ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3 review

Price when reviewed

PDF Converter Professional 3 is the latest release of ScanSoft’s PDF tools bundle, consisting of PDF Create! 3 and PDF Converter 3, both of which are also available separately. The first lets you generate PDF files from any Windows application via a custom PDF ‘printer driver’. The installation also adds an extra menu and toolbar to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making the creation of a basic PDF as easy as printing a document.

ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3 review

The second element, PDF Converter, converts PDFs into a word-processing format for editing. Previously, you could only convert PDFs into the Office DOC format, but you can now convert them into WordPerfect WPD format too. You can even add mark-up comments and stamps for collaborative working. Format retention remains good rather than perfect, and there’s still some way to go before you can export a document out to Word and re-import it with no noticeable changes.

Nevertheless, the overall fidelity of converted jobs is acceptable for Word documents, although we found it less forgiving in Excel worksheets, with occasional errors cropping up. Other improvements are thin on the ground, but include speed enhancements, making some of the complex tasks more practical on older systems.

However, the big new feature is FormTyper, making it possible to create PDF forms that contain editable fields to be filled in onscreen. FormTyper is also able to analyse a document or existing PDF form using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and ‘intelligently’ insert editable fields, as well as append your signature. It’s a great idea, but proves to be a gruellingly slow and not universally effective process. In our tests, which included some taxation forms, it identified many, if not all, fields, but also misidentified field labels as fields. You can manually enter the skipped fields, but this rather defeats the object.

Another useful feature is the ability to directly edit PDF files without having to convert them into the Word format first, although this also means that authors who want their PDFs to remain unaltered will need to password-protect them.

Compared to Adobe’s own PDF offerings, which retail for between £250 and £400, this £45 bundle continues to offer excellent value for money, while still boasting some unique and powerful features. As such, it’s a useful tool to have in your armoury, but it’s ultimately too hit and miss to rely on exclusively.

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