In today’s article, I want to highlight an important area that disabled individuals (and their non-disabled family members) have to deal with, frequently. In applying and filing for government benefits, medical records and legal documents have to be obtained, processed, and filed electronically. I know from my own process in this manner, that I have had to request paper copies of my records, scan them in and make PDF(s) to give to my attorney, and thus the court/SSA for claim evaluation. Being able to do this is vital, in keeping the process going, saving some legal costs (lawyers charge extra money to order copies of one’s records, which is above their contingency fees), and being a strong self-advocate for one’s case and ultimate finances/care.
Knowing this is a key piece of using technology for the aforementioned need; how do you choose what software use with your hardware. The flagship product that comes to mind is the originator, Adobe and their Acrobat family of PDF creation tools. The cost of their software is now a subscription-priced, cloud-based service ($14.99/mo.), which is in-line with how Adobe now charges for their software products. That price model might work for some people, but an open-ended monthly cost does not work for low-income disabled (people like myself), and I would guess not work well for my audience (especially if you consider that the application process for getting SSA/SSI benefits can run two years or more).
Seeing how Adobe has moved to this model, and the prolonged process, how can you choose one of their alternatives? The continuum of choices runs the gamut from $140.00 PDF software suites to very basic, markup-only $40.00 PDF editors. The problem of these options is that the cost of the high-end software suite is not priced to be affordable for individuals on fixed income, while the cheaper options do not have the toolset that the same individuals need for their tasks. The best solution that I have found is a great tiered-priced PDF Suite with easy to add modules, called PDF Architect 3 from PDF Forge.
This fine product starts as free basic software, with the ability to open, search, and create PDF’s from 300+ file formats. From there, you can purchase modules that allow you to edit, convert, secure, review, create forms, and even take scanned in text as OCR readable data. The price tiers for this range from free up to $119.99 USD, but the wonderful thing is that you only have to pay for what you need, and can easily add modules, if your needs change. If you elect to go for the Professional Package+OCR, you do get a discount on cost, versus upgrades later. For my purpose, I need the options that the top package offers, but you might only need the Standard or Professional package.
Price aside, what makes or breaks a software suite is ease of use, great support, and versatility. Let me put your concerns to rest, as PDF Architect delivers on all these fronts. Using my own experiences, I can tell you that my testing of this fine suite has proven this out, every time.
In my testing this past week, I found it very easy to make PDF from various sources. I first tried to convert a sample business letter in Microsoft Word format, and the conversion was seamless, fast and ready to roll in minutes. I know how important that my end-user needs to be able to view and read my documents, without errors, corruptions or potential malware infections. PDF has had some in-roads to becoming vulnerable to malware, but is more secure and hardened that text files or .doc(x). That allows me to being able to send my files with stronger confidence that what is submitted get there, in one piece.
I next tried to reverse the process of taking a PDF and converting it to Word file; seamless as before. The wonderful thing is that this process works just as well for other Microsoft Office file types, as well as numerous other file types this great software supports (300+). Being able to take a PDF of a business file, receive it, and be able to convert it to a format that you need/want, is a vital piece of a disabled person’s ability to handle business/legal affairs without extreme costs. My final testing included the creation of a PDF, within the PDF Architect software.
The process to create such a file as this, involves scaled-back, page layout-light controls, in the vein of Adobe PageMaker from the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. Do not let that put you off, as the layout is intuitive, based on a ribbon-like tab system that lets you view, edit, set page layout, and so forth, as seen is later versions of Microsoft Office.
I made a blank PDF, and proceeded to add images and text. While my sample is very basic it does highlight that PDF Architect is powerful, without needing other programs to function to make your ideas a reality. The finished product is just great and allows people to put together something, quickly, yet professionally. (Note: It bears mentioning that I also have the OCR module and a scanner, but I did not have time to test these out thoroughly. However, I have no concerns that the features work flawlessly and effortlessly.)
Coming back full circle, I have tried various PDF solutions, and while each offered pros and cons, I have never found a better, scalable solution than PDF Architect. The price continuum, platforms available (Windows/Mac), software integration, and ease of use make it the winner. You may find other ways to make your versatile documents flow, but you will be hard pressed to find one better; check out PDF Architect from PDF Forge, and tell them I sent you. Until next time. . . Keep the faith!