10 ways to be more productive when using PDF: Nuance

PDF technology provides a very effective way to share and collaborate with documents because they are compact files that retain the original design elements when you print or display them, using PCs, mobile devices and eBook readers.

People and organisations rely on PDF to capture and share information, with more than 275 million PDF documents on the web today and an incalculable number of PDF files in use by governments and businesses worldwide. However, when it comes to using PDF, most people are only scratching the surface of the productivity enhancing aspects of the technology.

"PDF software not only helps us find an electronic substitute for paper documents - it allows people to do many business tasks more efficiently," said Bill Brikiatis of Nuance.

"PDF software allows you to avoid the inefficiencies inherent to working with paper - such as you can't search through a long document quickly or it is time-consuming to move and share paper documents. The payoff to tapping the full power of PDF is a greener, more productive office."

Here are 10 ways, many of which are available free when using various PDF readers, to get more business value from PDF:

- Save time recreating documents. Don't waste time recreating Microsoft documents when you already have paper or PDF documents. Instead instantly convert these documents into fully formatted, editable word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations - even if you have complex layouts and graphics. The time savings can be big. For instance, studies show that, on average, it takes 15 minutes to retype each page of a document.

- Find information faster with text searchable PDFs. Ever need to read through a stack of paper documents to find or check an important piece of information? Scan the paper into a text-searchable PDF instead. Then you can use text search capabilities to run through the file and automatically find the keywords or text strings you are looking to review. You also can use desktop search software to run through a number of text searchable PDFs on your hard drive to find the right document in the same way you would search for an email or a Microsoft Word document.

- Improve collaboration by adding information. Exchange ideas and provide direction by adding notes, stamps, callouts and graphics to PDF documents. Many people don't know that you don't need an expensive software solution to edit PDF documents directly, change fonts and colors or fix errors in text or graphics. That way, your communications can be exactly the way you want them to be.

- Pull together all your information. When working on a project, people often work with documents in multiple formats - Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook emails. PDF Portfolios allow you to combine different file formats into an online project folder - making it easier to share information. And receiving parties don't need to have the originating applications, such as Microsoft Word or Outlook on their PC, to read the documents.

- Go green and sign a PDF - electronically. Say you are making a purchase decision and receive a PDF proposal for final review and approval. There is no need to print, sign and scan the document back to digital format. PDF software allows you to add an electronic signature stamp - and it's good to go. Note: this is not the same as a digital signature, which provides a higher level of security.

- Protect your proprietary information. Perhaps your sales team creates a regular newsletter that circulates in the local business community. You can use PDF security features to lock-in your document and prevent others from changing, printing, or copying and pasting the information to claim it as their own.

- Deliver your messages with more impact using multimedia. PDF files do not need to be boring, static documents like their paper counterparts. Video and audio clips can be embedded into the files. So in a data sheet explaining your product's features, for example, you can also include video demonstrations right at the point where each feature is explained - bringing your product to life for customers.

- Create fillable forms to speed processing. Many government agencies and businesses, like banks and insurance companies, post forms as PDF files on their web site. No need to print and fill out the form. Instead, you can convert from a static document into a fillable PDF form that you can complete electronically, save on your computer, and e-mail for processing. Alternatively, if you have a paper form, you can also convert it into a fillable form by scanning and converting the document in the same way as a PDF form.

- Safeguard who can read your PDF. You can password protect a PDF file to make sure only the appropriate person is allowed to open and read the document. This is handy when sending sensitive information by email where it is possible that non-intended readers might be given the opportunity to read the recipient's document.

- Drill down to details in complex documents. Diagrams, like office layouts, are often built with graphics packages that use individual layers to allow people to drill down to specific aspects. For example, your company may be moving to new office space. A PDF file of the layout can show lighting on one layer, cubicles on another and door openings on a third, helping office configuration planning.

* Nuance PDF Converter Professional 7 is an alternative to Adobe Acrobat that promises to deliver all the rich features users need at one-third the price of Adobe. It enables users to create PDF files from virtually any PC application and convert PDF files back into fully formatted, editable Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, XPS, and Corel WordPerfect documents.