Equisys Zetadocs PDF 1.1 review

It’s easy to dismiss Zetadocs PDF as just another PDF creator, a task it performs with efficiency but without the usual steep learning curve. However, the main focus of Zetadocs is automated document management and delivery – the one area the multitude of alternative products can’t compete on.

Those products tend to do well when it comes to producing individual PDFs, but what many businesses need is to quickly create customised documents specific to their company. Zetadocs’ template-driven process automatically overlays documents onto the company letterhead, adds the appropriate attachments and manages the delivery process. Stored and managed centrally, it has great potential for delivering both time and cost savings.

However, you need to perform those ROI calculations carefully given the high cost of the software itself. This is especially true if you want telephone support, which adds £9.95 exc VAT per seat on a 100-seat installation.

Thankfully, Zetadocs is very easy to use. A simple MSI installer is used for deployment onto desktops from a single central location implementing Windows Group Policy, and Active Directory integration enables the same easy deployment to network users. The addition of context-sensitive help means that, for most situations at least, the standard email support will suffice.

What Zetadocs isn’t, though, is a sophisticated PDF-creation tool. That’s not to say it’s lacking in power, rather that power has been focused on efficiency and automation rather than creativity. Collaborative working is easy, as is ensuring company best practice and consistency of corporate brand. This is implemented through the central management of stationery, attachments and templates, all of which can be shared. Efficiency can be further exploited by integration with existing software such as CRM, ERP, bespoke systems and accounts packages (at additional cost using the optional API toolkit). The end result is that your PDFs can be built and sent natively from the application that created them. Again, this is an area that remains squarely underexploited by competing products. This latest version has added support for font embedding to ensure document portability.

Office integration is good via the usual combination of toolbar buttons and a custom PDF printer driver. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server, there’s the added benefit of a full message audit trail. And when creating a PDF from within Word, which is by far the most popular PDF-conversion process across the majority of enterprises, Zetadocs completes the task in less time than Adobe Acrobat 7 Pro, ScanSoft PDF Converter Pro 3 or eXPert PDF 2 Pro. However, this was only on machines meeting the recommended minimum requirement of a 1GHz Pentium III and 512MB of RAM – anything less and the impact upon performance was noticeable. Surprisingly, the budget solutions performed better on older PCs.

The files created by Zetadocs are readable using any version of Adobe Reader or compatible software, from version 5 onwards, and supports PDF attachments created with PDF 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5 standards. There’s also a choice of 40-bit or 128-bit encryption for password protection of documents. Document format retention is excellent too. On the variety of document types we threw at it during testing, Zetadocs equalled Adobe for accuracy.

There’s undeniably a lot of performance here for the money and, assuming an enterprise-wide switch to digital document-delivery practice, the ROI bottom line makes sense as well. If only that support package wasn’t so expensive.

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