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In today's world, almost all organizations are required to produce documents that are both portable and storable for the long-term. The debate has long been about which format is the most ubiquitous with today's technology and will be around throughout the coming generations of technology. The National Archives answered this question when it began accepting the PDF format as a standard for long-term records retention.
Once set, it was only a matter of time before Adobe began receiving serious competition in the PDF document-creation arena. As the creator of the PDF format, Adobe owns the lion's share of the PDF market and would seem to be the currently favored choice. However, many businesses cannot afford to widely deploy the full Adobe suite, which is necessary to produce documents in PDF format. At the request of one of our clients we set upon a search to find an affordable option.
During our research we uncovered several software vendors that are stepping up to provide a low-cost (or freeware) alternative to Adobe Acrobat. Our team decided to focus on PrimoPDF provided by activePDF, which is headquartered in Mission Viejo, Calif. ActivePDF offers PrimoPDF for free and currently sells activePDF Server, activePDF Converter, activePDF WebGrabber, activePDF Toolkit, activePDF Printer and activePDF Portfolio.
By offering PrimoPDF for free, activePDF has a chance to accomplish what Adobe accomplished by offering Acrobat Reader for free: building product awareness and, in turn, sales of its more robust products. Using this strategy, activePDF may one day realize its goal of becoming the standard in PDF-creation software.
To test PrimoPDF, we downloaded the software from www.primopdf.com and installed it on a Windows XP machine. In no time, documents were outputting from Microsoft Office applications including Word, Excel, Access and Visio. We also spit out plain text and rich text documents from Notepad and WordPad. Our testing included a variety of other non-Microsoft applications, all of which tested well. We put PrimoPDF through its paces by changing options to set alternative print properties: for portrait vs. landscape orientation, printing front to back vs. back to front, etc.
Because PrimoPDF operates as a virtual printer, no modifications are necessary to any other application installed on the computer. Although we like the cost (free), we wonder how long before the integrated PDF writer in Office 2007 eliminates the need for this additional software tool.
As expected, all documents opened with ease in Adobe Acrobat Reader. We wondered if activePDF might soon offer a free PDF reader software as well.
Our experiences and impressions were positive. The installation is straightforward and requires no prerequisites. In fact, the installation was no more complicated than installing a printer with drivers provided by the vendor. Administrative privileges are required for installation, but this is typical of most installation procedures. However, should problems arise, you will need to seek help from the user bulletin board on the activePDF Web site. Another drawback is there is no telephone support.