Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Reviews of pdfFactory and pdfFactoryPro
by Eric Clyde, I-SIG Coordinator

For a number of reasons, the pdf format has become a popular way of providing documentation and other information in the last few years. Authors can be sure that the viewers are seeing exactly what was intended, no matter whether the file is being viewed on a Macintosh- , Linux-, or Windows-based computer. This can be important, also, when planning to have something printed elsewhere, as I have learned through some bad experiences – what appears and prints nicely formatted on one computer will not necessarily appear the same way on another computer or with a different printer! Also, as will be seen below, the resulting file size can be much smaller than the original document, an important consideration when downloading from or exchanging files via the Internet.

The software firm, Adobe, developed Acrobat to produce pdf files. It is a great tool and is very versatile but, at a cost of $299(U.S.) for the standard version and $449(U.S.) for the Pro version, is much too expensive for the casual user who just wants to produce the occasional pdf file. Fortunately, Adobe wanted the format to become a de-facto standard and published the specifications for the format so that other developers would be able to create compatible, if less versatile, applications.

pdfFactory, like other similar programs, works by pretending to be an additional printer attached to your computer. When installed, pdfFactory, like other similar programs, sets up a new printer driver. It is easy to use. To produce a pdf file of a document as it appears on the screen, start to print it, but select pdfFactory as the printer. Almost immediately a preview screen appears showing approximately what the final product will look like. If the original document is lengthy, the percentage completion of the final pdf file is shown as the conversion progresses. (Note that only part of the top of the screen is shown here for legibility).

There are a number of options.
[Fonts] shows the fonts used in the document. If there are unusual fonts which intended viewers may not have, these can easily be embedded in the final product. Otherwise the intended user's machine may substitute another font, which may not give the intended effect or appearance. However embedding will increase the size of the resulting pdf file.
[Doc Info] allows the setting of attributes, such as keywords, to be written into the final product.
[Links] If there are URLs and email addresses in the document, this option allows a choice of how these will appear.
[Settings] allows for a number of global options, such as the number of "Autosaves" in which results of previous sessions are saved automatically.

At the bottom of the screen the following tabs appear:

[View PDF] loads Adobe Acrobat and shows the final product.
[Save] saves the final product.
[Send] allows you to send the pdf file by email.
[Help] provides ... help!
[Close] aborts the whole process.
[Print] allows you to print the pdf file on your printer.

One of the documents pdfFactory was tested on was a fold-out brochure produced using Adobe Pagemaker. (There were six pages on each side of the foldout, and each side was prepared as a separate document). Camera ready input was to be emailed to a commercial printer. The documents used two type fonts, one of which was a calligraphic one and is not commonly available, plus various special characters and numerous jpegs. While the documents could have been sent in PageMaker format, the file sizes totalled almost 29 MB; in pdf format, they came to less than 600KB! The latter format had the additional advantage that the documents could emailed to other people for proofreading – not too many people have access to PageMaker!

Other features are the ability to add or delete pages in the pdf file, and also to combine documents, even from different programs, into one file. In one test a Word Perfect document, a Quattro Pro spreadsheet, and one of the above PageMaker documents were easily combined into one pdf document.

pdfFactory is shareware. A trial version can be downloaded from www.pdffactory.com. Until it is registered it, the following note appears at the foot of each page: "PDF created with pdfFactory trial version www.pdffactory.com" Registration costs $49.95(U.S.) The program is recommended. It is easy to use and is quite versatile.

 

pdfFactoryPro
The Pro version has some additional features, the principal ones dealing with security, bookmarks, and the ability to rearrange jobs. The security tab, as shown in the partial screen print to the right, allows various options, including that of to requiring a password to view the document. The documentation points out, though, that password breaking programs are available and recommends lengthy and unusual passwords). It is also possible to to prevent changes to or copying parts of the document or printing it out.

Some pdf files have two windows. The left one bookmarks (indexes) the text on the right. If a bookmark is clicked in the left window, the appropriate part of the document is displayed in the right window.

pdfFactory Pro allows the making of such bookmarks. It can be done in two ways -- manually, or automatically by detecting headings, etc. In the manual method, each page to be bookmarked is looked at in the preview screen, and either right clicked and select "bookmark this page," or hit Ctrl-B.

In the automatic method, a consistent style has to have been used, e.g. headings and subheadings have to be either in a different size or font from that of the main text, and from each other. Part of a pdf file produced using this method appears below. As can be seen, the automatic bookmarking feature works very well.

pdfFactoryPro is also shareware. A trial version can be downloaded from www.pdffactory.com. Until it is registered, the following note appears at the foot of each page: "PDF created with pdfFactory Pro trial version www.pdffactory.com" Registration costs $99.95(U.S.) Like pdfFactory, it is easy to use. Also recommended.


Bottom Line:

pdfFactory
$49.95 US, shareware
from FinePrint Software
Web site: www.pdffactory.com

pdfFactoryPro
$99.95 US, shareware
from FinePrint Software
Web site: www.pdffactory.com


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.