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Free PDF Compressor review

Verdict

Review Date: 15 Dec 2006

Reviewed By: Davey Winder

Price when reviewed: (Free)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

The Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) has fast become the de facto file format when you need a fixed layout document that can be read on any computer. A large factor in that is its semi-open standard and royalty-free licensing, allowing numerous free PDF readers to appear. It all gets slightly more complicated when it comes to document creation, though. You can save documents as PDF files within Microsoft Office (via plug-ins), you can buy the dedicated Adobe Acrobat software; or you can take the third-party low-cost option. Here, we look at the latter, as well as some handy tools.

The Free PDF Compressor from NicePDF says it all - a totally free application dedicated to compressing your existing PDF documents so they take up less room in your archive, on your server or while being emailed. It does this by removing duplicate PDF objects and takes advantage of better compression features in the latest PDF specifications, using either Flate or RunLength algorithms to get the smallest size possible. We found it unpredictable, though, with many variables, such as the age of the original PDF document and the content, influencing how small a file would compress. Older documents averaged a 35% reduction in our tests; newer ones just 5%. However, if you have a large PDF archive then even a 5% reduction is worthwhile. It's just a shame there's no batch-automation option.

Not free, but just as useful to the PDF aficionado, is ElcomSoft's Advanced PDF Password Recovery application. While there'll always be those who use such software for illicit purposes, the business benefit shouldn't be underestimated. Imagine the scenario: you have an archive of PDF documents, the original creator has long since left your employ, the documents are protected by his owner password, which you don't know. Advanced PDF makes this a quick one-click process. The Pro version will even work on a brute-force and dictionary-attack basis to open files that have unknown owner and user passwords.

For those needing PDF creation without the cost or complexity of Adobe Acrobat, there are a number of options. If all you want to do is convert paper documents into PDFs with the minimum of fuss using any TWAIN scanner, Scan2PDF from Burrotech fits the bill quite nicely. The simple interface consists of Scan and Make PDF buttons together with a rather too rudimentary scanned image viewer - just a large thumbnail. Dig under the surface, though, and the configuration options reveal some of the underlying power - you can determine the PDF output (including an auto-landscape feature), add 128-bit encryption and password protection, and even set it to automatically email the resulting PDFs. The end result is a multipage indexed PDF file. Unfortunately, this isn't an OCR scanner, so it just creates an image of your original document, which means the PDF text won't be searchable. For quick and dirty archiving, though, it's great value for money.

PrimoPDF acts as a simple printer driver: redirect any document for printing to it and you can choose whether you want to output for the screen, print, prepress (which embeds all fonts) or an eBook. You can quickly edit document properties such as author, title and keywords, and just as quickly configure security detail. That's about as far as it goes, though - the Options section only extends to choosing whether to automatically launch a PDF reader after creation, and the ability to keep your document security and properties to apply to subsequent conversions. The real selling point here is that it's free: if all you want to do is create a basic yet fully searchable and secure PDF in the shortest possible time, PrimoPDF is hard to beat.

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