There are many good things about Microsoft Windows, but the ability to work with PDF documents is not one of them. You can view documents easily enough, but you need to look elsewhere if you want to actually do something useful with them.
A while ago, awesome DocumentSnap reader Sherri-Lee Mathers from Balsam Way Bookkeeping turned me on to a program that she relies on for her paperless practice: Nitro Pro.
It looked great, so I decided to annoy the Nitro folks on Twitter until they agreed to hook me up with a review copy of Nitro Pro 9 to check out.
What Nitro Does
Nitro Pro is an application for working with PDFs. They call it “the official PDF solution for productivity”. I’m not sure who hands out that designation, but it is definitely an application that lets you do almost anything with PDF documents.
You can create & combine PDFs, edit them, make them searchable with OCR, sign them, mark them up, and upload them to the cloud.
If you are a home user and all you ever do with PDFs is view them and print them out, then Nitro is probably not something you need to go paperless.
However, if you are a Windows user that manipulates PDFs, converts them, and generally needs to make them work for you, Nitro is definitely worth a look.
Nitro Pro 9 has many features, but I am just going to pick out a few of them that I think would be handy for going paperless.
If you have two PDFs, you can quickly compare either the text of the document or the general look. It will then show you where the differences are.
I marked up a document and changed some of the text (more on that later), and the compare tool found all my changes and gave a summary.
If you are someone who needs to compare different documents, this tool could be worth the price all on its own.
Just because you are working with a PDF doesn’t mean that you want the end result to be in PDF format.
There is an export bar that lets you export to a number of formats including Word, Excel, Powerpoint, RTF, and you can extract the text out of a PDF and save it as a plain text document.
Export To Word
I want to specifically mention exporting to Word. I have worked with many tools over the years that try to convert a PDF to a Word document. Most of the times the results has been “OK” at best and disastrous at worst.
Nitro does the best job that I have seen at converting PDF documents to Word. I don’t know what Elven magic they have going on in the background, but in my experience the results has been excellent.
Export To Evernote
There is an Export To Evernote option that will take the current PDF and open it up in the Evernote local client. Handy if you want to save things to Evernote that you are working with.
Redact Sensitive Information
A PDF can have information that you don’t want others to see. Many people don’t realize that even if you use an annotation tool to “block out” that information (for example, a Social Security number or credit card number), it may still exist in the PDF.
A Redaction tool gives the ability to permanently wipe out the sensitive information. This is helpful if you are going to be sharing the PDF with someone, or if you want to remove private data before uploading the PDF to a cloud service.
In this example, I want to go 1984-style and wipe out the name Paul J Bowman from the company history. I have highlighted the name with the Redaction Tool. It is now marked for redaction.
I can send the PDF to someone who needs to approve that redaction, or I can Apply it myself.
The information is now permanently removed from the PDF.
If I want to be extra sure that I have redacted everything, I can do a Search and Redact. It will then go through the whole document and remove everything that matches my search.
I have posted about this on DocumentSnap many times, but there are few things more annoying than needing to sign a document and having to print it out, sign it, then fax it or scan and email it back.
Nitro allows you to capture your signature either by scanning a piece of paper, capturing it with your webcam, or it will generate a handwritten signature using a QuickSign font.
If you want to be even more secure, Nitro can apply a proper digital signature using a certificate.
Visual File Combination
If you have to build a PDF out of a number of other documents, the Visual File Combination palette can be very helpful. Just add PDF documents and move around the order.
When you have it how you want it, you can create the PDF and it will all be nicely merged.
Nitro has released their Nitro Cloud service, which allows you to take your documents online. I don’t have much to say on this yet as I haven’t played around with it, so watch for a future post.
What About Acrobat?
If you were to compare one other piece of software to Nitro, it would probably be Adobe Acrobat. How does Nitro stack up?
The first comparison is cost: Nitro costs half as much. It also hasn’t become as bloated as Acrobat has become (in my opinion).
Nitro has made an almost-certainly-biased comparison chart between Nitro Pro 9 and Acrobat XI.
My take: if you have already purchased Adobe Acrobat or it came with your scanner, you probably don’t need to go out and buy Nitro (unless you hate Acrobat and want an alternative of course).
If you are looking for a PDF editing program and you don’t need some feature that only Acrobat Standard or Pro has, I would go with Nitro.
I have been thoroughly impressed with Nitro Pro 9. It does more than what I have outlined above – in particular I’ve found the PDF editing features excellent – and the price is half that of its biggest competitor.
Nitro Pro 9 retails for $139.99. If I were a Windows user and worked with PDFs on a daily basis, Nitro would be my main PDF productivity application.
Have you used Nitro? How do you like it?