It’s often the small applications that make the most significant impact on our computing.
A quartet of utilities — one free, the others moderately priced — can make your Windows PC easier and safer to use.
Kicking the Adobe Reader habit for good
Nearly 100MB in size and needing frequent updates for security lapses, Adobe Reader is no longer welcome on my PC. In its place, I use the free Nitro Reader (site), a somewhat slimmer and far more versatile PDF-viewing app. There are many Adobe Reader alternatives to pick from, but Nitro Reader is easily one of the best. Nitro 3 was released in October 2012, and the most recent version, 184.108.40.206, came out in late March.
Nitro Reader is somewhat of a misnomer. Unlike Adobe Reader, the utility includes many PDF-editing and -creation capabilities as well. According to the Nitro site, Reader can create PDFs from over 300 different file formats. I didn’t test all formats, but Reader seamlessly converted common file types such as Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and HTML webpages. In most cases, I simply dragged files onto the Nitro Reader desktop icon. (Unfortunately, dragging files to a Reader taskbar icon does not work.)
Nitro also lets you specify document information, font embedding, page size and orientation, password protection, and initial view settings. It must be one of the few non-Microsoft apps to use the now familiar Microsoft Office–style Ribbon interface. Reader’s ribbon includes its wide array of tasks and tools, right down to a user-customizable, quick-access toolbar for frequently used functions.
One of my favorite Nitro Reader features is QuickSign (see Figure 1), which lets you add a scanned image of your signature. It’s handy for applying my signature to PDF contracts and forms that need a signature. Before Reader, I had to print a contract out, add my signature, and then either fax or rescan the signed document. Signatures can be password-protected so they’re never misused.
Most free PDF readers offer limited text or image conversion from PDFs. Nitro Reader will quickly convert a PDF file into editable plain text, and its Snapshot tool can capture any on-screen area for reuse as an image or text. Reader can also extract images and save them in BMP, JPG, PNG, and TIF formats.