon Notes. Power users of my era would remember Dragon Dictate, which became Dragon Naturally Speaking. In Power PDF Advanced, notes can be entered into a PDF by dictating text with the Dragon Notes speech recognition engine.
To leverage Dragon Notes, an internet connection is required as user speech is processed by the Dragon Notes server and not locally. Once the speech has been processed, the transcribed text is posted in a Sticky Note. In my use of it translation from speech to text was fairly fast, however I found the interface to be a bit clunky and less than intuitive. I had to click on the Dragon Notes, select the area where I want to annotate, speak, close the Dragon Notes Status interface to signal the end of the recording. It does not help when the "Dragon Note Status" where I need to interact with is defaulted to the top left corner of the program screen. At this point the speech is send for processing then it is automatically transcribed to the Sticky Note. The accuracy of the transcribing was spot on for every test I did.
Moving into the more advanced features, at the heart of the Nuance Power PDF Advanced are the assistants:
- PDF Create Assistant
- PDF Convert Assistant
- Batch Converter
The PDF Create Assistant, as the name implies, helps with the creation of PDF documents. It allows the additional of multiple documents and document types, with options to package into a portfolio or a single file.
Portfolios are a PDF wrapper in which PDF files can be referenced as separate documents with their own identity. Portfolios can include folder hierarchies for better presentation and organisation of files. The documents are not fused into a single large document. The wrapper retains the ability to search across the entire portfolio, single master password and print from a single command.
PDF Convert Assistant converts pages or documents from PDF format into something else. Supported output formats are:
- WordPerfect (thanks Nuance, I have forgotten this one existed)
- Rich Text Format
- PowerPoint Presentation
The conversion engine is actually quite fast, handles complex formatting reasonably well. Tables are usually the Achilles' Heel of such software and with Power PDF Advanced, but it was handled remarkably well.
Sequencer is effectively workflow for PDF. It permit stringing together multiple commands into a single macro that will be performed on a set of listed files. It is designed as a tool for performing repetitive tasks such as removing cover pages, finding word patterns, stamping, watermarking, redaction and page orientation.
It can be a powerful tool for highly repetitive tasks, but I feel Nuance's decision here hobble the redaction functionality in Sequencer to being strictly string matching (vis-a-vis pattern matching) takes away some of the usefulness.
Batch Converter works with an entire directory to convert files to Multipage TIFF, TIFF, PDF, Searchable PDF or Unicode Text. It is probably most useful if an existing store of imaged based PDF needs to be made searchable, Batch Converter can run the task with little intervention required.
Watched Folder works similarly to Batch Convertor, with the difference that the location of the watch folder is predetermined along with conversion parameters. When a file that matches the criteria to the Watched Folder selection, it is automatically processed and written to an output folder.
One of my favourite (not really) topics at the moment - redaction. PCI DSS non-compliance attracts penalties from $5,000 to $100,000 per month. For those not in the know, this is related to storing of credit card details. Redaction can be applied to any other personally identifying information, depending on the industry sector.
Power PDF Advanced has a search and redact function, that is more powerful than the redact function in the Sequencer mentioned above. It can look for:
- single word or phrase
- Multiple words or phrases
- Looks like Search (tm) Patterns with a number of pre-canned patterns such as Social Security Number for a number of countries, telephone numbers, credit card, email addresses and date.
- Looks Like Search (tm) Custom Pattern, to create a custom search pattern based on alphanumeric code.
Search and redact can be applied to a directory, single PDF or PDF portfolio. Once the data has been found and identified by Nuance, you have to apply the redaction to complete the process.
Interactive Forms, this is pretty much a given in a PDF editor. In Nuance's case, a completed form can be saved as a PDF or export the form data into a .txt, .fdf, .xfdf or .xml file.
Side by side comparison of PDF documents is also available, such as offered by Microsoft Word for word documents.
Selective export by an area within a PDF document.
Batch conversion to PDF and from PDF.
Document Assembly and Document Splitting
Password security and Digital signatures
Nuance Power PDF Advanced is an excellent alternative to Adobe Acrobat. From my testing it is light weight, fast and accurate and loaded with features. Whilst it is arguable that the feature set are comparable to competitors, the ability to outright buy Nuance's product over a subscription model over at Adobe is something I value in a corporate environment. At least the finance managers I work with tell me so.
Personally I really like the Dragon Note feature as a added value. I just wish the interface to use it is less clunky.
DigitalReviews thanks Nuance for providing the review software. It is available here for AUD$260 RRP.
A computer with an Intel® Pentium® 4 , higher or equivalent processor
Supported operating systems
Windows 10; 32-bit and 64-bit Editions
Windows 8.1; 32-bit and 64-bit Editions
Windows 8; 32-bit and 64-bit Editions
Windows 7; 32-bit and 64-bit Editions with Service Pack 1
Windows Server 2008 R2, 2012 R2 (Citrix, Active Directory, Remote Desktop Services)
512MB of memory (RAM), 1GB recommended
700MB of free hard disk space for application files, plus 50MB working space during installation
Web access needed for product registration, activation, product help, Dragon Notes and obtaining live updates for the program.
Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0. If it is not detected, it is installed with the product.