Nuance Power PDF Advanced 3, First Take: A secure and efficient PDF editor

PDF is the de facto standard format for document exchange and sharing, and celebrated its 25th birthday in June. What matters with PDF apps is not that they allow you to read the format, but support for things such as document creation, splitting and editing.

When I reviewed it two years ago, I thought Nuance’s Power PDF Advanced 2 delivered ‘affordable, feature-rich PDF tools’. This update takes that base and builds on it significantly. For the princely sum of £154.99 for a single-user license (with a free 15-day trial on offer if you want to check it out before spending), Power PDF Advanced 3 offers plenty of benefits.

Users of PDFs for business will appreciate newly integrated support for DocuSign, a widely used e-signature solution. And those looking for the very latest PDF features should note that Power PDF Advanced 3 supports PDF 2.0. This revision of the standard, published in the middle of last year, adds a range of features that make PDFs more useful in a modern environment, including the ability to insert geospatial references into documents and support for 256-bit AES encryption.

Document creation within a PDF app is a ‘must have’ feature, and was possible in the previous version — but only as a single user: revisions had to be made by sharing a PDF with others via email or using some other third-party system. This made direct collaborative working with PDFs a painstaking, time-consuming and unattractive task. Now people can collaborate on document creation in real time, but only as long as they are on the same local network. It would be nice to see this feature extended more broadly to allow remote workers to collaborate, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

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In Power PDF Advanced 3, you can combine all open documents into a single PDF at the touch of a button.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

As a regular user of the previous version of this application, I find the ability to combine documents together into a single PDF very useful. Obviously others did too, because Power PDF Advanced 3 has a button that allows all currently open documents within the app to be combined into a single PDF. This avoids the hassle of having to go through the step-by-step process within the application of bringing separate PDFs together. Extending this idea, you can now rearrange the pages in a PDF by drag and drop. People who produce long reports that might need restructuring, or who need to produce different versions of a document for different audiences are among those who will find this useful. Similarly, although not a new feature, it’s easy to separate a PDF out into its constituent pages, saving discrete PDF files as required.

More sophisticated document assembly is available via the PDF Create assistant, which supports the creation of multiple PDFs from multiple source files. If you need more structure to your PDFs, ‘portfolios’ can include folders — including nested folders — within the wrapper of a single PDF. Send someone the single portfolio PDF and they get the full file structure of PDF documents, each one a separate document in its own right, rather than a huge composite PDF. It can all get quite complex.

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Version 2 of Power PDF Advanced added a finger-friendly user interface, and this is retained: a quick tap of an icon above the ribbon allows you to select between ‘mouse mode’ and ‘touch mode’. You can make annotations in touch mode (within the limits of what a finger or stylus will allow, of course), which boosts usability on tablets and touch screens. Also, new in Power PDF Advanced 3 is the ability to embed MP4 video, which might come in useful for presentations, for example.

There are enough new features in Power PDF Advanced 3 to make an upgrade worth considering. The single-user price (£154.99 inc. VAT) isn’t insignificant, but bulk purchasing options are available and pricing compares well to Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC (£15.17 per month paid annually [£182/year], or £25.28 monthly [£303.36/year]). Power PDF Standard 3 — for individuals, home offices and small workgroups — costs £94.99.

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