If you are in a business that works with PDF files (and which business doesn’t?) then you’ll know they are both a blessing and a curse. No other form of electronic document presents text and graphics so effectively, or can be read by so many applications and devices, yet working with PDFs is a real source of pain. True, you can read them using free applications or even view them quickly in your browser, while Microsoft Office can output simple documents as PDFs. Try to do anything more, however, and you’re in for a shock.

Many people believe that simply editing or amending a PDF file means spending hundreds of pounds on Adobe Acrobat; a package built for design professionals, not business-users wanting to get a simple job done. Making even a quick amendment becomes a major hassle. The result? You either settle for free software with limited features, or pay out hundreds of pounds for the sledgehammer/walnut approach.

However, business users do have a better option. Power PDF Standard by Nuance is an affordable option packing powerful tools for making and editing PDFs, not to mention equally strong features for signing, securing and commenting, or even transforming documents into interactive forms. Accessible, time-saving and easy-to-use, it’s a product that’s been built for business users, not designers. If you feel comfortable with Microsoft Word, you’ll feel comfortable with Power PDF. It even has an Office-style interface.

Editing PDFs

With Power PDF, PDF editing hits the business mainstream. You can convert PDF files into dynamic documents, where you can edit text and replace or adjust the images without the usual tortuous business of taking files back into Acrobat and saving them back out again. You can change a purchase order number or address in an invoice just by editing the file, or alter product names and launch dates in a document there and then.

If you need to check what’s changed, Power PDF’s side-by-side document comparison tool makes it easy, highlighting changes in text and visuals and providing a summary report. And you can do all this without working with design-focused tools or Acrobat. By sticking close to the principles of Microsoft Office’s own UI, adopting the same Ribbon interface that Office users are familiar with, Nuance has built a product that seems like a natural extension of Office 2010 or 2013.

Highlights and Comments

The UI also makes it easier to use Power PDF’s advanced review features. Highlighting and commenting are no longer a chore; they work naturally, just like they do in Microsoft Office. Meanwhile, PDF documents can be shared by a group of users, all commenting directly, with each note summarised in a dedicated panel. Power PDF even allows you to make annotations with your voice, using the integrated Dragon Notes speech recognition. PDFs are often easier to read on a Windows 8 tablet - now you don’t need a keyboard to add your thoughts.

Security and Signing

Of course, one of the strengths of PDF is its security; send a PDF file to a customer, a colleague, a public body or a client, and you and they can be sure that it hasn't been altered. While it can make PDF files editable, Power PDF can also lock them into a frozen, read-only mode, with password protection and encryption to prevent readers editing your files.

Many PDF viewers play at it, but Power PDF gets serious about signing. You can add handwritten signatures to documents via mouse, stylus or touchscreen, or digitally sign important documents, and you can also print documents with digital stamps, making it clear whether something has been read, cancelled, paid or approved. Documents can then be flattened to preserve the markings, while you can identify the digitally signed version of a document, to make sure that nothing has been added or amended after signing. With Power PDF, a digital signature or stamp is as good – if not better – than a real one.

From Documents to Forms

Even with today’s advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems, working with paper forms is slow and ineffective. Digital form design packages aren’t always user-friendly, and many users prefer to mock something up in Microsoft Word. Well, with Power PDF it all gets easier. Its Form Typer function converts static (e.g. scanned) documents to forms, intelligently working out which elements are text fields, numeric fields, buttons, radio buttons, checkboxes or whatever. And then you have a blank form that you can distribute to others to fill out. Power PDF can also be used to fill out and save forms, or extract forms data from filled-out forms. The whole business of forms becomes a lot less painful.

To make it even more worth your effort, Nuance is running a competition to win one of 4 of Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3 tablets with a keyboard and wireless scanner - worth over £1,300 - for anyone who buys Power PDF, or any other product from their imaging range.

Click here to visit Nuance's website, and take Power PDF for a spin. You'd better hurry though as the promotion ends at midnight on Tues 30th September.

This article is brought to you in association with Nuance

Power PDF