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This space holds helpful information about software and hardware and vendors that Dr. Hain has discovered by trial and error. Perhaps if enough of us do this, searches on these devices or companies will bring up more relevant information.

PDF readers/writers

This is a big and rapidly growing category of programs -- as Adobe basic PDF function costs so much, there are so many competing programs that do quite a bit. This category is bound to grow much bigger and better as Adobe has removed itself as a software provider to most of us by switching to the pricey subscription model. It is difficult to see why Adobe would shoot itself in the foot, but I guess -- good for the competition. Right now, we prefer PDF-Xchange (see below).

Foxit Acrobat reader replacement -- not bad, but there are better ones (see below).

This company positions itself as a cheap and better replacement for Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat, of course, is overpriced. This program is cheap and much faster. The reader (like Adobe's) is free. It is blindingly fast -- compared to Acrobat. This is worth a lot !

What it does is read most PDF files, as well as a few added nice things. It will capture graphics using the "snapshot" tool (this is a wonderful feature !). You can very quickly grab a block of graphics and paste it into a Word file.

What it doesn't do -- it doesn't fill in forms, it doesn't permanently rotate documents (which is too bad), and it doesn't have much capability for document manipulation.

Still, if you use a lot of PDF's, this program is fast and effective.

Nitro -- free version of Adobe reader/creator replacement -- Best to avoid. Also avoid the paid version (terribly buggy)

Nitro, like Foxit reader, is free and fast. It also does PDF writing fairly well. It does not "hang" like the Phantom writer does from time to time. It does not do much of anything other than reading and writing. That's OK for a free PDF program, and is better than the Foxit reader (which doesn't do writing). It is a little tricky to install Nitro - -you have to rename the downloaded file to end in .exe. Seems a little strange. Once the installer fails for any reason (like wrong version, 64 vs 32), you are done. It will never install.

It is almost as if the reader was written by a competant programmer or team, and the installation software was written by a far less competent individual or team of people, who did not care if it worked or not. Because of the awful install experience, we think it best to stay away from this program.

The Nitro website is also very obnoxious, and the Nitro color scheme (orange) suggests that someone on their team is color-blind (10% of guys).

Another problem with the Nitro free reader is that files that are printed from the reader are named "untitled.pdf". We prefer the behavior of the PDF-XChange viewer, which generally names things somewhat intuitively.

Nitro PDF 9 is a disaster (for $130).

Bug after bug after bug. Both the installer and the uninstaller are buggy - not just one bug -- nearly every aspect of the installer is broken.. The help system doesn't work. Strange messages. I am getting a refund after using it for 24 hours. It is not ready for release. Strongly suggest just using the free version, or just find another PDF program that works. It is very strange that the free version of nitro works at all given all of the errors.

Foxit Phantom - -Acrobat replacement -- avoid due to bugs and slow

This program is so-so. It is aimed at business owners who might license this software to save money, as it is hard to see who might be able to afford Adobe acrobat these days, and who would want a program you "rent" when there are ones you can buy. Unlike Adobe, this program is priced reasonably. Also unlike Adobe, this program is loaded with bugs. It will sometimes just refuse to write a PDF file, due to memory issues. It has an erratic and incomplete implementation of the Adobe Acrobat features. It is sometimes EXTREMELY slow to read a PDF - -it must be reading the whole thing into memory. Our thought -- get the bugs knocked out and you will have a program reasonably worth $50/head.

A good thing though about Phantom is that it nicely merges together multiple PDF's into a single PDF. This is sometimes very helpful. This part of the program works fine, although it does not know where to put the files -- should be where they came from, rather than somewhere at large.

PDF-Studio 8

Rather similar to Foxit, Soda and Nitro. It is a little slow but acceptable. It does not work as a PDF previewer (Acrobat is best for this). User interface is similar to PDF-Xchange. It does not include a PDF printer program. It is very stable.

PDF-XChange Viewer -- Best so far.

Rather similar to Foxit, Soda and Nitro. It is fast but a little bit cheaper ($44 in 2013). It does not work as a PDF previewer (Acrobat is best for this). It is a little clumsy as a user interface, but seems less buggy than Foxit or Nitro-9 (which is a disaster). It installs some trashy search providers with the free trial (shame). It does snapshots and rotate/saves (which some of these will not do).

Soda PDF -- another Adobe reader/creator replacement. Avoid -- too aggressive

I tried this one for almost 2 weeks and then uninstalled it. It has the same functionality as Nitro, but it is priced higher. Given Nitro's major issues, it might still be worth considering. It is overpriced ($79)-- Were Soda to implement the same features as Foxit Phantom, without the bugs, it would be worth about $50.

Total commander with PDF plugins. Avoid for PDF's.

This very old program, an "explorer" replacement, and it can do a lot. Seriously. I use it for FTP and for file synchronization - -rock solid there. As total commander is free, it is of course buggy, and the PDF part of it is buggy. Because of the bugs, we are dubious that it is suitable for non-programmer type people (i.e nearly everyone).

While total comander will "list" PDF's, renames don't work. This makes it nearly useless.

There are two PDF plugins -- both are very fast to display PDFs, but neither one supports renaming. Files just don't get renamed when they are open in the lister. You don't know about this until they keep coming up again and again. This means that the programming for the lister omitted to close the file -- and neither PDF lister "plays well" with the total commander program as a whole. This is not unusual with previewing type applications, but Adobe Acrobat X does get it right.


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