The ability to move documents from hard copy to electronic and back was already fairly solid, through scanning software
that captured images as well as text (OCR) and, of course, printing of electronic documents. Anything else to make
those documents circulate in a more fluid fashion, such as early cloud-based and document-management systems,
would have been great, too. Capturing documents and annotations through voice-to-text capabilities would have
seemed a bit far-fetched, however.
I became curious about the new product from Nuance and figured it was time for me to check back in on just how far this
technology had come. Given that OCR-like capabilities were seen as the key to back-and-forth conversions, it came as
no surprise that Nuance, the leader in OCR technology for the last decade or more, had such a solution that was at the
core of the functionality of its product. In exploring the state-of-the-art in PDF conversion, I also found a solution that goes
beyond and offers much more: even that futuristic voice-to-text that was just the glimmer of an idea back then.
My timing, in terms of comparisons, could not have been better. While I got to know Nuance PDF and compared it to the
main PDF competitor, Adobe Acrobat X, it turned out it was time for a revision. In October 2012, Adobe Acrobat XI
became available. Not only did I have a chance to get to know Nuance PDF, I also got to compare it to the latest and
greatest version of its leading competition.
Nuance and Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8: Hands-On
After working with names that were so familiar to me—such as PaperPort, Equitrac, eCopy, and Omnipage—the
modestly named Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 from Nuance Communications, a high-tech “house of brands,”
was a surprising revelation. As someone who has created thousands of PDF files and interacted with hundreds of
thousands more, I was in for an eye-opening few weeks, exploring what this powerful software package could do for me
and how it compared to the other contender, Adobe Acrobat. I was also able to gain insight into other professions and
work environments and how many of these powerful Nuance tools contribute to their workplace productivity.
In addition to the foundational back-and-forth conversions between PDF and a variety of file formats, Nuance
emphasized four important innovations in Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8, including voice annotation, advanced
PDF editing, cloud and document management integration, and the inclusion of the emerging PDF/A standard. I have
become familiar with each of these, and am duly impressed, as I found ways my own workflows could be improved
using them. But going back to the training DVD that I watched as I was ramping up my knowledge, I found the complete
list of features to be impressive as well:
• Create, Convert and Edit PDF Files;
• Assemble and Compile Portfolios;
• Annotate and Stamp PDF Files;
• Use Your Voice to Add Notes to Your Document;
• Work with Scanned Documents and Forms;
• Create PDF/A Compliant Files;
• Redact and Bates Stamp your Document; and
• Connect to Popular Cloud Services.
Nuance emphasized four important
innovations in Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8, including voice
annotation, advanced PDF editing,
cloud and document management
integration, and the inclusion of the
emerging PDF/A standard.
As I completed my findings, I found that, in most cases, it’s the combination of those easy-to-use capabilities, from the
basic to the sophisticated, that really give Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 its power.
Workflows and Functions
The overall needs of business users can be characterized from their central focus on the Microsoft Office suite, mostly
within or at least in conjunction with a large corporate, health-care, educational, or government organization. Even with
its large feature set, the product has been designed and marketed with these specifics in mind. Features and flexibility
are offered to users of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Internet Explorer. Inside larger organizations,
departments that will find the many capabilities of Nuance PDF a boost to productivity include human resources, sales
and marketing, engineering, IT, finance and legal, and records management. Marketing agencies and publishing firms
can utilize its capabilities throughout their organizations.
Is Editing PDFs Somehow Unethical?
While not everyone may think of this question, it has crossed my mind. Having worked with PDF files for about
20 years, I have always considered them to be “cast in stone.” Creating a PDF was like burning a write-once
DVD—it was something you did when you wanted a permanent, non-editable copy of a document. In my mind, I
associate them with tax returns, newspaper articles, and course syllabi—items that have been “printed” and
have never been changed, and in fact could not have been changed. When using Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8, I found that there are different categories of usage for PDFs. For example, there are some PDFs
that I would like to edit easily without going back to a converted Word file to make changes, especially simple
ones, such as dates in a new course syllabus, then recreating the PDF and giving it a new name. In fact, one of
my suggestions for productivity improvements for PDFs has come from learning to use advanced editing
available in Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8. This creates a broader perspective on just what a PDF is and
can be and helps me resolve the admittedly outdated “ethical” question. Nuance confirmed that many customers
have raised this as a potential issue or misperception. According to the company, this is why there are PDF
security settings in the creation step. Fully editable PDFs lay the groundwork for a better understanding of how
the portable document format has evolved and found broader usage and, with the power of Nuance PDF
Converter Enterprise 8’s editing (beyond the “touch-up” capability of the past), expands the horizon for the PDF
and what it can be.
Adobe, by the way, has radically changed its approach to PDFs with version XI of Acrobat. While the company
had long defined PDFs as “snapshots” of documents, the new version of the software now includes editing
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I found that, in most cases, it’s the combination of those easy-to-
use capabilities, from the basic to the sophisticated, that really
give Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 its power.
Close-Up with a Power User
In addition to reviewing my own workflows and those of professional associates across a range of professional
fields, I interviewed a “power PDF user” who is also an administrator for this report. This person is responsible
for recommending PDF software for up to 1,000 users in his own sphere of influence (his operational division).
Through his regional role, he also has the power to influence those in other divisions across a national
Although this individual knows Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 “inside and out” and has strongly
recommended Nuance PDF software over its nearest rival, he will remain anonymous here. Suffice it to say
he is extremely knowledgeable and represents a government organization that is a household name. Most of
what follows is in his own words, as he goes back several years and traces the organization’s original
evaluation of version 6, up to the present day and its evaluation of version 8.
Q: Describe your organization.
A: Our part of the federal government agency has over 700 users of all types – from engineers to
Q: How do you use Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 today?
A: My guesstimate of how our part of the agency uses PDF Converter Enterprise 8 is based on empirical
observations. The list is in estimated decreasing order to feature/process use.
1. Edit PDF metadata and similar to meet Section 508 (by Web developers).
2. Edit PDFs to update small bits of information.
3. Create PDFs from within Microsoft Office 2010 (though many now use Office’s “Save and
Send” to create a PDF, which then opens in Nuance PDF for any editing, adding metadata,
4. Create PDFs from within Nuance PDF from a networked scanner.
5. Edit PDFs to remove selected pages and resave them.
6. Edit PDFs to mark up an existing PDF and return it to the sender (used to mark up layout
diagrams, for example).
7. Copy information (text, tables, or images) from a PDF to another file (a new Word document,
8. Convert a PDF to Word or Excel (when someone has lost the original source file).
9. We are starting to use PDF reading/editing direct from SharePoint. This use will expand as
users get familiar with using SharePoint and as we switch to Nuance PDF as the PDF viewer.
10.Create a PDF of a single Lotus Notes message or create a PDF package of multiple Lotus
Notes e-mail messages and attachments.
11.Create a PDF of a Web page from Internet Explorer 8.
12.View PDF files.*
*Note: If/when we remove Adobe Reader and use Nuance PDF exclusively, this will become the number one
use of Nuance PDF. I already use Nuance PDF exclusively, as do a handful of others.
Q: How has your use of PDF software evolved?
A: In the past we used Adobe Reader for viewing PDFs and Adobe Acrobat Professional for those very few
who edited PDFs.
Over the last few years, some files that used to arrive for review as CAD files started arriving as PDFs.
Managers saw a need to be able to edit (mark up) these PDFs and return them to the sender with comments.
A few years ago, on behalf of our line of business, I started comparing alternatives to the expensive Adobe
Acrobat Pro. Among the software evaluated was Adobe Acrobat Pro and Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 6.
Q: What were your observations when comparing Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise and Adobe
A: My [past] comparisons of the above software showed that the Nuance software:
• Created PDFs with file sizes as small as or smaller than Adobe Acrobat did with similar settings.
• Converted existing PDFs to Word or Excel while retaining the original look very well.
• Cost [significantly less than] Adobe Acrobat Professional did. In fact, the upgrade cost for Adobe
Acrobat Pro for the existing relatively few users was higher than the full cost of a 1,000-license level
for Nuance’s PDF6.
• Lacked only a Section 508 Accessibility for the Handicapped checker to fully meet our needs.
• In most cases, Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 6 produced more accurate conversions from
PDF to Word.
Spotlight on Differences: Nuance versus Adobe
While many of the powerful functions found in both programs are quite straightforward, there are some major differences
in usability and performance. Many of these are summarized in the comparison matrix below, in the “advantage”
column. Their real-world impact can be quite dramatic, depending on each user and organization’s unique workflow
For example, I recently had to update a multi-page syllabus for one of my graduate school marketing courses, and the
most recent version that I could locate existed only as a PDF file. I was required to cut and paste the text into a bulletin
board-style online posting, which needs to be created from a Word file. With my comparison testing in mind, but really
mostly concerned with an easy and fast solution, I converted the PDF file to Word, using Adobe Acrobat XI. A casual
glance at the document, which was really only in an intermediate format at this point in the workflow, did not indicate that
there might be a problem. But the pasted content nearly caused the university system’s spell checker to blow a gasket. It
paused dozens of times, not recognizing words because the formatting was off. I gave up, converted the same PDF via
Nuance, and it pasted into the system flawlessly. A later visual inspection of the two converted documents showed a
major though subtle difference, with the Acrobat-converted version full of mismatched fonts.
I recently had a similar experience with six typical white paper documents I was using in my work as a writer and
analyst. A different vendor provided each of the documents, which were all delivered as PDFs. They varied in length,
from two pages to more than 50, and in content, which typically included text and graphics, although with a widely
varying ratio. Each also included some valuable information that I would likely quote or paraphrase in the reports and
Q: What decision did you make?
A: Our part of the agency bought a 1,000-license level for Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 6.
We continued to buy Adobe Acrobat Professional for Web developers, who need to run the Section 508
checks and fix as needed prior to posting to the Web or e-mailing outside the agency.
Q: What was your experience with Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 6?
A: As with most software, after implementing it nationwide within our part of the agency, we found that a very
few Web-hosted applications produced a PDF that Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 6—and later version
7—could not open. So, we had to retain Adobe Reader as the PDF viewer despite our desire to eliminate a
piece of software that needed frequent vulnerability patching.
Q: How has Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 addressed your needs?
A: With Nuance PDF Converter 8, we no longer encounter specific PDF files that cannot be opened with the
latest version . Our line of business is now deciding whether (or when) to remove to Adobe Reader and use
Nuance PDF exclusively. This was a major improvement for our line of business.
articles that I needed to write. A clean conversion to an Office format, in this case Word, for potential cutting and pasting
was essential. In my six-paper showdown, Nuance conversions not only successfully converted the files relative to the
Adobe Acrobat XI conversions with regard to spacing, font fidelity, and other formatting, they converted to much smaller
.docx files in six out of six trials (see table below).
converted file size
Based on my own hands-on experience with PDFs, my knowledge of other professions, and my experience with
Nuance’s software, I have compiled an annotated table of workflows and functions I believe are most important for
users. I have also provided a description of Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 and have compared it to Adobe
Acrobat XI, including a few notes on my experiences with each.
But the pasted content nearly caused the university system’s
spell checker to blow a gasket. It paused dozens of times, not
recognizing words because the formatting was off. I gave up,
converted the same PDF via Nuance, and it pasted into the
Comparison Matrix: Nuance PDF Converter Enterprise 8 versus Adobe Acrobat XI
Product Evaluation Results
Nuance PDF Converter
Adobe Acrobat XI
Edit PDF files: This is
beneficial to nearly any
workflow that uses PDF
files. Make either simple
touch-up edits to text or
graphics, or make
to the content of the PDF
New “Advanced Edit”
feature, which is
accessed by a tab on the
Nuance PDF main
screen, converts PDF
files to fully editable files
using word processor-like
editing right within the
PDF file. Small and large
document edits can be
made quickly, including
line wrap, pagination,
indents and justification.
Users can then
seamlessly switch back to
the PDF view to continue
to work with the document
as a traditional PDF file.
Up through the most recent
version of Adobe Acrobat
(XI), Adobe pointed to the
software’s limited editing
capability as consistent with
its philosophy that a PDF is a
snapshot of an original file.
Adobe finally has embraced
a limited form of editing, but
still trails. Flowing text
between pages, for example,
is not supported, meaning
that additional text added to a
paragraph needs to stay
within the space originally
allocated to the original
paragraph or it will bleed on
top of whatever follows.
Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8 allows users to
edit PDF files as easily as
they can edit Word files,
meaning that flowing material
between pages just happens
“naturally” without the user
even thinking about it. In
addition, Nuance’s PDF
converter retains the original
document formatting so that
users do not have to
reformat documents after
making edits to the file, which
results in significant time
conversion to Word,
Excel, and PowerPoint
formats: On many
occasions, workflows that
contain PDF documents
require conversion of
those files into Microsoft
Office formats to allow the
content to be used by
(calculating cells in Excel,
PDF to Word, Excel or
PowerPoint: Quick and
easy conversion of PDF
documents into common
including Microsoft Office,
is a hallmark of Nuance
PDF. The conversion
process follows similar
steps regardless of the
resulting format. Also,
Nuance PDF supports the
conversion of selected
portions of a PDF file, or
the entire document.
Nuance also offers a
variety of workflow
options to perform
PDF to Word: Conversion
takes multiple steps and
significant time, and
formatting results are
PDF to Excel: Although
supported directly, it does not
offer selective export of
portions of the document
converted to a spreadsheet
(i.e., page ranges.)
PDF to PowerPoint:
Automatic conversion is
finally supported, in Acrobat
Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8 is a far superior
In Word and WordPerfect:
Multiple examples show that
Nuance creates converted
documents with more fidelity
to the original, with more
consistent spacing and fonts.
Files converted by Nuance
also have shown to be
smaller in size.
In Excel: Nuance provides
more accurate conversions,
including table recognition
and an ability to distinguish
Microsoft Office and
Internet Explorer Add-Ins,
drag-and-drop, and the
PDF Create Assistant.
between general and
In PowerPoint: Nuance
stands out through
headers/footers, rule lines,
hyperlinks, text, and
Cloud exchange of PDF
commonly used cloud
services: Enables back-
between documents in
the cloud and the desktop
Supports one-click open
and save access to
documents stored in a
long list of cloud services,
including Google Docs,
Evernote, Box, Dropbox,
and Nuance’s PaperPort
Direct connectivity with cloud
services is limited to the
Adobe Creative Cloud and
subscription services at
Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8 includes out-of-
the-box connectivity to most
popular Cloud document
storage and retrieval
using voice: This feature
is useful when adding
notes to PDF documents,
a common task during
any PDF editing workflow.
Built-in feature using the
service by Nuance.
No direct support for voice
Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8’s “speaking
content” includes sticky notes
and is three times faster than
PDF files are often used
to combine files of
differing formats together
into a single file. For
example, one PDF can
include a scanned image,
Word document, and
Document Assembly view
opens the entire desktop
to work with pages of a
PDF document and
capability to insert,
replace, extract, and
delete, and includes new
capabilities to split, add
selectively add pages
from source files using the
Page Assembly feature
without having to convert
the entire file to PDF first.
Acrobat offers the traditional
ability to combine entire files
from the File menu, but it is
much slower than Nuance
Nuance PDF Converter
Enterprise 8’s Document
Assembly with Page
Assembly feature offers far
greater flexibility and
productivity in selectively
building PDF documents
from source files without
having to first convert all files
PDF/A creation: Many
courts and government
PDF/A files can be
created directly from the
Acrobat offers the ability to
create PDF/A files, and
Draw: Nuance has pulled
even in this one-time Adobe
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