capsule review

PDF2Office 2.1 Professional

Not being able to extract data easily from a PDF file is frustrating. And not being able to easily convert that data into the word processing program of your choice is inconvenient. Although Adobe Acrobat Reader lets you select and copy text from a PDF file, it does not let you extract images or retain document formatting. PDF2Office 2.1 Professional goes a long way toward providing a solution to these problems, though it is far from perfect.

PDF2Office’s greatest asset is its ability to extract text and images from PDF files and convert the material into various formats, including Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format (RTF), Apple’s Pages and Keynote programs, HTML, and more, complete with embedded JPEG, PNG, or TIFF images. Furthermore, the program supports documents written in non-English languages, including most Western European and Asian alphabets. The Professional edition is the only version compatible with the Mac; the regular version works with Windows only.

PDF2Office’s main window is attractive and its interface is easy to understand. Simply drag PDF files into the Conversions Pane, adjust the conversion settings, and click on the toolbar’s Convert icon. Or, you can convert numerous files at once via the Batch Convert command. PDF2Office gives you a choice of converting a PDF file to text only, images only, or converting the entire document into an image.

PDF2Office’s most useful feature is its direct integration with Microsoft Word. To convert PDF files to Word, simply access a PDF file via Word’s Open dialog and choose PDF File (Open Via PDF2Office) from the Enable pull-down menu. Or you can or use the Mac’s contextual menu and choose the PDF2Office: Open PDF in Word command.

Version 2.1 also allows you to open documents via the Services menu in Pages, Keynote, TextEdit, and other programs that use Mac OS X’s Services menu.

It’s easy to convert PDF files that consist of primarily text and images with little formatting, and PDF2Office does the job quickly and effectively.

While the program takes just a few seconds to convert a short document, it slows down significantly with longer documents. A 100-page document, for instance, took several minutes on my Dual 1.42 GHz PowerMac.

Also, with complex PDF files that have many pages or multiple tables with hidden borders, you will need to strategize to obtain an acceptable conversion. Your first try may produce text that is cut off by borders, images that are improperly placed, or other distracting formatting errors. Such complications may require you to extract the document’s text or graphics and then rebuild tables, if you can. You also can change the Processing Types and Options settings in the Preferences pane or divide long documents in half and regroup them later to get a better result. However, according to Recosoft, there are inherent limitations on how well a document will convert, based on the software used to create the original. The best results come from PDF files whose originals were created by word processing software.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If you have to open simple PDF files in Microsoft Word on a regular basis, PDF2Office 2.1 Professional is a very useful tool. Unfortunately, converting all PDF files with just the click of a mouse isn’t as simple or as accurate as I’d like.

[ Ross Tibbits is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, California. ]

Conversion settings are abundant and easily accessible in PDF2Office’s main window.
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