Compare free PDF Writers

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In this post we will review some of the free PDF convertors and readers currently available and look at whether they offer any accessibility benefits for users.

While I have recommended PDFCreator in the past, I have now moved to Bullzip PDF Printer as my personal favorite. It has more of the options I need and has worked flawless for me. A problem with Bullzip is that the pdf file created may not be searchable. While it created a searchable pdf from word processing programs it did not from other programs like Excel. All the other candidates produced a searchable document from Excel and other non-word-processing software.

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Key features of Bullzip PDF Printer include:

The ability to password protect your pdf files (only PrimoPDF and PDFCreator also had this ability)
The ability use either 40 or 128 bit encryption on the file (only PDFCreator also had this ability)
The ability to add a watermark (PDF Creator had a limited ability to add watermarks)
The ability to append or prepend files (PrimoPDF and PDFCreator also had this ability)
The ability to choose different levels of output quality (All but CutePDF and TinyPDF had this ability)
The ability to add/change metadata (PrimoPDF and PDFCreator also had this ability)

Visit Bullzip PDF

PDFCreator is still my second choice and has all the features of Bullzip with the exception of a 64 bit version and more limited watermark abilities. The help files are available only in English, French and German. However it does have one unique feature among these products. It comes with both a standalone install and a server install. In a company setting this gives you the ability to install the printer driver on a server and make it available to all the workstations on the network without doing an install on each one of them. This may make it a preferred choice in business situations if you don’t need the other options that products like Bullzip offer. The only item PDF Creator failed at was printing a web page to pdf. I was unable to get consistent output and generally the program produced an error and exited. This can be a major issue for many users.

Visit PDF Creator

More Convertors

A document created using Microsoft? Word, structured using the inbuilt styles and headings and incorporating images (with alternative text) was converted to PDF using each of the convertors below. The resulting document was then checked in Adobe? Reader for a number of the accessibility benefits that the format can offer.

Cute PDF Writer

Downloadable software or web-based service? Download.
Are there any print preferences? No.
Is text recognised as text? Yes.
Are bookmarks transferred? No.
Is the document structure (e.g. headings) maintained? No.
Is the reading order maintained when the text is reflowed? No, blocks of text are merged into one another and images are merged into the main text.
Is the alternative text for images maintained? No.
Can the document be read using the Read Out Loud function? Yes (but affected by reading order).
Can the accessibility preferences be changed? Yes, document colours can be changed.
Other comments: A commercial version (CutePDF Professional) is also available with additional functionality.

Visit Cute PDF Writer

Pdf995

Downloadable software or web-based service? Download; this is a suite three programmes (Pdf995, PdfEdit995 and Signature995) each offering slightly different functionality.
Are there any print preferences? No.
Is text recognised as text? Yes.
Are bookmarks transferred? No, but bookmarks can be inserted using PdfEdit995.
Is the document structure (e.g. headings) maintained? No.
Is the reading order maintained when the text is reflowed?No, blocks of text are merged into one another and images are merged into the main text.
Is the alternative text for images maintained? No.
Can the document be read using the Read Out Loud function? Yes (but affected by reading order).
Can the accessibility preferences be changed? Yes, document colours can be changed.
Other comments: Can upgrade to a commercial version; the free version contains pop up adverts.

Visit Pdf995

PrimoPDF

Downloadable software or web-based service? Both software download and web-based services available.
Are there any print preferences within the downloaded software? Some relating to image properties.
Are there any accessibility options available in the web-based service? No.
Is text recognised as text? Yes.
Are bookmarks transferred? No.
Is the document structure (e.g. headings) maintained? No.
Is the reading order maintained when the text is reflowed? No.
Is the alternative text for images maintained? No.
Can the document be read using the Read Out Loud function? Yes (but affected by reading order).
Can the accessibility preferences be changed? Document colours can be changed.

Visit PrimoPDF

Do PDF

Downloadable software or web-based service? Download.
Are there any print preferences? Yes, scale and resolution can be changed.
Is text recognised as text? Yes.
Are bookmarks transferred? No.
Is the document structure (e.g. headings) maintained? No.
Is the reading order maintained when the text is reflowed? Yes.
Is the alternative text for images maintained? No.
Can the document be read using the Read Out Loud function? Yes.
Can the accessibility preferences be changed? Yes, document colours can be changed.

Visit DoPDF

Doc2PDF

Downloadable software or web-based service? Web-based.
Are there any accessibility options? No.
Is text recognised as text? Yes.
Are bookmarks transferred? Yes.
Is the document structure (e.g. headings) maintained? Yes.
Is the reading order maintained when the text is reflowed? Yes, but with some of the text merges incorrectly.
Is the alternative text for images maintained? No.
Can the document be read using the Read Out Loud function? Yes.
Can the accessibility preferences be changed? Yes, document colours can be changed.

Visit Doc2PDF

GoogleDocs

Downloadable software or web-based service? Web-based.
Are there any accessibility options? No.
Is text recognised as text? Yes.
Are bookmarks transferred? Yes (if created in GoogleDocs originally).
Is the document structure (e.g. headings) maintained? Yes but may require some correction.
Is the reading order maintained when the text is reflowed? Yes.
Is the alternative text for images maintained? No.
Can the document be read using the Read Out Loud function? Yes.
Can the accessibility preferences be changed? Yes, document colours can be changed.
Other comments: Some images were missing from the PDF produced.

Visit Google Docs

Well Thats it. Of course you could use Open Office that has the pdf converter already available and is a great alternative to Microsoft Office.

open-office-org-3-startup

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