Updated: September 28, 2015
Several months ago, I was contacted by Investintech to review their PDF conversion software. It took me a long while to bump the request up in my writing queue, but we're finally there. Or rather, here. Today, I will take a look at the licensed version of PDF Converter 9, and see what it can do.
The program comes with a non-trivial price of USD99.95, and there's a pro version, which costs another 30 dollars, but it also offers OCR. The software is available for all platforms, but I tested on Windows 8.1. Anyhow, behold the results.
The installation is simple. Upon completion, you will be asked to provide your serial number, called PIN here. Otherwise, you have seven days to trial the software. The main interface is simple, elegant, predominantly and slightly depressingly dray.
I quickly loaded a PDF to start testing. In this case, it's my 182-page Linux crash book, originally written using LaTeX and LyX, and then converted to PDF. I often use this file for testing, the same way I did with the Cometdocs online service. It has enough juice and color, tables and images, references, footnotes, and other fancy details to make conversions interesting.
Lost in translation
To start converting, you actually need to select a range of pages, one or more. You can also export individual images and such. The program offers five main types of conversion, including Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, although this also applies to LibreOffice, HTML, AutoCAD, and images. For the two office suites, you then have a range of sub-options, including documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
You can also fine tune the conversion options before you begin, including margins, spacing, and other details. This does require some attention, especially if you have custom files with special formatting. Then, for Word and Excel you get some extra settings.
My first attempt was DOCX. However, Able2Extract complained that there was no Office installed on the PC. True that, but does that mean I cannot convert documents for use on another host? Apparently not. At this point, rather than quitting, the software started the conversion, and it took almost five minutes. Quite slow for some reason.
Eventually, the conversion failed, because the program was unable to find Microsoft Office, as it stated in the first place, but there's really no reason to even begin the conversion just to throw an exception some five minutes later.
After this, I decided to try an easier option - HTML. This was one was rather fast and completed without any errors. You do get decent and accurate output, within reason, with some small glitches. Tables aren't properly aligned, and images aren't exported with high quality.
My next test was to see if PDF Converter 9 could handle LibreOffice, given the OpenOffice label in the toolbar. Well, as it turns out yes, and the naming convention is just cosmetic if even so slightly alarming. You can choose what kind of output you want. Again, it took a long while for the file to be produced.
Immediately, I was worried by the page number. 217? But my document only had 182 pages, so this meant something had changed in the output. Indeed, as I started leafing through the converted ODT file, I started noticing discrepancies. The big is one is that line end characters are carried over into the converted file, which is why you get the weird output like below, roughly adding 40 extra pages to the length. Much like copying from terminal using vi or less or some such.
The bigger issue was that some of the images were misplaced and obscured by text. This made for some really messy bits and pieces, and overall, makes the conversion look rather bad. Plus, in some cases, it's plain unreadable.
My overall impression with Able2Extract PDF Converter 9 isn't that good, I'm afraid. First, let's disclaim the test conditions. I don't know what Microsoft Office results look like, and they could be really good, but then, I have no visibility into that. To be fair, the LibreOffice conversion is also probably unofficial, as the program advertises OpenOffice capability and not LibreOffice. Not quite the same, then sort of yes. Plus, does anyone still use the former?
The conversion speed is also quite slow, and I guess it's done in a single computational thread. Combined with the high price, this makes Able2Extract very difficult to recommend for home use. There are many other, free services that will offer similar capabilities. You do have a trial, so if it works for you, great. However, at this point, this software isn't as good as it should be. I'd like to see improvements in speed, quality and fault tolerance. Overall grade, something like 5/10. And that would be all.