Make better use of PDF to improve your business

Although the PDF format has been around for 20 years, it has developed and expanded dramatically from the original concept and is now considered a vital tool for businesses.

But how can this versatile, although outwardly rather unexciting, file format improve a company’s productivity? The most obvious way is in cutting down the paperwork and we all know how awesome that is.

Once a document has been converted to a searchable PDF (using an OCR utility which basically creates a text file within the PDF), you can search through them in a fraction of the time it would take to do a fingertip search.

Modern PDF tools, such as Nuance’s Power PDF, offer features like ‘watch folder’ which will automatically OCR any PDF added to a given folder to produce a searchable version.

More versatile documents

PDFs weren’t originally intended to be edited. Indeed, one of the main points for making them was that they could be safely shared with others, who could read them, annotate them, but not alter them.

These days, editing PDFs is much easier than it used to be. Power PDF enables demarcation of areas of text and graphics and you can then click directly into the text and edit or add as you would in a web design tool or desktop publishing program.

You can change the text, cut and paste, spell check and perform many other useful edits, but Power PDF also has an Advanced Editor mode, which enables much more detailed changes, mirroring Word’s or Libre Office’s own. Here you can change fonts, sizes, styles and revise paragraph settings, text alignment or many of the other properties of a document.

There are times, though, when a full revamp of parts of a document mean it is easier to go back to the original word processor, spreadsheet or presentation tool that was used to create the document.

To do this, you need to convert from PDF to another format. This used to be tough to do, but now, with tools such as Power PDF, conversion to Word, Excel, PowerPoint or WordPerfect is just a few clicks away. Simply choose a target filetype in the Save As dialogue to call up the conversion assistant, which assesses the document and makes the appropriate conversion. You can even use the assistant to convert from one format to another, producing a Word file with a table from an Excel spreadsheet, for example.

Forms and Portfolios

Another good use for PDF files is to act as electronic forms. You can add fields, check and radio buttons and submit buttons to a PDF form. When the form filler hits Submit, the data can be sent to a pre-defined server, to have it directly added to the details already held, without any re-keying, as would be the case with paper or scanned forms.

The latest versions of PDF files are more like containers, into which you can place a variety of document types and multimedia content. A PDF Portfolio enables you to build word processor or spreadsheet documents, as well as Flash video and image files, into the same ‘hold-all’, which can then be passed around as a single entity. It’s a bit like a zip file, except that you can view the various files within your PDF viewer and there’s no compression involved.

Using PDF files to their fullest can help a business in many ways. Creating compact, searchable archives of historic content makes it quicker and easier to access and releases valuable office space. The ability to edit PDF files directly or to reconvert them into Office files makes the format an ideal intermediary between different types of document.

Using electronic forms makes it possible to send them out over the web and recover the data in the same way once they’re completed, saving time, stationery and postage. The ability to build PDF portfolios means they can be used as hold-alls for complete projects, bringing together all their component files in one easy-to-handle container.

Power PDF Standard and Advanced are available to purchase via the Nuance store.