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Free PDF tools review?

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PDF XChange Viewer suport now Internet Explorer 5-7 plugin for opening PDFs into the browser.


used primo PDF for awhile.

Simple, just use as a printer.  Works well, haven't really used anything else or much of any extended features.

Yet another free PDF tool I didn't know about: CABAReT Stage Home

CABAReT Stage         Home (Free)     Basic (€49)        Professional (€99)

Compare versions at

CABAReT Stage Home

CABAReT Stage Home is available for private users to download free of charge for non-commercial use. The following table includes the functions available, without limitations, to you with CABAReT Stage Home:

General function overview:

Save PDF-forms

    * Open, complete, save with field entries, print, re-open and further edit PDF forms.

Extract texts

    * Mark and copy text within a document in order to use that text in other applications.

Edit pages

    * Delete single pages, import pages from other PDF documents into your current document and so re-organize PDF documents

Send documents per e-mail

    * Send completed PDF forms per e-mail

Validate electronic signatures

    * Validate signatures in accordance with PKCS#1 and/or PKCS#7 and view the results.

Manage certificates

    * Manage your own certificates and generate "self-signed" certificates.

Navigate within the document

    * Bookmarks and hyperlinks make reading PDF documents easier.

JavaScript® support

    * Standard support of program functions in JavaScript.

06/19/2008 - CABAReT Stage 3.2.7 released
--- End quote ---

I don't know much about PDF's or the software that accompanies them because I don't use PDF's very often.  But my main computer is disconnected from the internet, so I had to go hunting for a PDF reader that wouldn't massacre my RAM (only 1 GB) like Adobe Reader.  Strictly speaking of free PDF readers:

I had tried FoxIt reader before, and I didn't like how many nags and ads it pushed in my face for getting the pay version.  The editing tools I did see were weak and didn't always work as I imagined.  I uninstalled it after about a day, using Revo Uninstaller's Advanced Mode to punt that thing off my computer for good.

OpenOffice claims it can read PDF's, and I know it can save them.  But every time I try to open a PDF in Writer, it comes out looking like Pork-and-Beans that went through a weed-whacker.  Never worked once.  I still use it all the time for everything else, though.  It's compatible and portable - two wins over MS Office.

Eventually, I came to settle with Sumatra PDF.  The thing is miniscule.  It took about a second to download, three times that to install.  It's quick, but the main problem is that it can't open links.  Or use internal bookmarks.  Pretty big limitation, but I find that it works well, anyway.

Especially if you're on a computer that can't follow any web links.   :(

If all you need is a light Reader replacement, I'd go with Sumatra.

I thought I might add some of my observations to this thread.

I found a portable application version of PDF-Xchange Viewer (scroll down to find the link), and as far as I'm concerned it is The Bomb.  Yes, the program has some quirks, but this past week I had to to annotate a diagram of a machine to explain its functions to a non-technical audience, and it worked out better than I expected.

* I have discovered that my annotated PDF documents will not work in Adobe versions older than version 7.  Believe it or not, in our corporation, with its hugely centralized IT department, there are still many computers with only Adobe 6 on them.  (I think its because a user has to call and ask IT to upgrade it for them, and if Adobe 6 seems to work fine, why annoy the IT folks with your petty little requests.  And besides, most users aren't even aware that they're using an old version.)  Fortunately, PDF-Xchange Viewer let me save my annotated document as a .tiff file, which anyone could open with a picture viewer.
* I used the line draw feature to draw highlighted lines around the relevant sections of the machine in question, pick different colors for the highlight lines, and I used text boxes to create a color key for the lines, and for writing explanations of the functions of the various highlighted sections.  PDF-Xchange Viewer let me control the opacity of the lines, and it let me create text boxes with fill, no fill, or transparent fill.
* The typewriter feature is a little quirky.  It only seems to let me change the font and font size after I've already typed some words.  Once I've typed some words in, then I can highlight them, change the font and font size, etc.  Afterwards, if I decide to change what I typed in, it keeps that font.  It's just that the initial typing is always rendered in New Courier, 12 point size, black.  This is a little odd and requires a little bit of extra work to keep changing the font each time I write something, but not a show stopper for me.
* I like that I can create a cloud box, which is very traditional for engineering drawings.  (Yes, we use PDF versions of engineering drawings frequently because not everyone has a CAD viewer on their computer whereas everyone can open up a PDF.)
* I like that I can open up new PDF files in tabs, which helps greatly to control the number of windows open on my screen.
* It can capture an image (as long as the document isn't locked) which you can paste into another locations, such as a Word document, or Paint.  You can copy text this way, too, but it becomes an image, not editable text.
* It can highlight text, but not images.  You can highlight an image by creating a box or a circle, with fill, and selecting a low opacity value.
At work we cannot install new programs on our computers (they're locked by IT), and only a handful of people are allowed to get a purchased copy of Adobe Writer, so being able to use a portable version of PDF-Xchange Viewer has been extremely handy.  I was particularly tickled by my experience this past week, which allowed me to explain a machine's complexity to a far-flung audience by making a picture, rather than having to write a long, boring explanation.  (And without having to subject people to my messy hand-drawing and hand-writing!)  After this past week's exercise with PDF annotation, I was so happy with PDF-Xchange Viewer, that I decided that I'd like to buy their pro version.

What PDF-Xchange Viewer cannot do:

* Merge or split PDF documents.  (I use PDF Split and Merge for that, but it's not portable.)
* It can rotate a page, but it cannot save that rotated page orientation.
* It cannot turn a PDF document into a Word document -- but I wouldn't necessarily expect it to do that.  (I use a FREE PDF to Word Converter program for that.)
* It cannot convert any file to a PDF document.  I use either portable OpenOffice, or doPDF, depending on whether I'm at a work computer where I cannot install doPDF, or using my personal computer and need a PDF version of whatever I'm working on.
I mentioned using PDF Split and Merge and FREE PDF to Word Converter program, but I haven't used either of these very much.  They are both adequate for my meager needs, and I haven't found any problems with them.

I like doPDF, but mostly what I use it for at home is to convert eCommerce receipts into electronic documents.  At work, where I installed it before a new, draconian IT policy of NO NON-APPROVED, USER INSTALLED SOFTWARE EVER, AND I MEAN NEVER EVER was enacted, I use it frequently to turn CAD drawings to PDF, or to make PDFs of MS Project schedules for people who don't have MS Project installed on their computers.  (If my computer ever goes toes up and has to be replace, it'll be goodbye doPDF, and I don't know what I'll do then!) 

I have also used portable IrfanView for creating PDFs out of graphics images, and it is another tool in my portable applications arsenal.  I haven't used it much, but it seems to have done a fine job for the times that I have used it.  My only wish is that IrfanView could let me view CAD drawings (.dwg and .dwg) as Autodesk's CAD viewer is a buggy, sucky, POS.


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