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Review: Soda PDF 5 Pro document editor

Soda PDF 5 Pro is great for making and manipulating PDFs, at only a fraction of the cost of Adobe's Pro offering.

When it comes to the venerable PDF document, Adobe Acrobat Pro is considered by many to be the golden standard for PDF creation tools. With the brand name recognition and long running track record of use in businesses all over, the software carries a very hefty price tag of $449.00. For those that want to use an effective alternative that won't break the bank, LULU Software has just the solution for you. Soda PDF 5 Pro is great for making and manipulating PDFs, at only a fraction of the cost of Adobe's Pro offering.

  • Title: Soda PDF 5 Pro
  • Company: LULU Software
  • Product URL: http://sodapdf.com
  • Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8
  • Price: $79.95 for Pro version ($99.95 with optional OCR add-on)
  • Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5
  • Bottom Line: A PDF tool that rules them all at a reasonable price is what LULU Software has given us in Soda PDF. Solid features and robust handling of PDFs is sure to make this a winner.

Soda PDF 5 Pro

The user interface is very similar to that of Microsoft Office 2013, borrowing heavily from the suite's Metro-ized interface. All the options and tools were right where I needed to find them without the need to dig through multiple submenus. You can create ready-to-fill forms for your clients, export any garden-variety PDF into DOC, XLS, HTML and TXT formats, and even secure and sign PDFs with a digital signature, just like you can with Adobe Acrobat Pro.

A neat feature that all editions of Soda PDF have is the ability to read PDF files like a magazine. For instance, you can grab one page and "turn" it much like you would if it was a real page, adding to a sense of realism in the action. If you are reading an eBook that is in PDF format or a comic book archive file, the tactile nature of a page turn is intuitive. It might even work on Windows 8 (x86 flavor) devices with touch displays, but I haven't been able to verify this myself.

Testing

During my test of the software, I did notice a few strange flaws or quirks that could cause annoyances. One problem was the lack of smooth scrolling pages when using the scroll wheel and another with the fact that data inserted into pre-made fields doesn't carry over at all when exporting directly to DOC, XLS or HTML formats.

Regarding the latter issue, it could have something to do with the fact that information within these fields are not considered persistent or permanent and are thusly ignored. A solution for this would be to "print" the document out as yet another PDF, then open the file back into Soda PDF. Once this is done, you can then export the document out into other formats, with everything included, WYSIWYG style.

Finally, if you are looking to distribute a document and want to limit file-size, Soda PDF does a great job in reducing file sizes using the optimize feature. You can adjust the size using a simple slider ranging from minimum to maximum quality, or you can fine tune the results of the output further by tweaking image sampling based on whether images contain color, grayscale or monochrome elements. The software does a great job striking the appropriate balance of retaining readability and crunching bits down to more manageable sizes.

Bottom line

So does LULU Software have a compelling package to offer PDF creators? I'd definitely say so. There's no question that it offers the right set of features at a price that is more affordable than Adobe's offering. Despite the slow downs and the esoteric handling of text typed into fields when exporting to alternate formats, you'd be crazy not to at least give the trial version a spin.

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An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

5 comments
Accessible Info
Accessible Info

This review, and most reviews I've seen for Acrobat alternatives, doesn't address the capabilities of Acrobat to produce pdf files that are accessible to screen readers and other assistive technology. This is a high priority for my organization, and we think it should be a high priority for everyone. Of course, the easiest thing to do is create an accessible document in Word and then just convert it. But we are often in the position of reworking existing pdf files to make them accessible. Can Soda PDF 5 do that? (Actually, doing it is not so easy in Acrobat -- it would be great if there were an easier to use alterntive!)

andygreyrider
andygreyrider

There is so much software out there claiming to do better than the established front-runner does. I have tried many pieces of software claiming to improve my life on the computer and will continue to. I have wised-up to all this, by sticking with the software that has continued to save me time and pence. Yes, we all like to think that the competitors are offering something better, but nearly always this is not the case. In fact, they have wasted our money and time. No software or company will replace the human brain completely. They may come close! I am an engineer and use many different items to reach my goals, sometimes using many multi-platform pieces of software, which I haven't seen created into one entity, for the computer and probably never will. Not in this lifetime. If something is so good, why sell it for someone to pick it to pieces?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Over the past few months, TechRepublic has mentioned several useful alternative applications to Adobe Acrobat and the editing of PDF files. What is your current application of choice for editing PDF documents?

Matt Nawrocki
Matt Nawrocki

I didn't even consider looking into that. I'll have to dig deeper into Soda PDF soon and see if what you propose with assistive technology is possible.

andrew.quee
andrew.quee

My organisation uses Nitro PDF. Despite not having all the features of the 'official' PDF authoring software it does what we need it to do, far more economically, and offers several features/workflow enhancements Adobe doesn't offer. From a personal perspective, starting up in a fraction of the time of Adobe and not loading excessive bloat or memory-sucking 'standby' software is also a plus. Nitro (and I'll assume Soda) do what they need to do, then they get out of the way so you can continue work efficiently.

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