Adobe’s PDF file format is one of those things I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with. I’ve got ton’s of PDF documents loaded with 6 or 7 languages (or more) that I don’t speak and other useless information. Fortunately, I’ve had Able2Extract, a great tool from Investintech that let me manipulate and extract PDF files to common file formats like Word, Excel, HTML, etc. and then remove the extraneous data. Previous to the latest release of V9, I’ve created Word files of these skinned down PDF’s and used Word to convert back to PDF format (smaller files, easier to search, etc.).
I’m also still extracting snippets from PDF’s, as I wrote about here. Just yesterday I set up a new cordless phone system and needed 3 of 102 pages from a PDF file to zero in on the functions I needed to program immediately (and as a reference sheet). I turned to Able2Extract automatically. It’s a “go to” tool that simplifies my digital life.
Investintech has just launched Able2Extract V9, and has added powerful PDF creation abilities to already great PDF conversion functionality, including the ability to create secure, password protected PDF files and specify what tasks like copy, print, etc. the recipient can perform. This is great news for people like me who want to present their work but prevent others from copying it or manipulating it. I think of this feature as digital rights management for PDF’s (DRM).
Exploring the cool new PDF creation tools
The top level GUI interface in V9 adds a Create function, which let’s you open an existing document for conversion to PDF. You’ll see the standard file picker and can easily load up your source document.
There are a lot of reasons I use PDF’s, mostly to create layouts so that others viewing my documents see a finished piece as I authored it with page breaks as I intended and margins positioned as I intended. Microsoft Word 2013 lets me create PDF’s and encrypt with a password, but Word won’t allow me to protect further by specifying advanced options (preventing copying, disassembling, etc.). Able2Extract 9 provides me with a whole host of customizable parameters. Once I’ve loaded a documented to convert to PDF format, the next step is to select the View menu, PDF Creation Options to fine tune the viewer experience and specify what capabilities are allowed.
PDF Creation Options allows me to specify metadata and more, and includes functionality to fine tune how MS Office documents are handled. Here are a couple of screen shots showing metadata and MS Office document handling parameters.
The Security tab allows me to create a secure, password protected PDF (which MS Office can also do using a single password) but Able2Extract 9 provides both a User and Owner password function (extra protection for the creator) and more importantly, it offers the ability to control what the viewer can do with the PDF document via a robust Permissions feature. Comparing the PDF creation options between Able2Extract and Word 2013 (see screenshot below where Able2Extract’s permission feature is on the left and MS Word’s feature for permissions is on the right), its clear that Able2Extract 9 offers a huge advantage. Just uncheck the functions you wish to prohibit (you can save these as defaults as well or save a set of parameters to a file that you can load for future use).
Coupled with all of the above new creation capabilities are NEW PDF editing features. This includes the ability modify the Document Information and Viewing Preferences for a PDF file as well as making changes to pages (delete, resize, rotate, scale or move PDF pages). And with the ability to manipulate, extract and convert PDF files to other formats, Able2Extract V9 is a application that should be considered in any SOHO, business, and even high end consumer environment. You can download a 7 day trial version and experience all this great functionality and see if it fits in your toolbox as well as it fits in mine!
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve been going through computer hell (a continuing saga not yet ended). One of the things I rediscovered when replacing a computer is that there are everyday tools that I regularly use to simplify tasks and shorten the amount of time needed to perform these tasks that, when not installed, cause me frustration and wasted time. There are three tools that that I find invaluable: Vuescan x64 which I use to scan anything I want to save a digital record of, Microsoft AutoCollage (a program from 2008) that I use to create backgrounds for some of my apps, and the one that I use the most, Able2Extract Pro from Investintech. I’ve written about Able2Extract before and my usage has increased over time.
PDF files are ubiquitous and other than casual reading, seem to be the most challenging file type to manipulate. It drives me to distraction. And I’m not fond of Adobe Acrobat. When I was setting up the new computer, I was trying to install my copy of an older version of Able2Extract Pro but couldn’t find the older installation file etc. I contacted Investintech who graciously provided me with the latest bits and product key. In addition to the full license, they offer a single month license, which would be useful for someone working on a single big project, but in my opinion, it’s an everyday useful tool.
What do I use Able2Extract Pro for? I get contracts and agreements via email in PDF format that I’m asked to sign and return. I want to make a change. Something simple as a typed effective date, or when someone doesn’t use my correct legal name. This happens all the time with small contractors (replacing my slider door, installing a new furnace..) Rather than wait for a revised copy, I open the document with Able2Extract Pro, convert to Word, make the changes and then save as PDF inside Microsoft Word.
Then, there is my huge collection of manuals and user guides in PDF format. There are times that I want a single page or a few pages from a large 500+ page manual to change a setting or fix something. Recently the real power gate on my Subaru Forester was not opening fully. I had somehow triggered a new memory setting that was a three inch opening. For me it’s a lot more difficult to find something in a badly indexed physical book/manual than by searching a PDF file. In this case, the instructions were well hidden. I found them, and there’s a specific set of buttons and procedures perform, in order, to reset, but I couldn’t wrap my tired mind around them and kept failing. So I needed a cheat sheet. So I fired up Able2Extract Pro. It’s as simple as highlighting the text you want and selecting the format to convert to (Word in this case, but Excel, HTML and others are also supported). I highlighted the six pages of text. (Yes, all of that for changing the memory height setting!)
Able2Extract Pro does all the work and the converted document automatically loads in Word. It looks great. I can save as a docx, print, convert the abbreviated document to PDF or any combination of the three. In this case I made a mini PDF, as I fear that I’ll need to do this again.
And yes, I successfully reset the memory height of the rear gate.
I have a lot of manuals in PDF format that contain multiple languages, especially for some of the electronics I own. I keep a number of these on my iPhone, which has limited space (and while these manuals are also stored in various ‘clouds’, sometimes I need a manual when I have a non existent internet connection, not to mention trying to keep under my monthly data limit). Typically the first thing I do when I get a new electronic gadget is to find the digital user guide/manual and if the PDF contains multiple languages, I use Able2Extract Pro to select English and convert that to an English only PDF. That’s the version I keep both in the cloud and on my iPhone. The manual for my Samsung TV was nearly 40MB and in English, Spanish, and French. Producing a 4.72MB English only version was easy. With a PDF document this large (90 pages of English only, heavy with images) I find it easier to not drag/select the content I wish to keep but instead convert the entire PDF (Select All) and delete the unwanted content in Word. I won’t ever really need the tri-language version and have a file that is only 10% the size of the original.
It all comes down to having the right tool for the job. This one is more than a “nice to have” for me and I highly recommend it. There’s a 7 day free trial available for Windows, Mac, and Linux at the vendor’s site, so if you want to check this out, you can do so easily.