I’m delighted to welcome Will Travaglini from Tracker Software Products, developers and creators of the rather marvellous PDF-XChange. Will’s agreed to talk to us about how Tracker’s product range can help editorial freelancers with their PDF-related business needs.
Louise: First of all, Will, can you tell us a little bit about PDF-XChange – what it is and how we can use it? I know that this isn’t Tracker Software’s only product but it’s the one that most proofreaders and copy-editors working with PDFs might initially be most interested in, so I’d like to start there.
Will: PDF-XChange is a range of products that are meant for the viewing, annotating and manipulation of PDFs, as well as the conversion of many, many different file types to PDF (such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, CAD files, etc.)
Louise: Anyone who’s bought a new computer lately might well be working with Windows 8. Is your software compatible?
Will: Definitely. I’m running Windows 8 on three separate machines (all with very different hardware) and everything works as expected for myself. I also have two of colleagues that are running Windows 8 and it works fine for them – we have been given our official Windows 8 compatibility certification from Microsoft, so there should be no issues.
Louise: So, I imagine that Adobe Acrobat is your primary competitor. Let’s talk about the freebies on offer from both Adobe and Tracker Products. Is there anything the free version of XChange can’t do that Acrobat Reader can? Are there any other differences?
Will: I believe that the key differences are that we offer more extensive mark-up capabilities, such as a greater flexibility with the customization of the annotations themselves, a more extensive stamp creation ability, etc. Adobe Reader isn’t able to save data that has been entered into a fillable form, which is something that Viewer is capable of. We also offer a free OCR (Optical Character Recognition) module that comes with the Viewer and that is entirely free to use, which I don’t believe that Adobe Reader has. Lastly, if you have a license for the Viewer, then PDF-XChange Lite (conversion printer) also comes free with that license, so you would be able to install a licensed version of one of our print drivers.
Louise: What are the main differences between the free PDF-Change Viewer, the Standard version and the PRO version?
Will: Well, the Viewer is a PDF Reader/PDF Annotation tool. It allows for PDFs to be both viewed and read, or to be annotated with sticky notes (digital Post-it notes), textboxes, stamps, etc. You can also use it to create PDFs from scratch, rather than, say, converting from a Word document to a PDF. You can also add new pages to existing PDFs and all sorts of other different things.
PDF-XChange Standard, on the other hand, is a virtual printer that acts like a real, physical printer but, instead of printing to paper, it will "print" to PDF. This can be done from virtually any Windows application that can print to a printer. Standard also comes with our Office add-in, which puts a toolbar plugin in any installed Microsoft Office applications and, using that add-in to convert to PDF, it will, in most cases, offer a far better conversion than the regular File --> Print --> PDF-XChange Printer 2012 method. It also installs a plugin for Internet Explorer because, without getting too technical here, web pages can sometimes be difficult to convert using the Windows printing system; the IE plugin allows for a far more consistent conversion that the File --> Print method. The last thing to note about Standard is that it also comes with a program called Office2PDF5, which allows users to convert multiple MS Office documents (i.e. 25 Word documents) into PDF at once or using a watched folder that will automatically convert any supported file placed in the watched folder to PDF.
PDF-XChange PRO 2012 is our three bestselling PDF-related products bundled into one installer and license. Installing this will give you the Viewer, PDF-XChange Standard (the printer that I mentioned) and PDF-Tools, which is a utility for the batch processing of large PDF files and/or large quantities of PDF documents (for example, if you to need to merge 60 PDF files into one, or you need to place the same watermark on 30 different PDF files, etc.).
Louise: And, related to the second question, is there anything the Standard and PRO versions of XChange can’t do that Acrobat’s equivalents can? It’s an important question because your product is significantly cheaper. Many people reading this run small businesses, so it’s not just about the money. We need excellent functionality in order to offer a professional level of service – any return on investment, large or small, needs to deliver value as defined by quality as much as anything else, financial outlay included.
Will: The creation of fillable forms is something that can’t be done with our end user products at the moment, but the ability to do this is going to be implemented in the next major version of the Viewer, in the form of a plugin.
Also, the next major version of the Viewer will be able to edit the base content of a PDF, which Adobe Professional can do now. This next major version has been renamed PDF-XChange Editor, to reflect its headline functionality. I should mention that a pre-release of the Editor is available to try and the editing functionality is implemented already, though it does require a Viewer, PDF-Tools or PRO bundle license.
Louise: PDF-XChange isn’t currently available for Macs. Are there any plans to rectify this and if not, can you advise our readers of a solution?
Will: It’s something that’s been talked about but, for the time being, it’s unlikely we will release anything for Apple platforms. There are a multitude of reasons for this but, largely, it’s because we would have to re-write the program from the ground up and in an entirely different programming language, so it would likely take years to accomplish.
Should users want to use our software on Mac, we have had many reports of great success running our software through a PC emulator, such as CrossOver or Wine for MAC. Users should be aware, though, that we cannot support the program when it’s being run through an emulator and, though we don’t anticipate issues, they do have the potential to occur and users purchase a license at their own risk in such circumstances.
Louise: If someone already has the free version of XChange Viewer, how much will it cost them to upgrade and how do they register to enable all the Pro features?
Will: The Viewer is currently US$37.50, which is, at the moment, about £22.48. It’s important to note that we are in the process of finishing off the PDF-XChange Editor, which is the next major version of the Viewer. Once the Editor has been released for sale, we do intend to increase the price, slightly, to US$43.50, which will reflect the extended functionality/capabilities.
When that happens the Viewer will cease to be for sale, though it will still be available as a free download.
As for registration of the product - if/when a user has purchased a license, they have two options to get the programs to function in PRO mode. The first, and the one we recommend, would be to uninstall, then re-install and copy/paste the serial key (provided in an email after purchase) into the installer when asked – if you need instructions on how to do this, they are here.
The other method is to enter the keys manually, without re-installation. If you’d prefer this method and need instructions, see this KB article instead. (Note: While this is a KB article for the PRO bundle, it provides instructions on manually entering the key for all of our end user, PDF-related products.)
Louise: Two of my colleagues had some queries about using PDF-XChange. If you could address them here that would be great:
Will: (1) This isn’t something that can be done in the Viewer, but can be done in the pre-release of the PDF-XChange Editor. (2) In the Editor, the Edit Content tool automatically invokes the carat tool when a block of content is clicked on; this is also be available in the pre-release of the Editor.
Louise: Are there any other Tracker Software tools that you’d like to tell us about?
Will: I’m not sure whether any of our other products would be useful for the average proofreader, but we do offer a printer driver called Raster-XChange that, instead of printing to PDF as our other printers do, prints to your choice of one of 15 different Raster image formats (i.e. tiff, jpeg, png, etc.).
Louise: Many thanks, Will. This is incredibly useful. And thanks to everyone at Tracker for offering Parlour readers a promotional discount!
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