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Sophie Knowles | pdfpro
PDF Pro blog
  • The pros and cons of converting a PDF to Word

    One of the most popular search engine queries relating to PDFs is "PDF to Word". When I looked at the data, the first thought that jumped out at me was: "I know why! Everyone wants to edit a PDF using a format they are familiar with!". While I wasn’t sure of my hunch back then, I now believe that my instincts were correct. The biggest issue with PDFs (and ironically, also their main strength) is that they are very difficult to edit. Users of PDF files who are stuck trying to make edits usually react in two ways – they either try to find a tool that will let them make edits directly or they try to convert a PDF to another file format.

    Users in both camps will usually find a wide range of online and desktop software-based solutions that can meet their needs. As I’ve discussed earlier, there are pros of cons of heading down either route. Online solutions tend to be much cheaper (and often free), but may not fully meet a user’s needs given the limitations of browser-based technologies. There are also issues regarding privacy and data protection that make many business users uncomfortable with online solutions. On the other hand, desktop software is usually much better at solving PDF-related issues, however most desktop-based solutions are quite pricey. At PDF Pro, we offer both an online PDF editor as well as an online PDF to Word converter. Even with the limitations of building software within a browser, we try to meet the needs of our users as much as possible. 


    The main benefit of converting a PDF to Word

    If online PDF editors don’t meet your need and you are looking for another cost-effective way to edit a PDF file, you only have two options: (1) find a good desktop software trial or (2) find a good online PDF to Word converter. I’ve already covered my recommendations for PDF software trials, so I’ll skip repeating myself in this post.

    The clear benefit to converting a PDF to Word is that you can directly edit the text. This is not possible using an online PDF editor, and is the reason we offer an online PDF to Word converter. Once you successfully convert a PDF to Word, you can easily make edits using Word or similar software. Converting a Word back to PDF is as simple as choosing the PDF format when saving the document (instead of .doc or other document formats). Thus converting a PDF into an editable file format is a good workaround for the limitations of the format.


    The main drawback to converting a PDF to Word

    Unfortunately, using a PDF converter is far from a silver bullet to all your PDF issues!  The main issue is that most PDF converters aren’t very good. Retaining the original formatting of your PDF is an incredibly difficult computer science challenge, mainly because PDF files are created by virtually printing objects onto a blank sheet of paper. Unlike most other file types (e.g. documents, presentations, etc.) there no rules governing where objects are placed on the page. This makes converting PDFs to other file formats very difficult.

    At PDF Pro, we’ve tried to address this problem by building the best possible PDF converter. In our opinion, our PDF converter is the one of the best in the industry and does a great job of retaining the original formatting of a PDF file. While the solution is far from perfect, we hope it meets the needs of most of our users! 

  • How to edit PDFs for free

    There are a very limited number of free tools for editing PDF files, and that’s for a good reason: the PDF file format is incredibly complex! Building a good PDF editor is a serious effort, and few PDF software developers are willing to give away their product at no cost.


    Online PDF editors fall short

    While there are free alternatives to premium PDF editors, the reality is that most of them fall far short of what users are looking for. Online PDF editors don’t allow you to edit text directly, which is often the main requirement for anyone looking to edit a PDF. They are best suited for smaller tasks such as:

    The limitations of online tools is a topic I have covered at length in a previous blog post. PDF Pro is a free online PDF editor that should help you solve the tasks listed above.


    Good desktop products aren’t free

    On the other hand, there are no good desktop software products that are available for free. If you are not willing to pay, your best bet for editing text using desktop software is to download the full trial where available. In my opinion, the best free trials are available from the following three vendors:

    At best, this is a temporary solution as most trials expire after 14 days. For your longer-term PDF needs, there is no good free desktop solution.


    One overlooked way of editing PDF files may do the trick

    If you need to edit the text of a PDF and don’t want to download a free trial or pay for software, there is one last option. One proven way to edit a PDF is to simply convert it to another format (such as a Word document). After converting your PDF to Word, you can make the required changes in Word and then convert the file back to a PDF (either by saving it as a PDF or converting it using a PDF converter). While this may sound straightforward, the reality is that most PDF to Word converters today just aren’t good enough.

    We built PDF Pro's PDF to Word converter with these issues in mind. In my personal opinion, the converter is one of the best products in the industry! Most conversions retain the formatting of the original PDF file.

  • How to fill out and sign a PDF form online

    When you receive a PDF form to fill out, your first instinct may be to print the file, fill it out by hand and then scan the document. This is how the vast majority of people fill out forms today. But did you know there are free online tools that allow you to fill out and sign any PDF form entirely online? By filling out a form online, you save time, money and help save our environment by reducing the use of paper! The best tools go far beyond simple form-filling, and include a range of features that allow you to password protect your PDF, share your PDF online, merge or split your files, and more. Today there is no need to download PDF software that can be cumbersome and expensive. Unfortunately, this is not common knowledge today, and why I recommend you start using an online PDF editor.    


    The most important considerations when choosing an online PDF editor are (1) ease of use, (2) breadth of features and (3) pricing. While there are many different companies offering online PDF tools, not all of them are equal. Some have a very limited list of features or have difficult-to-use interfaces filled with advertisements. Others offer very limited trials that limit their usefulness. My goal when developing PDF Pro was to create a true alternative to desktop PDF suites that had a wide range of features. While my goal is far from complete, my hope is that PDF Pro is slowly getting there.


    Step 1: First navigate to the homepage and upload a file. This starts the process.

    PDF Pro landing page


    Step 2: After uploading a file, click on the drop-down to the right of the file and choose “Edit”. Note that this option will only be available if you upload a PDF. If you upload another file type, you will have to convert it to PDF first before making edits. 

    Choose edit PDF dropdown


    Step 3: This will redirect you to PDF Pro's online PDF editor.

    online PDF editor instructions


    Step 4: After considering the onscreen instructions, you can now fill out your PDF form. In order to add text, simply click on the screen and start typing. In order to add signatures, you can use the signature tool in order to type out a signature, draw a signature or upload an image. This is shown below:

    sign PDF options


    That’s all there is to it! By following these steps, you can fill out and sign any PDF form. Once you have completed filling out your form, save the PDF. Then you can then download, print, or email to yourself or another recipient.

    If you’re looking to more broadly edit a PDF file, the how-to section of this website has a step-by-step guide containing detailed instructions for editing a pdf file using PDF Pro. Check it out!

  • 3 ways converting a JPG to PDF can protect your images

    If you’re sharing an image file, such as a JPG, with someone you don’t know very well, watch out! The person who receives the file may modify it (without your knowledge) and even claim it as their own work.  


    PDFs offer substantially better security than JPGs or other image files

    Unlike PDF files, image files can be easily modified and do not leave an electronic footprint of any changes that were applied to the file. This means a dishonest person can steal your work (by claiming they authored the file – for example) without leaving any traces. As a graphic designer or artist, you may be deprived to compensation or credit for your work.

    PDF files, on the other hand, cannot be changed without leaving a footprint. They also offer many options to ensure your work is not stolen, modified or misused. The remainder of this article summarizes your options for protecting your image files. The short version is that you should never share an image file with a party you don’t fully trust! 


    convert JPG to PDF to protect your image

    Image courtesy of Got Credit


    1. Prevent the recipient from making changes

    If your concerns are limited to the recipient making changes, then you only need to convert your JPG to PDF. PDF files are read-only, and cannot be modified without leaving a digital footprint. Note that while software tools like PDF editors do allow PDFs to be edited, they leave a clear footprint. If you need to restrict the ability for anyone to edit your PDF file, see the last point below.

    For this reason, PDF files can be admissible as electronic evidence in a court of law in most developed countries (including the US). The same cannot be said for image files (TIFF, JPG and GIF files) as they can be altered without leaving any traces. 


    2. Prevent anyone from reading your file, unless they are authorized to do so

    By setting passwords that prevent unauthorized users from opening the PDF file, PDFs also allow you to set security restrictions at the document level. This goes beyond the benefits of the file format itself. If you are sharing documents across different locations over email, this helps to ensure that only the intended recipient will be able to open the PDF file. The ability to password protect documents that restrict reading access has made PDF files very popular in corporate environments.  


    3. Prevent anyone from modifying, converting, copying or printing your file

    Beyond restricting reading rights, you can also prevent recipients from performing actions such as:

    • Converting your PDF to another file format
    • Printing or copying the PDF
    • Altering or editing the file

    Based on your specific needs, you should customize to what extent your images are protected using PDF security. If you need maximum security, apply both reading restrictions as well as modification and printing restrictions.

    A malicious recipient may open a password-protected PDF that only applies reading restrictions, convert it to JPG and then make edits without your knowledge. In this example, only applying reading restrictions was not sufficient. In order to fully protect your work, you need to both understand and apply the full range of security measures that are available within the PDF format. It goes without saying that PDF Pro was designed to meet this need!


    If you’re looking to convert a JPG file to a PDF, the how-to section of this website has a step-by-step guide containing detailed instructions for converting a JPG to PDF using PDF Pro. Check it out!

  • 3 reasons “the paperless office” hasn’t become a reality

    In a previous blog post, I recounted the depressing reality that global paper usage is increasing and not decreasing. This is occurring despite all the amazing technology that should have relegated paper-based forms to history many years ago. As mentioned in my article, dealing in physical paper is expensive, prone to fraud and wasteful. 


    Paperless Office

    Image courtesy of Samuel Mann


    So why haven’t more businesses gone paperless? In my opinion, there are 3 big reasons:


    1. Businesses are not equipped to deal exclusively in electronic documents

    The first issue is the most obvious, and also the easiest to fix. In an office environment, there is an ingrained mentality upon receiving a form to immediately print it. This mentality is due to a few different issues:

    • Office workers are generally unaware of the fact that one can sign a document electronically and that an electronic signature carries the same legal weight as a physical signature in most countries (including the US).
    • The counterparty to the agreement often erroneously demands paper contracts and signatures, as they are unaware that electronic agreements are equally valid to paper agreements. This issue is surprisingly common.
    • Most businesses do not have secure facilities to transport and store electronic documents. This is surprising considering the obvious cost savings of switching to digital documents instead of paper documents.
    • Even if they are aware of electronic signing technology, few office workers are provided with an approved tool (such as Adobe Reader) for signing documents.


    2. There is a lack of awareness surrounding the full costs of dealing in paper

    The excuse to print a document at work is usually “oh, but I need to just this one time”, but data on user behavior does not match the excuse. The average US office worker prints 10,000 sheets of copy per year according to Mashable. The estimated costs from all this printing runs $600 to $1,300 per year, per employee. Even with a handful of employees, your organization’s printing costs will quickly spiral out of control.

    In order to tackle this issue, many businesses now limit printing for employees. Yet they fail to provide electronic alternatives that would help employees perform their duties. No wonder workers are so frustrated over this issue!

    Finally, the cost of printing is not the total cost of dealing in paper. Consider the following facts:

    • Physical documents need to be stored securely (from theft, and disasters such as fire)
    • Physical documents need to be archived properly (to enable searching for documents at a later date)
    • Sensitive physical documents need to be transported securely (using registered mail, for example)


    Adding up the incremental real estate costs, search costs (“now where did I store that employment agreement?”) and transportation costs results in many hidden costs that result from using paper. If you’re using paper in 2015, you’re wasting money!


    3. The leading technologies powering the paperless office (HTML and PDF) aren’t that great

    There’s no sugarcoating this issue: technologies designed to enable to paperless office (or even the paper-light office) aren’t that great. If they were, organizations would have abandoned paper many years ago as businesses are always looking to lower costs. While electronic solutions have taken hold in some industries (DocuSign is now the standard for most real estate deals in the US), most industries are still light years away from going paperless.

    The obvious opportunity to help a broader swathe of organizations reduce their costs by eliminating paper usage is one of the reasons I founded PDF Pro. While PDF Pro still requires many more features to fully replace paper, clients who have adopted our product have been able to reduce their day-to-day paper usage substantially. I’m happy to be part of the paperless journey! 


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