Nuance Power PDF 2 review
Many PDF editors and converters are aimed at either home or art markets but Nuance's Power PDF 2 is instead aimed at the business user who need workflow, assembly and sharing features that you won't find in home packages. However, if you don't need the advanced features in the Advanced version, you can go for the Standard package which is almost half the price. And if you do need to archive a lot of electronic documents or send proofs around for comment or correction, Power PDF 2 is well under half the price of the latest Adobe Acrobat, which - if you don't subscribe monthly - costs £282 to buy outright. (See also: best PDF tools.)
Nuance Power PDF 2 review: Price
Nuance still sells version 1 of Power PDF, but it's priced identically to the new package so there's little sense in going for the old version. You can buy Power PDF Standard 2 direct from Nuance for £79.99 and you have a choice of a download or a physical boxed copy - both are the same price.
There's also Power PDF Advanced 2 which - as before - costs £139.99 direct from Nuance.
Nuance Power PDF 2 review: what's new?
There are three main updates. First is that the interface has been updated to match Office 2016, so if you're an Office user, Power PDF is intuitive to use, whether you're using tools from the Ribbon, or saving and sharing PDFs.
Second is support for Windows 10 and, in particular, touchscreen devices such as the Surface Pro and Surface Book.
Third, there's better support for cloud storage services - you can now import from or save straight to Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. You can also open multiple documents from a cloud service simultaneously to combine into one PDF document.
Nuance Power PDF 2 review: Ease of use
Power PDF adopts the Ribbon interface first popularised by Microsoft Office, which many users will now prefer as it avoids having to work down through several levels of menus. This isn’t universal among PDF editors, Acrobat being the most obvious alternative to have stuck with the more conventional menu-based interface similar to Adobe's other graphics products including Photoshop and Illustrator. This makes a lot of sense if your target audience is graphic designers, but in a small business, the ribbon-style interface is more familiar.
The ribbon can make it a lot easier to do certain things, such as scanning a document and using the built in optical character recognition (OCR) to turn it from an image to an editable - and searchable - PDF. It's just one click from the Ribbon, a task that's not as easy in Acrobat.
This is just the icing on the cake, though, and Power PDF offers features which, at first sight, are exactly what you’d expect of a business-oriented PDF editor. In particular, you can create PDFs, either using a pseudo printer driver from any Windows program that can print or you can use the toolbars provided in Office applications.
You also have full facilities for editing PDFs although certain restrictions do exist, as a result of the format of PDF files. Accordingly, the scope for editing will always be limited compared to the facilities offered in the software used to create the original document.
More business-oriented features in the Advanced version include digital signatures and ID certificates for security purposes (i.e. limiting who is allowed to edit or merely view the document), and notifications which tell you if your document isn't PDF/A compliant so you can fix it on the fly.
In both versions you get tools for collaborative review, the ability to create forms from scratch that viewers can fill in later (the FormTyper feature can also automatically convert non-fillable forms into fillable PDF forms that you can complete, save and email), batch processing for converting several PDFs without continual human supervision, and provision for embedding multimedia content including audio and video.
The OCR engine in Power PDF Advanced is from OmniPage, and in our tests produced good results, as long as the original documents were in fair-to-good condition. Once you're working with a searchable PDF, Power PDF Advanced's search facilities include Look Like Search, which includes ready-made templates for credit-card numbers, dates, emails and phone numbers, as well as scope for crreating custom ones. This can be very useful for extracting data from multiple files.
Nuance Power PDF 2 review: batch mode
Working in batch mode and automating file conversion to PDF is not quite as comprehensive as in Acrobat Pro, which has more operations available for its batch scripts. Power PDF Advanced partly compensates by offering a ‘watch folder'. Designate a folder and any files copied into it will automatically be converted to PDF.
We tested the software by trying to compile a PDF from a variety of different files, including a Microsoft Word document, a JPG photo, other PDFs and a brochure produced in Microsoft Publisher. We were pleasantly surprised when Power PDF Advanced got to the Publisher file, opened Publisher, loaded the document, printed it to PDF and added it to the combined PDF we were building.
Document compilation and adjustment is made simple by the use of drag-and-drop thumbnails. You can mix and match documents, photos, spreadsheets and graphics of different sizes into the same PDF Package, the older standard, or PDF Portfolio, the new.
Conversion can be carried out well in both directions and the software supports Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and also WordPerfect, without the need to run those applications to convert. If you are running them, Power PDF tabs are added to the ribbons of all the main applications, so you can convert in-situ.
As well as its OmniPage OCR, Nuance has incorporated another of its technologies. Dragon speech recognition is brought to bear as Dragon Notes, so you can dictate sticky notes, to comment on the content of a PDF document. This is handy if you already use speech recognition in other parts of your work, although no headset is supplied.
Nuance Power PDF 2: Specs
- Windows 7/8/10
- 1 GB memory
- 700 MB drive space
- Windows 7/8/10
- 1 GB memory
- 700 MB drive space
Overall, we found Nuance Power PDF 2 to be intuitive and easy to use, especially if you're familiar with Microsoft Office. We have little doubt that most users will be able to quickly get up and running with it. We found the reviewing features particularly comprehensive, proving means of annotating, marking text in various ways and drawing attention to parts of a document, and it's great that there's now support for touchscreens. Given that it's so much cheaper than Acrobat, it makes a lot of sense for small business use.