Updated: December 2, 2017
Over the past few years, I have had a chance to test and review different versions of Able2Extract PDF Converter, a professional document conversion software, each time invited by the company's office to examine their product and write an article about it. This year, it's even more interesting. I have been asked to take a look at the pre-release edition of the latest version, PDF Converter 12.
With the expected disclaimer that things may not be 100% polished or ready in the RC spin, I set about testing. Like the last few times, I will focus on the speed and quality of conversion of various PDF documents, the batch processing, and other features. Follow me.
Installation & setup
It was quite simple and fast. The installation wizard does not ask too many questions. It did request that I reboot, which feels odd, but it might be related to the the fact I've had uninstalled an earlier version just prior to the testing session, and some files may still have been in use. No matter, after the reboot, I provided my serial key, and the program was up and running.
Let it work, let it work, let it work
To be consistent and in line with my previous testing, I grabbed my own Linux kernel crash analysis book and Shannon's 'A Mathematical Theory of Communication' as my sample documents for the conversion. This way, we will see exactly how they fare compared to Able2Extract 11, as well as earlier version.
The interface remains largely unchanged from before, although the right sidebar feels a tad more polished and streamlined. You still have the wide array of options available, including annotations, comments and text editing. The title text for different blocks in the sidebar seems to touch the borders, but I guess this is a tiny cosmetic glitch that should be rectified soon.
I was again surprised to learn that OpenOffice (LibreOffice) is no longer available as a valid export format in the GUI, although you can enable it through the conversion options menu, just like in the last build. You still have the three Microsoft Office programs, HTML, images, and several others as separate buttons.
Like in all past versions of A2E, you will get an error if you try to convert to Word without having the program installed. The error is very nerdy and it does not inspire. It can definitely be made more informative and/or less verbose. You still have the option to create a file. Able2Extract creates 2007 DOCX for Word files by default, it seems.
The conversion was fine - in terms of pure processing, although a bit slow as only a single core is used. There's no reason why such a task could not be multi-threaded spread over several cores.
I opened the file in LibreOffice - and it did not look good. Therefore, I installed the old, useful Word Viewer (which works for Microsoft Office 2003), and was just deprecated last month, but with an additional file conversion module from Microsoft, it is possible to use this method to view all recent Office formats. Or you could run Office, of course.
The final DOCX file does not look good in LibreOffice.
With Word Viewer, the fidelity of the DOCX conversion was pretty good - the correct number of pages, the formatting was correctly preserved, the images also retain their quality, even though transparent images still pose a problem. But you can see this right away when you load PDF files in Able2Extract.
Even footnotes are correctly imported and converted.
I also got very good results with the other book, too. The plethora of mathematical formulas and diagrams were all there and they looked sane, so I am quite pleased with the final output.
The ODT file that I did eventually create is also messed up - it numbered 279 pages rather than the original 182, and the formatting was a bit odd. The worst part is the inconsistency in the page numbering - right after opening the document upon a completed conversion, the correct value was displayed. But after I closed the file and opened it again the value was skewed. Not really sure why, but this does feel like it hasn't received too much focus.
This is an interesting feature, and you will like it especially if you have tons of files. The flow isn't quite as streamlined as it should be. By default, the drop-down box shows Excel first rather than try to autoguess the correct output format - it also implies that you cannot convert into multiple formats at the same time.
You also need to provide a kind-of captcha, probably to prevent some kind of abuse of the PDF distiller service or something. Batch conversion will also fail if you already have files with the same name in the destination path. Anyway, this can definitely be made a little better, and thus avoid unnecessary errors. Hint: Word Viewer removes Word conversion errors, but the Excel ones are still there.
Now, if there's one place that you can - and should - use multi-threading, it's batch. But no, Able2Extract still uses a single core and it serializes the conversions, which is a shame, as technically, there's no reason why it couldn't send a different task to several cores each, and thus speed up the work, because the files have zero dependency among them.
Other observations & features
There are a few other rough areas here and there. Text editing works, but it looks odd. If you select text, some formatting disappears. For example, the dropcap in the first sentence of Shannon's book - it briefly vanished when you select the paragraph.
This happens all over the place, and I haven't been able to discern the pattern. In some cases, the text shifts up and down, sometimes lines get half-blanked, elements are partially obscured or they disappear altogether. Not sure why, but this seems to be a visual overlay problem, because the PDF documents goes back to what it is once you move the mouse cursor away to a different selection, or stop editing.
The conversion and batch options are many, and you do have control over how to fine-tune your output. You can also use encryption. These capabilities will probably attract those who do more than just an opportunistic conversion here and there, but with the generous price tag the program comes with, you'd better be more than just an amateur.
Lastly, I have no idea what Bates means:
Overall, I think Able2Extract PDF Converter 12 is a more polished product than its predecessor. There's no revolution, but it was more stable, and it threw fewer errors, although I do lament the fact you now need to dig into the options to discover the ODF conversion. Plus it's nowhere near as accurate as the Microsoft Office one.
Able2Extract should introduce multi-threaded conversions to speed things up, especially when running batch jobs. This functionality can be tweaked some, too. At the very least, the drop-down can display all file formats, even if the GUI has limited space, and allowing for multi-format batch tasks would also be a nice boon. Last but not the least, it remains expensive, so it's not for casual work. However, the DOCX conversion was really decent, and it seems all of the focus is there. Worth the price if that's what you're aiming for. Overall, 7.5/10, and I'm happy to see the improvements. Until the next time.