Updated: December 19, 2016
A few weeks ago, I was contacted again by the Investintech team, asking me to take their brand new flagship product, PDF Converter 11, for a rigorous spin. Having already reviewed versions 9 and 10, I more or less knew what was in store for me, but it's still interesting to see what the program can do come a fresh release.
In the past, I did have a plethora of comments and feedback on the speed and finesse of the conversion mechanism, the niggles around Microsoft Office installations, and the quality of output, especially OpenOffice. Now, overall, PDF Converter 10 was a better product than the ninth release, but far from being perfect. Well, let us proceed with the baptism of fire, shall we.
The technical details
Able2Extract PDF Converter 11 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, but for the sake of completeness, and being able to compare to previous tests, I decided to go for the Windows edition - and install the program on my Lenovo G50 multi-boot box, which also has a Windows 10 setup.
The product offers high-quality conversion for PDF files into multiple output formats, including Microsoft Office, AutoCAD, HTML, images, and a few others. Strangely, OpenOffice shows up on the website, but it is less prominent than before, and we will discuss this in greater detail a bit later. The new edition brings several improvements, at least on paper, including encryption, redaction, as well as enhanced OCR capabilities.
The full price is a very hefty USD149.95, 50% more than before, and the monthly subscription option is there, still at a very respectable USD34.95. This means the converter is aimed at serious users, and people who need to spend a lot of time working with a large number of documents. If the cost is the major issue, then you probably are not the right user. In fact, by the grace of finances, Able2Extract precludes itself from being a home user software.
Setup & first steps
The installation was quick and easy, even with the SuRun setup inside Windows 10, very similar to my endeavor on Windows 7, but I still owe you a full article on that one. Anyhow, no problem getting the software to run.
The GUI is a little dull as the gray color can be a bit difficult on the eyes, but it is very similar to the previous version. The new stuff - there's a third column, and it's there to let you annotate documents and add comments, or if you're working in the Edit more, also redact portions of the text.
I started by loading my Linux kernel crash book, a 182-page document with a lot of text and images and some formulas. It's always a good candidate for conversion. It looked fine, but then I noticed that the program did not properly render images with transparent elements. This is no different than versions 9 and 10, but only now really bugged me for some reason.
Conversion - where's OpenOffice?
One thing that stumped me - and annoyed me - the option to convert to OpenOffice seems to be gone! It's not, and you will be able to choose the output format for your would-be Word, Excel and Powerpoint files under Conversion options, but this is not very intuitive.
This may anger people, especially since there are references to OO on the main website and brochure. LibreOffice still takes the back bench. This seems to be more of a cosmetic thing than any actual format or licensing problem, but it would help people better understand the capabilities of the software.
I started with Microsoft Office as the default. Predictably, A2E 11 warmed me that there was an installation missing on the system, but then it still continued with the conversion and finally failed with an ugly .NET error. The conversion speed was decent, but the program was only using a single core. Not a biggie, but still.
I'm wondering why the tool would continue with a conversion only to fail to generate the output file. If the presence of Office is critical to the final output, then there's no reason eating through CPU cycles if the file cannot be generated. This is quite silly.
The OpenOffice conversion was much more successful. I tried both my crash book as well as the excellent A Mathematical Theory of Communication by C. E. Shannon, because it contains a lot of equations and complex shapes stuff.
The conversion quality was excellent, and much better than before. Both documents looked far more professional, with fewer glitches and errors. With the crash book, the transparency issue remains. But the equations were all top notch.
I also tried the batch conversion option. It was a little confusing slash buggy. It read Cancelling for some reason while working, not sure why. And then, it failed as Microsoft Office was missing. Again. This functionality does not adhere to the output format settings. You also need to provide a Captcha-like number before running a batch conversion. Quite odd.
Annotation & redactions
Probably the weakest link of the whole package is how you edit the files. Redaction sounds cool, but it's just dragging & dropping black rectangles onto text, with the mouse cursor blinker still showing. It's quite cumbersome moving the selected areas about and not very pretty. Adding comments and such is also quite tricky and you get all sorts of errors. I also tried to undo some of the redactions, and at this point, Able2Extract PDF Converter simply stopped working and crashed. This is quite disappointing, I have to say.
Able2Extract PDF Converter 11 is a bi-polar product. On one hand, it offers some rather interesting improvements, as well as new features. The most prominent is the quality of conversions, and I guess this will be the selling point. Annotations can also be useful. However, the good stuff comes with a price. More bugs, a less-than-perfect batch conversion mechanism, old ghosts that should have been resolved, and an actual price hike. We cannot dismiss the fat layer of cost that has been added in the new version.
I am not sure why the program should fail on Microsoft Office or why OpenOffice has been hidden away. Those are such small and yet unnecessary issues that take away from the overall experience. The rain of errors and the eventual crash are also inexcusable, and they sure do not contribute to the feeling of value-for-money, which this software should deliver in big heaps.
Not quite sure what to say. I like the new stuff, but I definitely do not like the bad stuff, and surely not the old bad stuff. The conversions are really great, but everything else requires more attention and polish. At USD149.95, you will be nitpicking about every little papercut. As a bare minimum, the batch conversion should work, the annotation stuff needs to be more streamlined, and I want more clarity around OpenOffice. Lastly, the outstanding MS Office install thingie needs to be fixed. All in all, 5.5/10. Not bad, but we've seen better. If you need precision, yes, if you need everything else, well, not quite.