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Nuance Power PDF Advanced 2, First Take: Affordable, feature-rich PDF tools

Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributor on
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Nuance Power PDF Advanced 2

If asked to name a feature-rich, business-ready PDF solution, most people would opt for Adobe's Acrobat Pro DC, which costs £453.60 (inc. VAT), or £13.33 a month. However, there are plenty of third-party PDF editors available, from Foxit, Nitro and Nuance, among others.

You could be forgiven for thinking that a product costing one-third of what Adobe charges for Acrobat Pro won't offer the range of features and ease of use that a serious business user requires. Think again.

Nuance Power PDF 2 comes in two versions, although business users would do well to ignore Standard, which costs £79.99 (inc. VAT), and go for Advanced, which is more expensive at £139.99 (inc. VAT) but includes a wider range of features. That's the version I'm looking at here.

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Nuance Power PDF Advanced 2 costs £139.99 (inc. VAT) and runs on Windows 7 or later.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

A couple of things the Advanced edition can do that Standard can't are the ability to find and redact text, connect to document management systems -- including Office 365 and SharePoint -- and create PDFs automatically if they are added to a folder the application is asked to watch. For those who need to use PDFs for legal purposes, Power PDF Advanced 2 will also automatically apply Bates Numbering.

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Find a Tool helps you find the required features.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

For version 2 of Power PDF, Nuance has given the user interface an overhaul -- and that really does help with usability. The Microsoft Office-style ribbon allows me to find what I need without thinking about it too much. When I do forget which ribbon a feature is on, I just use the Find a Tool search box that sits in the top right corner of the working window. It's a great time-saver.

Nuance goes one usability step further by offering both finger-touch and mouse modes, the former presenting larger icons that are easier to prod at with a fingertip when using your tablet or touchscreen laptop.

There's plenty more that I've found useful in a short space of time. Creating PDFs using a mix of direct text entry and drag-and-drop insertion of other files is simple and fast. Turning a PDF form that can't be edited into one that can is so much faster and more resource-efficient than printing, completing by hand and scanning. Many small businesses that find form-filling painful may see this as a key feature.

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Then there's converting all or part of a form to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, combining and splitting documents, and optimising file sizes for print and web usage. Users for whom security is a key requirement can set controls on the ability to edit documents, while digital signatures are, of course, supported.

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PDF creation options in Power PDF Advanced 2.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

None of these features is rocket science, but they are all easy to access and effective. If you're not already using a PDF application that has them, it may transform how you work with PDFs in the future.

When it comes to document reviewing, Dragon Notes provide an added bonus to the usual commenting, highlighting, and markup features. These are dictated comments that are transformed into editable text.

Spoken notes make a round trip to the cloud for conversion to text, so the results don't appear instantly onscreen. The need to click the dictation tool off to tell the software a note is finished is a bit annoying, and recognition wasn't as accurate as I'd like. But it does work, and it's a feature that Nuance could enhance in future versions. From an accessibility point of view, it would be great to see more voice control across the application, for example.

On the subject of accessibility, the Read Aloud feature, where a somewhat Stephen Hawking soundalike voice makes a good job of speaking the written word accurately, is useful.

PowerPDF Advanced 2 extends its capabilities into other applications. Its extensions for Office applications allow for PDF creation, and include some quite sophisticated options to do things like toggle embedding author metadata, manage the control of links, comments and tags, and make a range of more advanced settings that Microsoft Office doesn't offer natively. Beyond Office there's a printer driver that can be used to create PDFs, and this again offers a range of quality settings.

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PDF save options in Microsoft Word.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

One thing I'm not so happy about is the way the app opens individual instances for every PDF I want to use: I much prefer a tabbed view. Overall, though, that's a pretty minor gripe about a feature-packed and accessible PDF editor. Small organisations that get by with free PDF tools, or are paying a lot more for other applications, would do well to consider Power PDF Advanced 2.

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