A New Workflow

July 1st, 2004 APC, Software, Tech

It’s becoming easier to save web pages as PDF files, but what about taking the content of PDF files and preparing them for editing in other formats like HTML?

Those with Adobe latest tools know how easy it is to take a web page and save it on your local drive as a PDF for later use, but how easy is it to carry out the same process in reverse?

Don’t you need a HTML editor or page layout application or (let’s be honest if you’re a hard core code freak) at least a designer?

New Kids on the Block

The recent rise in utilities that convert PDF files to editable documents in word processors have been adequate if not astonishing. Set them to work on a corporate-style document with a few columns and an image here and there and they’re great; try them with a complicated layout that’s been done by a print designer — full of tables, boxes, different fonts and image formats — and you’ll be able to extract most of the text from the final result, but it’ll mostly be a garbled mess.

Solid PDF Converter is neither the worst nor the best of the bunch. It installs a standalone application and plug-ins for Microsoft Word and in Acrobat (but not Acrobat Reader).

You can right-click on a PDF with Explorer, open it through Word and Acrobat or use the standalone application. The plug-ins appear in you applications as a small ‘Open PDF’ button on the toolbar.

Just a Few Clicks

Enacting any of the above methods opens the Solid PDF Converter engine, a four step process that sets your preferences for the file you want to end up with.

First you choose which (if not all) pages you want to convert. Next you have the choice of maintaining columns or not, which essentially ensures that your text will flow the same as it does in the original documents. The alternative is a page with only spaces between columns, and while there aren’t many instances where you’d need it, the choice is there.

You also get to maintain character spacing, choose where you want your file saved, and like magic, there it is. Each time APC tested Solid Converter PDF, it gave a message saying that the vector graphics in the document weren’t supported (despite the marketing blurb’s promise that it converts all bitmap and vector images).

It’s essentially a point and click utility that’ll work fine for 90% of office-style functions and so will save you time and money.

Back to the Web

The technology to download and save web pages as PDF files is at the current cutting edge of the design market with programs like Adobe Creative Suite, but what about if you want to go the other way — from PDF to HTML?

Once you have the contents of a PDF in Microsoft Word, there are a few ways of moving from your desktop to the world. But why, you may ask, would you want to make it into a web page when a user can just download a Microsoft Word document?

Despite what Bill Gates wants us to think, everyone everywhere doesn’t use Microsoft products. With Linux making serious inroads all over the world, plenty of people can’t access .doc files.

Solid Converter PDF has in fact thought of that, and when you convert a PDF, it saves the result in .rtf (Rich Text File) format, a decade-old standard that maintains some complex formatting but can be read by all the major text editors on every platform.

Taking your text document and saving it as a HTML page straight from Word gives you mixed results — it doesn’t retain any columns, but if all you need is the text flowing from left to right, you can stylize it in a HTML editor like Frontpage or Dreamweaver later, or if you’re an old-school code monkey, do it right in your word processor or text editor (Notepad never had as big a following before the advent of the web).

If your layout is fairly simple, you can create a HTML file without even leaving Microsoft Word. Drop in pics from your local system and arrange your text in simple tables, then just save your document as a .htm file.

In order to view it on the web, you’ll have to collect the images (and possibly optimise them depending on their format) together with the page in a root folder and upload them to your web server via FTP.

Unlocking Content

By its nature, the PDF is a self-enclosed file you’re not really meant to extract anything from, but using a utility like Solid PDF Converter and the software on your system (from the simplest text editor to the biggest WYSIWIG html editor) can save a lot of retyping and allows you to share the content with the world.


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