Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/image.png” />PDFs are great, there’s no argument there. But reading and editing PDFs can get quite cumbersome, especially when the main contender out there is Adobe Acrobat, which you might need to sell your house in order to buy.
Nitro PDF Reader is an awesome free option which we’ve covered here in the past, and today, Nitro is getting a younger brother in the form of Nitro PDF Reader 2. We were allowed an early peek into this new version, and I will take you through all the new (and some of the old) awesome features that I found particularly useful.
Download and installation are as simple as it gets. There are no extra options on installation, although the process itself is pretty lengthy. When you first run Nitro Reader 2, it asks you if you want to make it your default PDF viewer, and it does this even if the older version of Nitro Reader already was your default viewer, so if you’re like me and tend to click “No” automatically without reading the message, you should pay attention when you first run the program.
One of the nice new features Nitro Reader 2 is supposed to have is the browser integration. I’ve been having a hard time with Foxit’s integration in Firefox, so I was excited to try this.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, Nitro Reader 2 would not open PDFs within my browsers (Firefox, Chrome and IE). At first I thought this was a default viewer problem, but even after uninstalling my previous viewer, Nitro did not take over PDFs and I could not use it to open PDFs in my browsers. Perhaps you’ll have better luck.
Text and Image Extraction
Another Nitro Reader 2 feature is its ability to extract text and images from a PDF. This is not a new feature, but it’s supposed to be improved in this version. Extracting is very easy – there are big extraction buttons in the toolbar, and you can easily extract just text or just images from your PDF.
This feature worked really well and was very quick, especially considering I tried it on a very big and image-rich PDF. It offered many options such as adding line breaks after a specific number of characters for text, or choosing a specific image format for color or monochromatic images.
You can even choose to automatically open the files after creation, but if the extraction created numerous image files, it only opens the folder and not all the files, which is both smart and fortunate.
The next thing I tried was creating a PDF from a Word document. I had to do this recently, and did so using the “Save as PDF or XPS” add-in for MS Word, which did it really quickly. I was curious what the new Nitro Reader 2 had to offer in this arena.
The PDF creation tool offers much more than a simple “Save as…”. You can control the kind of output you get (web, office or print ready), you can tell Nitro Reader 2 to convert the colors of your images, control the size of the pages of the output and even have your new PDF in landscape format.
I tried creating a PDF which will convert all my images to grayscale. The first time I tried it, the PDF creation was very slow, and it took Nitro Reader 2 about a whole minute to create my PDF, but I contributed that to the fact that it had to convert my images. But alas, when I got my new PDF, the images were still in color. I tried this several more time, and I must say the conversion itself got quicker all the time, with the last one taking only a few second, but my pictures still refused to lose their color.
A little quirk in the conversion was the fact that it showed two progress bars for no apparent reason. When the bottom one got to 100%, the top one just disappeared. Not sure why they were both needed.
Highlights and Annotations
Let me just say this: Nitro Reader 2’s highlights and annotation options are hands-down the best I’ve seen in a PDF reader. First of all, you don’t just get to highlight, you get to underline and cross-over as well. Each of these gets its own color, which you can, of course, change, by right clicking the highlight and choosing “Properties”.
You can also add a note to each kind of highlight, and it will automatically get the color of the highlight. In the properties, you can change the note’s author and its subject, and you can even reply to a note or a highlight left by someone else.
You can also add sticky notes wherever you wish on the document, and customize it to your liking, similar to the highlight notes.
I won’t go into all the ways you can customize Nitro Reader 2. I might stay up writing until tomorrow morning. I’ll just highlight a few things that I found especially useful or thoughtful.
Nitro Reader 2 features a Quick Access Toolbar, similar to Office, and it can be customized very easily. The thing I liked best is the fact that I can right-click any of the buttons and simply add them to the Quick Access Toolbar. You can choose to have the toolbar under the buttons or above the buttons, and can choose to have only the toolbar and no buttons at all.
Another very cute option, which is new for this version, is the option to get rid of the “Do More With Pro” button that sends you to Nitro’s website where you can buy the pro version. If you don’t like the looks of the button, or simply want the interface to be as minimalist as possible, you can go to Preferences –> Interface, and uncheck “Show the More with Pro button on the Home tab”. And just like that, it’s gone!
There are many features of Nitro PDF Reader 2 I did not even get into, like the ability to create a signature stamp from a scanned image of your signature or the ability to e-mail a PDF to someone from within the program (if you’re using an e-mail client).
The new Nitro PDF Reader 2 is a definite improvement over other free PDF readers out there, at least the ones I tried. It’s fast and responsive, and even large and rich PDFs load quickly. I would be happy to see the browser integration working, or to learn why it didn’t work for me, and when that happens, I will gladly adopt Nitro Reader 2 as my default PDF reader. I might even do so right now, just because I love the highlights and notes so much.
So what did you think of the new version of Nitro Reader? Did you find any bugs that I missed? Got things working better you? Share your experience in the comments.