I have been using Adobe Acrobat Professional almost daily for over a decade. I use it to convert Word documents which include equations into PDF files since the PDF creator included with Microsoft Word usually does a very poor job converting equations. Normally, the equations are simply omitted from the PDF file by Word. I also use Adobe Acrobat Professional for commenting and otherwise marking up documents, for recognizing text in scanned documents and for creating forms. So, I was very curious about how well an alternative PDF creator which cost a fraction of the price of Acrobat X Professional would work.
PDF Converter Professional of course looks a little different than Acrobat X Professional as one would expect. However, the appearance of both PDF Converter Professional and Acrobat X Professional are customizable and so I am only commenting on the default settings. Some examples of the differences include the toolbars. At first glance, there are default tools on the toolbar for PDF Converter Professional than Acrobat X Professional, but the number of options can be customized. But, initially, it does give Acrobat X Professional a cleaner look, especially since it lacks links to web sites which PDF Creator has which suggest that the user should download various tools. PDF Converter Professional has a built in a search bar for the internet as part of the Find toolbar. The default search engine is Ask Jeeves, but other options are available as well.
One default setting in PDF Converter Professional that I didnt like was that multiple PDF files are shown as tabs within the PDF program, not on the bottom task bar. I would prefer to see the PDF's listed on the task bar since it is easier to then pick the PDF you want to view if you are switching between another program such as Word or Excel and the PDF. However, it can easily be changed in the settings found in preferences so that the tabs are moved to the task bar. PDF Converter Professional has buttons at the bottom of the page to jump between pages. What is nice is that you can also click on buttons to change the view from one page to multiple page up. You can of course do this with Acrobat X Professional as well, but the buttons at the bottom of PDF Converter Professional are nicer.
However, looks aside, the real question is whether the less expensive PDF Converter Professional can perform as well as Acrobat X Professional. To evaluate this, I converted various Word documents into PDF files to see how well each program handled equations, links and various formatting problems. When you install PDF Converter Professional, a tab is added to Word for the PDF creator. The tab includes one button for the creation settings such as what to include in bookmarks in the PDF file, what to include as links and whether metadata should be taken from the Word document for use in the PDF. Clicking on the button to create a PDF file results in a lot of animation in the Word document, but the end result is flawless. I had noted that links should be included and so the PDF file will bring the user to a figure if the figure number in the text is clicked on by the user. Acrobat X Professional also has a tab in word which results in identical PDF files being created. Acrobat X Professional also has a button for setting preferences. I found the Acrobat X Professional preferences easier to use than those for PC. For example, if you want to secure a PDF document against modifications, it is easy to set the security with 128 bit encryption. The default in PDF Converter Professional is 40 bit encryption. While this can be changed to 128 bit, you need to dig deeper into the advanced settings.
Both programs also offer the ability to convert PDF files into Word documents. For PDF Converter Professional, the tab in Word also has an option for opening PDF/XPS documents. I found that PDF Converter Professional did a very good job at creating Word documents. There were limitations, however. Equations, for example could not be converted. Acrobat X Professional can also convert PDF files into Word documents. However, the process is initiated from within Acrobat X Professional rather than as a tab in Word. Neither Acrobat X Professional nor PDF Converter Professional handled equations well. However, PDF Converter Professional did a far better job at converting PDF files into Word documents than Acrobat X Professional did.
I tried marking up the PDF files using the comment tools such as highlighting and inserting notes. I also used the optical character recognition to evaluate how well the programs recognized text. The OCR function of PDF Converter Professional is significantly slower than that of Acrobat X Professional. However, in PDF documents which are a mix of scanned text and readable text, I found that Acrobat X Professional refused to convert the scan to readable text whereas PDF Converter Professional was able to accomplish the conversion. This was certainly a surprise.
What I found in my evaluation was that PDF Converter Professional worked just as well as Acrobat X Professional. I did prefer the way that Acrobat X Professional was laid out for certain tasks. For example, tools and comments can be accessed by clinking on the toolbar buttons on the right side of the screen whereas you have to navigate through the menus at the top of the PC screen. But, I was surprised at how well PDF Converter Professional worked and how similar so many of the functions were to Acrobat X Professional.
Overall, the PDF Converter Professional offers a lower cost alternative to Acrobat X Professional without sacrificing quality. I found some of the controls to be a bit more cumbersome to use than Acrobat X Professional, but alternatively, some of the features of PDF Converter Professional were easier to use than Acrobat X Professional. I was really surprised at how well PDF Converter Professional performed and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend PDF Converter Professional as an alternative to Acrobat X Professional if you are looking for a standalone PDF editor.