Nuance PDF Reader: free reader offers PDF form-filling and saving, online PDF-to-Doc conversions, and direct access to Sharepoint

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Nuance PDF Reader is a free PDF document reader and alternative to Adobe Acrobat Reader. It offers a number of nice features, such as the ability to fill PDF forms and save them to your hard drive, the ability to open and save PDFs straight into Sharepoint, and the option to upload your PDFs to an online conversion engine and convert them to other formats (including MS Word .DOC formats), straight from the Nuance PDF Reader interface.

Aside from these, Nuance provides many of the features and functions you would expect to see in a program like this but some that you don’t.

A few notable features are the ability to highlight, strike-out, and underline parts of your document (and save these edits), the ability to browse your document via sidebar page thumbnails, support for bookmarks, support for embedded flash objects and the option to rotate your view and superimpose a grid and/or ruler views onto your page. Nuance PDF Reader also integrates well with internet browsers for display of online PDF documents.

There are a handful of standard questions that I ask whenever I look into a PDF Reader. But before I do, a quick overview of some innovative features that Nuance offers:

  • Nuance Online Screenshot2Online document conversions: you can convert your PDFs to other formats, such as Word .DOC , RTF, and Excel. Nuance does this by automatically uploading your document to the Nuance PDF online service, which it reportedly does via a secure connection, then performing the file conversion remotely and emailing the result back to you (a desktop based converter is available but is not free; hence the roundabout process). I can confirm that the output is of extremely high quality (I did PDF to .DOC, .RTF, and .DOCX); however, whether this is going to be a service you could rely on is another question, as it seemed to be down over the weekend and then – boom – I got all my 5 or so documents all at once. The service even purportedly supported OCR, which I did not test, but in any case I will soon add Nuance PDF to Word conversions in my coming update of the PDF to Word comparison posting, and there will be more information there.
  • Sharepoint support: this is a brilliant feature which I’ve never seen before. If your workplace uses Sharepoint (a document sharing and collaboration tool) this might be an invaluable function whereby you can access documents straight from the PDF Reader without use of a browser; most private users however would have little use for this.

But now to backtrack a little bit; here are my 4 standard questions that I ask whenever I test a PDF reader.:

  1. Does it allow for filling out forms and saving filled forms to disk?: YES. It can also highlight, reset, and autocomplete forms based on previously entered info.
  2. Does it integrate well with browsers for viewing online PDF documents?: YES.
  3. Does the reader offer good document rendering quality? YES. This I test by loading my home appraisal report from last year, a complicated document which has microscopic tables within tables (no doubt designed to impress on the reader that these guys know what they are talking about). I found, to my surprise, that some PDF readers handle this document quite poorly; not so with Nuance which gave crisp, high quality rendering.
  4. Whether the reader allows for good viewing options, such as fullscreen, continuous, and rotated views. YES.

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

The verdict: this is an awesome PDF reader that with some nice innovations. I like the way it looks and behaves, and it has a lot of depth to it in terms of being an extremely well rounded player and in terms of the supported technologies (e.g. embedded objects, portfolios, Sharepoint). I especially like the idea of integrating a one-click PDF to Word conversion into the reader, even if it is an online conversion.

I would definitely recommend Nuance as your PDF reader of choice. It compares favorably against PDF X-Change Viewer, which is the other PDF reader that I like. Although the latter has some features that Nuance does not (such as Typewriter mode for quick editing, embedded sticky notes, and export pages to images) Nuance is the more innovative of the two and, unlike PDF X-Change Viewer, does not taunt you with greyed out options in the menu that are reserved for the paid version. Overall an excellent free PDF reader and highly recommended.

Version Tested: 6.0

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 19 megs). You will have to register with a valid email address and the download link emailed to you.