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Zamzar

Tom's Guide to Online PDF File Creation
By

Zamzar

Zamzar does a lot more than just PDF conversion. In fact, Zamzar bills itself as a “free online file conversion” service with support for converting document, image, music, video and compressed formats.

On the document side, which is primarily what we’re concerned with when dealing with PDF files, you can actually convert .csv, .doc, .docx, .odp, .ods, .odt, .ppt, .pptx, .pub, .rtf, .wpd, .wps, .xls and .xlsx documents into PDF files.

Going the other way, Zamzar will convert PDF files to .doc, .html, .odt., .pcx, .png .rtf and txt formats. So there is some mismatch between the formats you can convert to PDF versus the ones you can convert from PDF to another file type.

The online interface is simple to use. You can either load up the file you want converted yourself, or simply point to the url where the file is located.

Zamzar pdf

In a simple test case of a 24-page 132-KB PDF file (the Magna Carta), Zamzar was able to painlessly convert the PDF to a word .doc file. The process was as simple as entering the URL of the file (the Magna Carta doc URl is something that Zamzar suggests), adding an email address where the link will be sent and then hitting convert. In our limited test, it took an average of three minutes to receive the Zamzar email in a Gmail account after hitting the convert button.

zamzar pdf

With the email you have to click back to Zamzar and then click again to get your download, which sure is a lot of clicking just to get your file. For the free service, Zamzar then stores your converted files for 24 hours from the time the conversion takes place. If you want to store files longer, Zamzar has a few paid offerings starting at $7 a month and going up to $49 depending on how much storage you need (http://www.zamzar.com/signup/?hs1#go).

The converted PDF-to-DOC file looked as it should with no noticeable variation, other than the usual font (TrueType versus Adobe postscript), which typically makes PDF files look crisper.

zamzar pdf

We also tested the conversion back the other way – that is, taking the new Word DOC file and then converting it back to PDF. The file once again turned out well, and there was no visible difference between the file we converted from the DOC to the actual original PDF. However, the re-converted PDF’s file size only totaled 94.1 KB, which was smaller than the original (before it got converted to DOC and then back) at 132 KB.

You can select a file that is located online to convert, but there is no option with which you can convert an entire Web page to PDF.

As a final test, we also took an Excel spreadsheet (XLS file format) with a comparison matrix of all the services used in this review and converted it to PDF. However, Zamzar did not handle the XLS file properly in our test. The PDF was improperly formatted splitting the spreadsheet across two pages. What Zamzar failed to do is recognized the proper width and orientation of the XLS file.

zamzar pdf

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  • 0 Hide
    jitpublisher , May 13, 2008 1:36 AM
    Good Article. Micosoft Word and Excel are horrible programs for desktop publishing. Converting to PDF from these programs without reflow and pagination errors when passing the file from one PC to another is tough. The only way to guarentee 100% success is to generate the PDF on the PC the document was created on.
    I have been in the print on demand and publishing business with a large firm for 18 years. Anytime someone sends native files in Word or Excel, we absolutely cringe. It can be very time consuming to convert the documents and have them turn out the exact way the creator sees the documents on their end. So, I guess you could say that in the end, you get what you pay for. Free service.....I wouldn't expect miracles with Word and Excel.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 13, 2008 4:41 AM
    May also want to take a look at PDFescape (an online PDF editor):
    http://www.pdfescape.com

    Good article for those looking to create PDF files though
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 13, 2008 2:37 PM
    I'm very happy with having pdf "printers" installed on my computers. Saves me from all the troubles and hassles on services you just listed. Plus they are more secure and flexible when concerning private data like web purchase receipts and such. Sourceforge.net has several on it that are free and easy to install. I think it would be more natural from a users point of view too.
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , May 14, 2008 6:09 AM
    Ah how I love OpenOffice, I have yet to have any problems with it's PDF converter.
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , May 14, 2008 6:09 AM
    Ah how I love OpenOffice, I have yet to have any problems with it's odt/doc to PDF converter. Admittedly I have only ever converted text and tables with it.
  • 0 Hide
    Regulas , May 14, 2008 1:39 PM
    You could always use a Mac and you can convert about anything from any program to a .pdf file. Built into OS X through the print function.
    When you tell a program to print something a print box appears. You can then tell OS X to save the document to a .pdf file.
    I do love my Mac.
    Glenn
  • 0 Hide
    justjc , May 14, 2008 1:42 PM
    Good article. I hope I can get you to consider making a simular one on making the new Words docx documents into the old doc format, so I can read them using OpenOffice.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2008 6:21 PM
    I have to mention that from an Adobe perspective, even though the PDF spec is public and open for anyone to use, Adobe does not guarantee the stability and accurateness of PDF files created from third party applications (meaning, programs other than Adobe Acrobat). That's not a sales pitch - that's just a fact of using an open specification that any programmer can interpret and potentially mess up. So what is my point? Be very careful of the programs you use if storing stable PDF files is critical for you.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 16, 2008 10:20 PM
    Another great product for creation / conversion into PDF format are any of the products from www.cutepdf.com

    We use at my work and I love it. Very inexpensive too.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 5, 2008 10:12 AM
    Nice !
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 5, 2008 10:13 AM
    Nice review indeed.
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