To PDF and Back Again: Adobe Acrobat Alternatives

A few months ago, I taught a “Useful Web Gizmos” class (now renamed Tech Tuesdays) on how to convert files to PDF and vice-versa.  Here are some of the tools that I discussed:

For converting a document to PDF:

Nitro Reader

  • Free, no registration (just email address), no ads
  • Downloadable desktop application
  • Mode of action: create within application and installs as printer driver as well
  • Highlight and review text
  • Add sticky notes
  • Add text to pages
  • Sign pages
  • Extract images from a PDF file
  • Fill and save forms

PDF Creator

  • Downloadable desktop application
  • Mode of action: installs a printer driver
  • Encrypt PDFs and protect them from being opened, printed, etc.
  • Digitally sign your PDFs to ensure that you are the author and the file has not been modified
  • Merge multiple files into one PDF


  • Web-based and desktop versions (desktop not free)
  • Mode of action: upload file and PDF emailed to you or you can download it as a zip file
  • 69 supported formats
  • Convert from file or URL
  • Extract images from PDF
  • Ability to add watermark and password protection to PDF document
  • Can only submit one file every 30 minutes


  • Downloadable application
  • Mode of action: Installs as a printer driver

For converting a PDF to a document (.doc, .xls, .jpg):


  • Cloud-based
  • Mode of action: upload files and converted files are emailed to you
  • Maximum upload size: 100 MB
  • Can convert document, image, music, video, e-book, compressed and CAD formats
  • Convert multiple files at once (same file extensions only)
  • Length of time it takes to receive file: less than 5 minutes

Smart PDF Converter

  • Free; trial does not expire
  • Cloud-based
  • Maximum number of pages you can convert: 3

AnyBizSoft PDF to Word Converter

  • Downloadable desktop application
  • Need to register in order to convert more than 3 pages
  • Batch process a large number of files
  • Detects a locked file, places a padlock icon as a status indicator, and lets you unlock the file from the interface itself. If kept locked, the file conversion of the other PDF files in the queue is not blocked
  • Lets you selectively convert some pages by putting in the desired page numbers.


  • Web-based and desktop (desktop not free)
  • Convert PDF to editable Word and Excel files
  • Extract images from PDF

If you want all this information in a quick reference handout, download it here:  Converting_PDFs