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A scalpel specially designed for PDFs

Awhile back, I suggested some of software tools to replace Adobe Acrobat. A reader suggested I look at PDFill, and it turned out to be a gem. I have a new favorite piece of PDF software. Find out why.

A few months back, I posted an article detailing some of the software tools that I use to provide support for PDFs in my office. My goal was to avoid shelling out big bucks for the expensive, bloated, and buggy packages from Adobe. Turns out that many of you have had similar problems with Acrobat, because the comments on that post are filled with suggestions of programs that you guys have found useful as Adobe replacements.

This time, I'm going to introduce you to a program that I learned about while going through the responses to that original post. TechRepublic reader Lost4now suggested that I take a look at his program of choice, PDFill. I'll be honest; I haven't paid for the full version of PDFill Editor, because the free tools that the developers offer have met my needs so well.

That's right. I said "free tools." The developers of PDFill have packaged their simple PDF manipulation applications together with a PDF print driver and offer these tools to Windows users, absolutely free -- even for corporate clients. That caught my attention.

The PDFill PDF Tools are a scalpel because while they don't offer a lot of frills, they perform their function with surgical precision. The free Ghostscript package is required for PDFill to work, and that's basically because the PDFill PDF Tools interface is a simple button-based GUI front-end to the powerful Ghostscript engine.

PDFill PDF Tools - Screenshot

"Why do I need the PDFill Tools if I can use Ghostscript?" you ask. I don't know about you, but I have better things I can be doing with my time than supporting the intricacies of Ghostscript's command-line interface. The PDFill Tools streamline my users' workflow by putting the power of Ghostscript right at their fingertips, in a clear task-oriented way.

One thing that's been a problem in my office has been supporting users who want to use graphics from our PDF publications in a PowerPoint slide show that they're putting together. PDFill PDF Tools makes it trivial for anyone to grab a high-quality raster graphic from any of our PDFs and have it be completely compatible with PowerPoint. PDFill has proven its value in my department with just that single use case.

I love it when I can recommend a small, simple software scalpel; a tool that does one thing but does it better than anything else. PDFill PDF Tools is even better, because it does several things, and it's completely free.

Thanks for pointing me toward PDFill, Lost4now. Anyone who wants to try the PDFill Tools can find an installer in the TechRepublic Software Downloads section or at the developer's site. I highly recommend you check it out before you pay for Adobe Acrobat.

21 comments
basil.cinnamon
basil.cinnamon

Like you, I've tried numerous PDF utils, especially to convert MS Word docs to PDF, but have not found any lightweight packages that will convert Word hyperlinks to PDF hyperlinks, which leaves me stuck with the AcroHog. Anyone out there have a good Word->PDF converter that does hyperlinks? Similarly, so far as I know AcroHog is the only one that will index PDFs in the orthodox way (i.e., not a proprietary indexing). We need this for submissions to the government; they want PDFs indexed a la Acrobat.

JandNL
JandNL

This "scalpel" helps do what with PDFs? Not everyone who reads these blogs is a programmer! We have tried PDF Converter several versions ago and had a lot of problems with it. Now, we get lots of emails offering the new version, but we want a better alternative. Any suggestions out there before we spend a lot of money on something that may not even work?

thezar
thezar

For someone with great rastering capabilities - what a terrible screen shot!

sean.mcnulty
sean.mcnulty

Try PDF Redirect, excellent application in it's free version, but for a couple of bucks you can add encryption and some other nice features.

yobtaf
yobtaf

For the Mac fans, and believe it or not, there some subscribing. (Do you hear that TechRepublic) PDFpen is a great piece of software.

francisvandenplas
francisvandenplas

Looks nice but doesn't add that much to the current version of Foxit Reader. What I'm still looking for is a FREE converter to say MS Word or OOo Write. This seems to be "scheduled" for the release of OO0 3 but i'm not that sure. There is also a "workaround" for OOo, but I'm looking for something more straightforward that really works. Even commercial products mostly do a poor job at converting to MSWord, offering more or less trashed pages. Only BlueSquad's unexpensive PDF2Word gives good results, albeit with a very annoying carriage return after each PDF formatted line. I haven't tried Nitro PDF yet though. Any suggestions?

david
david

Just one small point... Will it install as a Windows printer? I had a look at the developers website and can not see this functunaily. I imagine having the ability to print a PDF from any Windows application would be one the the most used features of the Adobe offering in a typical office environment?

williamjones
williamjones

A software scalpel is a small app that does only one thing (or just a few), but is the best-in-class at what it does. I've found a software scalpel for working with PDFs in the PDFill PDF Tools. Check out my article: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/helpdesk/?p=220 So, what are some of your favorite software scalpels? Would you rather have one big program that tries to do everything, or a small app that does one thing well?

williamjones
williamjones

Well, thezar, in my defense, that screenshot wasn't post processed very much. It's PDFill that offers decent raster conversion of PDFs. I made no promises about my image editing skills. ;) I grabbed a screen of my desktop, and then had to size it down so it would fit into our blog template. I might have linked to a full-size version, but since the program interface is really just a pane of buttons, I didn't think it would add much value. My screen was intended to provide more of an impression of the interface, rather than a full-fledged tour. But you have a point; in the future, if a screenshot would be appropriate, I'll make sure to link to a readable version. Thanks for the feedback.

williamjones
williamjones

...for Macintoshes. robertmro, not sure if you've noticed, but we've had several posts that touched on Macs in the past here in the User Support section. My original article, though, was about a Windows-specific program. As a Mac user myself, I try to mention Apple-compatible software and tools when appropriate. It just wasn't germane to my original topic. Thanks for your feedback, and for mentioning PDFpen for the Mac users in the audience.

williamjones
williamjones

pctech, this is something that PDFill includes. Their web site leaves a lot to be desired, but their software doesn't.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

(with a few options on the print end). http://tinyurl.com/3jqbq That being said, Im pretty sure I saw the same feature listed in the Pro version of PDFill, not in the free tools. But the free tools mixed with PDFCreator would do a ton of PDF chores.

wfs1946
wfs1946

Take a look at CutePDF, it allows you to save a file as a PDF formatted file and print it to your printer. I've been using it to convert emails to PDFs and attach them to other emails to send to others where I want to make sure they get to see everything just the way I did.

rfolden
rfolden

My favorite software scalpel is Sapien Technologies PrimalScript. This product is my NotePad replacement and more. It's primary purpose is for editing scripts, but it does much more than that. It is true that PrimalScript has, like much software written for Microsoft Windows has grown in size considerably with it's 2007 release, BUT, my version 2.2x runs just fine on Win32s and has a search within files feature that cannot be beat.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

scalpels are ping and notepad. Ping because I use it everyday to check hosts, delay times, etc, and notepad because it opens in a second and I can type in notes as I go through the day. I have it open 99% of the time.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Would you rather have one big program that tries to do everything, or a small app that does one thing well?" I'd rather have one big app that does everything well. Lacking that, I'd rather have a small one that does one thing well AND call it a 'small app' or an 'applet'. Am I the only one who has never heard the work 'scalpel' used in this context?

yobtaf
yobtaf

Thanks William, I love reading TechRepublic but it Windows, Windows, Windows all the time.

williamjones
williamjones

The free tools from PDFill includes a PDF writer. (This is something that most of these printers inherit from Ghostscript. They just make it easier to use.)

francisco.vidal
francisco.vidal

I've been looking for a FREE tool that will allow me to create pdf files from Word mail merge option. So far I have found a not so expensive software that does the trick, pdfmachine, but any suggestions on a FREE tool that could do the same?

williamjones
williamjones

Sorry, Palmetto, I wasn't trying to create a new piece of jargon. :) I can't remember where I first heard that characterization, but it really works for me. A scalpel may not work for every cutting task, but it's supremely well designed for its purpose. I have a fondness for software apps that have a similar quality. I feel like using smaller, more specialized programs allow you to have more control over the features and capabilities of the tools in your kit. Often times, you can also leverage the power of open-source and freeware with smaller programs and get great functionality at a very low cost. It does make some things easier--from an admin's standpoint--if you can find a high-quality "do it all" application suite. Microsoft Office comes to mind as an example of a larger program set for which I haven't found a replacement that I can wholly endorse. Thanks for your comment, Palmetto!

me_jaydee
me_jaydee

I like PrimoPDF, I set up my properties (title, subject, author etc.) in Word then use PrimoPDF to do what Acrobat does. The site is www.primopdf.com

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