[Review] novaPDF Standard

{rw_text}Giveaway of the day for October 29, 2009 is:

novaPDF Standard

Version reviewed:

v6.4 Build 310 – Standard

System Requirements:

Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000 and 2000/2003/2008 Server (x32 and x64)

Software description as per GOTD:

novaPDF Standard is a PDF creator for Windows that lets users convert any type of printable document to a PDF format.Main features:

  • Graphics options – You can compress, downsample or convert text and graphics to reduce PDF size.
  • PDF Watermarks – You can define multiple text or image watermarks and add them to individual pages or the entire PDF document.
  • Page Left, Right, Top and Bottom Margins – You can set a margin region that will remain empty when printing.
  • Page zoom (1%-400% zoom factor) – You can zoom a page if you need advanced settings of how the document should be positioned on the PDF page.
  • Create private profiles – You can define private printing profiles for future use, each with its own PDF printing settings.
  • and more..

————————-{/rw_text} –>

{rw_good}

  • Allows user to append (before or after) an existing PDF.
  • Has the ability to add watermarks (text or image) to output PDFs.
  • Allows user to control various different output PDF settings, such as document info, graphics compression, font embedding, etc.
  • Users can create multiple “profiles” and have different printing settings for each profile.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

  • Lacks the ability to create password protect/encrypted PDFs (need novaPDF Professional for that).
  • Watermarks are placed behind images in PDFs instead of appearing in front.

{/rw_bad} –>

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”10″}Pretty much point and click.
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”7″}I see nothing wrong with the output PDFs. Repeated reiterations (i.e. PDF -> PDF) results in lower and lower quality PDFs. However, the first reiteration (i.e. the one create when you do File -> Print) is just fine in quality.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”9″}Not having the ability to create password protected/encrypted PDFs does hurt usefulness, but otherwise very useful seeing as everyone needs to create PDFs.
{/for}
{for=”Arbitrary Equalizer” value=”7″}This category reflects an arbitrary number that does not specifically stand for anything. Rather this number is used to reflect my overall rating/verdict of the program in which I considered all the features and free alternatives.
{/for}
{/rw_score} –>

{rw_verdict}[tup]
{/rw_verdict} –>

novaPDF is a commercial PDF printer which allows you to turn any file into a PDF which you can print. There are three editions of novaPDF, Lite, Standard, and Professional. Today’s giveaway is of Standard.

novaPDF is as simple, easy to use, and straightforward as any other PDF printer. For any file you want to convert to PDF, you simply go to File -> Print and select “novaPDF” as your PDF printer (if you named it “novaPDF”; if you named it something else select that):

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Once you hit “OK” the novaPDF window pops up:

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From this window you get to:

  • Select the location you want to save the PDF to and the name of the output PDF.
  • If you want to append an existing PDF by adding the pages you are printing to the start (Insert before existing…) or the end (“Append to existing…) of an existing PDF (if you are looking to do this, click on “Browse…” and select the existing PDF you want to append).
  • Select if you want a PDF/A compliant PDF.
  • Customize some output settings for the PDF you are able to create (click on “Change options”):

2009-10-29_001309

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When ready, just hit “OK” to tell novaPDF to create the PDF. The printing time and resource usage of novaPDF just not vary greatly from any other PDF printer. Output quality is also similar to all other PDF printers. There is one thing, though, I would like to address in terms of output quality. While doing my research on novaPDF to write this review, I read the following comment on GOTD for the last time novaPDF was given out:

Cool features, but very poor quality output. The Ghostscript-based products like CutePDF and Pdf995 produce much better quality. Ironically novaPDF claims that their proprietary pdf engine is better becuase its not coupled with GS, but its not usable.

Perform this quality test…
1) Print something with one of the pdf drivers
2) View the document in your pdf reader
3) Print the pdf file to a pdf file
4) Observe the quality of the new pdf
5) Repeat

It obvious from the first iteration of the test the GS-based tools perform better. Several more passes and its undeniable. Even several print loops later , the latest file is mostly identical to the original, and the file size and embedded fonts are the same.

Novapdf, however degrades in quality and after the first iteration, all your text are now just images. The fonts are gone, the colors are wrong, things just start looking funky, and the file size triples.

I was curious to see if this person was accurate or just blowing steam, so I performed the mentioned “quality test”. I can confirm that what this person said is true: if you print a PDF created by novaPDF multiple times (i.e. print a PDF to create another PDF) the quality of the new created PDF does degrade as compared to CutePDF where the quality does not degrade (as much). However, I find this drawback to novaPDF to be of insignificant; why? Well because, practically speaking, who is going to need to print a PDF to PDF? What is the point of doing that (someone feel free to pipe up if they can explain to me why someone would need to do this)? The closest reason for this, which I can think of, is to append a PDF; however when appending PDFs, novaPDF does not degrade the quality of the PDF that is being appended. As far as I can concerned, the first iterations of both novaPDF and CutePDF are of similar quality and, practically speaking, that is good enough for me.

Anyway, novaPDF has some *extra* features you are not likely to find in freeware PDF printers. If you go to Control Panel -> Printers, right click on novaPDF and select “Printing Preferences” you can do one interesting thing with novaPDF. novaPDF allows users to create “profiles”:

2009-10-29_002549

Each profile can have different output settings and users can set it so novaPDF prompts users which profile they want to use when printing a PDF. For each “profile”, users can set the default graphic settings and document info (just as I showed you earlier), how to handle fonts when printing PDFs…

2009-10-29_002824

…and add watermarks to PDFs:

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You can have text…

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…or image…

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…watermarks and you can have as many watermarks as you want. Any watermarks enabled will be automatically added to PDFs created with the specific associated profile. You can, however, set it so a specific watermark only appears on certain pages of the PDFs. There is one thing to note with watermarks with novaPDF, though. The watermarks appear behind any images in the PDFs by default:

2009-10-29_003503

This occurs with both image and text watermarks. To make the watermarks appear in the front of images, uncheck “As background” under each specific watermark settings.

Lastly, one key feature I believe users will find lacking in novaPDF Standard is the ability to create password protected or encrypted PDFs; you need novaPDF Professional for that.

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

{rw_freea}

eXPert PDF 5 Pro

eXPert PDF 5 Pro is a whole PDF package; it comes with a PDF editor, PDF printer, PDF batch creator, and a PDF to Word converter.

The PDF printer of eXPert PDF 5 Pro has all the features of novaPDF minus the ability to create “profiles”. It has some features novaPDF standard does not have though, like creating encrypted PDFs and e-mailing PDFs as they are created.

CutePDF

CutePDF is one of the best PDF printers I have ever used. However it is very simple (no real options to deal with – just clicking print and saving PDFs) and you to install some extra scripts to use (you will be prompted to install the scripts upon installation of CutePDF).

PrimoPDF

PrimoPDF is another excellent free PDF printer. It has more features than CutePDF, i.e. lets you control output PDF settings, but it has built-in advertisement for commercial PDF products.

doPDF

doPDF is the freeware version of novaPDF. It doesn’t have any real options, except the option to embed fonts, and has built-in advertisement for novaPDF.

{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}For what it is worth, novaPDF is a good program. It creates PDFs easily, creates then quickly, and creates them well. It also has some nice and useful features you are not likely to find with freeware PDF printers, such as adding watermarks and creating multiple different profiles for users to use. Therefore I give novaPDF a thumbs up; if you want it, go get it. However, if it was not available for free, via GOTD today, I would never pay for novaPDF because of how many free PDF printers there are out there. That being said, I use eXPert PDF 5 Pro for all my PDF needs (creating, editing, PDF to Word conversions) and I recommend it to anyone that needs it. The PDF printer that comes with eXPert PDF 5 Pro has all the niceties of novaPDF, such as adding watermarks, but also includes somethings novaPDF does not have such as creating encrypted PDFs. If you prefer to not get the whole eXPert PDF 5 Pro package and just want a simple PDF printer, novaPDF, CutePDF, and PrimoPDF are all good choices. CutePDF is the most simple, PrimoPDF provides more options but comes with built-in advertisement, and novaPDF is available for free only today. Take your pick.
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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37 comments

  1. Jim

    @Ashraf “Well because, practically speaking, who is going to need to print a PDF to PDF? What is the point of doing that (someone feel free to pipe up if they can explain to me why someone would need to do this)?”

    Not strictly legal, but one reason would be to read a library ebook on a Linux system. Adobe’s DRM encoded ebooks can only be read with Adobe Digital Editions. Unfortunately, there is no Linux version of this software, and the Windows version doesn’t seem to work in WINE. So, if the ebook permits printing, you print to NovaPDF, save the file as a regular .pdf file, and copy it to your netbook. Why pay Kindle money when you’ve got a netbook?

  2. Sunny

    As I said, Ash ” …..apply the font in a decent size so that people wouldn’t have to keep scrolling laterally when they had to increase the font size within the reader itself.”

    Lateral scrolling through a long pdf is a real pain. That’s usually what happens when one zooms in pretty close in order to see lots of faint and small text. Also, if I recall correctly the keyboard’s arrow keys work differently in pdf readers than in other docs and I usually end up trying to use those keys rather than the mouse when scrolling laterally, resulting in a mess up. I haven’t developed my aversion to pdf’s for nothing ;-)

    Admittedly the one I came across that was beautifully done by its author was a joy to read, requiring no scrolling to see it well.

  3. Nathan J. Brauer

    @Ashraf: I’m trying out eXPert PDF Pro 5 because printing PDF’s to PDF is * definitely* not the ideal way to go but all I could do for free (until this point). Especially since you have to wait for th 50 page (or more) print to spool, then for the PDF printer to process it all. I’ll let you know how it goes

  4. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @PTLdom: I don’t have a scanner on hand to test this for you, but why can’t you just Print whatever you scan to a PDF?

    @Accubuff: You are welcome.

    @Old Prop: Okay, I can see that. Thanks for educating me =).

    @Sunny: I don’t get it; why not just zoom into the PDF if you have trouble reading it?

    @Ron: I would be careful. I am not sure how legal/ethical that “freebie” is from For-Free. It states it is associated with a magazine but I don’t know if it is from their online website which anyone can access or their subscribed magazine (which is why I did not outright delete the link).

    @giovanni: Yes I did but many people had trouble so I decided to not post about it.

    @ScottH: The blue over blue actually works really well if you get to see it. I will try to see why IE7 users are seeing just white.

    @Jeanjean: I am not sure what you mean, but I think he/she is an it :).

    @Al Hall: If I find a program that does not, besides just taking screenshots, I will let you know.

    @Mike: Let us know if it ever happens.

    @moucon: Thank you for the great advice!

    @Jo: Okay, I can also see people doing that (although I use eXPert PDF 5 Pro to do that). Thanks.

    @leland: Never heard of it before, or if I have I forgot. Thanks.

    @Nathan J. Brauer: Okay, I can also see people doing that, although again, I use eXPert PDF Pro 5 to do that. Thanks.

    @Richard: I can also see people needing to do that =). Thanks.

    @Ambuj Saxena: Check out http://dottech.org/images/2009-10-29_204554.png.

    @Austinkir: That is exactly how I feel right now.

  5. Samuel

    I’ve used PDF printers in the past, but in general the files I want as PDFs are Word Documents, and now that I have Office 2007 I can just save the files as PDFs, with some nice extras like using headings to create table of contents for the PDF

  6. Nathan J. Brauer

    “someone feel free to pipe up if they can explain to me why someone would need to do this”

    I do this from time to time when I have a large PDF file and I want to reduce it by removing pages (and don’t want to pay for or pirate “pro” software).

    Like one of my online classes came with a 250 page PDF and we were only supposed to use about 50 of the pages.

  7. leland

    You forgot my favorite free PDF printer, BullZIP PDF Printer as seen at http://www.bullzip.com/products/pdf/info.php As with most PDF printers you must have Ghost Script installed (even with PrimoPDF though in this case it is included inside the installer), but that is about it. You can encrypt files, place watermarks, and even append pages to an already existing PDF file. Oh, and it is freeware up to 10 users even in commercial settings. Give it a try and I think you will like it.

  8. Jo

    Just a comment: Printing PDF to PDF can be a simple and effective way of extracting ranges of pages from a PDF document, when you do not have any professional or advanced free PDF tools available that do the job.

  9. moucon

    Ashraf – I spend a bit of time lurking on your site – nice work.

    We do a lot of work with .PDF (all Adobe Acrobat Pro+ in-house… the big bucks..) We’ve looked at literally 100s of alternatives and while a couple of the $99 editor utilities come close (Nuance’s is not bad) nothing replaces “real” Acrobat in professional pre-press production. So it is the gold standard in professional shops.

    For output quality you gave this a 10 and mentioned “I can’t see anything wrong with it…” etc. (I’m paraphrasing). That might be OK for the casual user, but pro users need more info. Here are a few benchmarks you can use with no special equipment or extra cost to quantify the output of these Free-or-Cheap PDF utilities. There are more, but for us, these are the biggies.

    1) File size. Some of the free-or-cheap utilities create giant-size bulky files. If the Acrobat version is 100Kb… the “FreeOrCheap” version might be something like 350Kb.

    2)Line Weights: This is critical in complex designs. Acrobat perfectly reproduces the line wt. and density of the original. Free-or-cheap utilities often do not. No big deal for casual users, but imagine a large complex circuit board blueprint or architectural plan where different line wts mean different things. It becomes critical.

    3) Layer Management: Many technical drawing programs (AutoCAD, Visio, SketchUp) depend on layers to keep the drawings organized. Free-or-Cheap utilities often mangle layer assignments, if they preserve/honor them at all.

    4) Fonts. Look closely at the output – were the fonts preserved exactly ? If not, were the substitutions acceptable ?

    5) Print-to-Paper. the quality of a .PDF that looks OK onscreen can be all over the map when you print it to paper. Some utilities have ways to tweak, others don’t. But since that’s where many .PDFs wind up, you should print the output and carefully compare to the original document.

    Hope that helps your future reviews of .PDF utilities

  10. ScottH

    @Ashraf: That is correct Ashraf. No blue background, only blue text, orange links, and white background. pardon for asking, but blue text over a blue background??

    Love your reviews. I have added your site to my daily routine. Keep up the great work. S

  11. Ron

    Excellent review of a fine product. For anyone who wants to avoid the timed GOTD wrapper for this software, the developer has been running a promo of novaPDF Pro since June. The software’s in German, but there’s a workaround for speakers of English and other languages. The Pro version offered is the current one and has additional features which can be found here: http://for-free-on-internet.com/2009/06/novapdf-professional-desktop-v6-4-free/

    I used to use CutePDF and liked it fine, but these days I prefer PDFXchange Pro. http://www.docu-track.com/home/prod_user/PDF-XChange_Tools/pdfxchange_pro/ They also have a free viewer I install on every machine I handle instead of Acrobat.

  12. Sunny

    Thanks for the very helpful review Ashraf !
    It’s helped me to understand this whole business. Since the early 90s, or whenever .pdf files started appearing, I’ve had an abiding dislike of them and avoided them as much as possible. I still get people sending me pdf’s with tiny print and in a pale grey washed-out colour or they scan a document poorly and bundle it into a pdf. This is double jeopardy! By the time I’ve struggled through it my eyes are burnt out and paining. Nasty things these pdf’s I say to myself.

    I’ve only once come across a pdf that was written in a decent-sized font and in a deep black colour. It was evident that it’s creator had put considerable thought into his reader’s viewing experience. Which makes me think if I ever created one I’d pay close attention to using a non-serifed font, make it black on a white or pale grey background, and apply the font in a decent size so that people wouldn’t have to keep scrolling laterally when they had to increase the font size within the reader itself.

    Statistics show that longevity is increasing fast and before too long centenarians will be a dime a dozen. People may still be computing when they reach the 100 yr mark! I know I’d like to be. However many will have vision impairments of various sorts and it will be essential for young developers and people with perfect vision to think long and hard about ‘accessibility’ issues when they create anything for distribution on the net.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  13. Old Prop

    “someone feel free to pipe up if they can explain to me why someone would need to do this”

    OK, I’ll pipe. Making a PDF of a PDF (sometimes called “refrying”)can be necessary in print production, where a PDF (of an ad, say) needs to be placed on a magazine page or in a newsletter, and then the whole page or document is output as a new PDF for sending to the next step in the workflow. Refying can be problematic, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

  14. Corno

    Yes. Nova PDF has some good features (and the Pro version even more). Yet, there is one feature that I cannot find in any PDF programs I have come across (apart from Adobe): the possibility to create indices. NitroPDF used to have that some 4 or 5 years ago, but they for some reason removed it from later versions. I have hundreds of PDF’s I want to search at times and having them indexed would really speed up things. So, if anyone knows a (preferably free) PDF indexing tool I would be delighted.

  15. pa basheer

    Ashraf,

    The font color scheme that you have chosen for your site ( yellow over white background ) is a pain in the eye for an old timer like me. It makes me skip most of the stuff you are writing. Pls provide a
    switch or something that I can use to change the font color to some thing dark.

    Thanks,
    Basheer

  16. Claudiu

    Hi, just a mention regarding one of the “bad things” about it, the watermark behind images, you can have it show in front of everything by unchecking the As Background option in the Edit Text/Image Watermark window.