What are good apps for converting PDFs and other text files to non-PDF files?
September 6, 2010 11:34 PM   Subscribe

What are good apps for converting PDFs and other text files to non-PDF text files?

I've been wanting to convert PDFs to non-PDF text files to read on a Kindle and on my computer. I know that text format conversion is possible, but since I know little of this, I don't know which apps (both freeware and payware) would be recommendable for the job.

Recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks.

By the way: I use Windows as my primary OS.
posted by GlassHeart to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Check out these two recent reports from lifehacker: (1) (2)
posted by stratastar at 11:47 PM on September 6, 2010

There are two issues. Stratastar's links focus on the optical character recognition aspect, which would primarily apply to PDFs of scanned content. The other is the format conversion.

Adobe Acrobat v9 exports to HTML 4, which might work for your needs. This website will also take your uploaded PDFs and spit out Word or RTF files. In my experience, it seems to do a better job with graphics and overall layout than Acrobat, for certain kinds of PDFs.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 12:23 AM on September 7, 2010

You are looking for Calibre
posted by iamabot at 12:53 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another export to text (RTF or HTML) option is Infix. And it works pretty damn well. One area where a lot of pdf conversions fail is making paragraphs out of things that should be paragraphs. Infix does that well. Often what you get instead is line breaks in the middle of paragraphs and that makes reading rather difficult. With some PDF conversions, things don't flow correctly, so I pop it back into infix and tie the parts that need to be together and then reconvert it.
posted by Brent Parker at 2:58 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use this online application to convert my .DOC files to .PDFs on a weekly basis. The guy also has a .PDF to .DOC converter.. Not sure if that helps...
posted by Glendale at 4:02 AM on September 7, 2010

I used something by ABBYY (Lifehacker's pick), and it worked relatively well. I was working with some brochure stuff, so some of the non-content text confused it a bit, I think.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:40 AM on September 7, 2010

> I've been wanting to convert PDFs to non-PDF text files to read on a
> Kindle and on my computer.

For transfer to the kindle, you could try savory. (Don't have a kindle, so I haven't used it.)
Savory is a native ebook conversion package for the Kindle 2. It lets you download and read PDFs and ePubs on the Kindle without a manual conversion step.
It installs a modified version of Calibre on the kindle, and sets it up to automatically convert any PDFs which show up there.
posted by Coventry at 4:45 AM on September 7, 2010

There's an online Adobe converter here; I haven't tested it, so I don't know how good it is.

There's a basic Windows converter, PDF2HTMLgui (based on this SourceForge project), available for download here. The original creator's site is no longer in existence, but it downloads fine from that linkā€”and the last time I needed to create an HTML version of a PDF, this program worked marvelously.
posted by limeonaire at 5:50 AM on September 7, 2010

The simplest "app" is windows copy and paste to a text file. If you have hundreds of PDFs then it may take some time but is still generally pretty fast.
posted by JJ86 at 7:19 AM on September 7, 2010

If the PDF is from page images then copy and paste will obviously not work. Then you will need an OCR solution.
posted by JJ86 at 7:20 AM on September 7, 2010

Another free online tool is DocsPal - which will convert just about anything, including video and audio.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:54 AM on September 7, 2010

Amazon has a service that converts PDFs to the Kindle format. (Once in the Kindle format it's searchable, resizeable, etc.) You simply email PDF files to xxxx@free.kindle.com with the subject "convert", and in a few minutes they will appear on your device. I haven't tried converting anything complicated, and fairly "plain" PDFs (e.g. equivalent to "printable" versions of web pages) work fine.

See Files Kindle Recognises (Amazon help; right at the bottom of the page) for more information.
posted by mstillwell at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2010

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