One of the results of providing services to authors and publishers is that you become familiar with all the different kinds of software authors use to prepare their files.
Like the service bureaus of the 1980s and 1990s, you need to be able to accept and work with all kinds of files efficiently enough to make it profitable.
A large number of writers today use Microsoft Word, the legacy of millions of people who bought computers that had Microsoft’s Office Suite pre-installed. Word has been the dominant program in word processing for many years, so that’s the way a lot of files arrive for design or layout projects.
Recovering Rights and Old Projects
But authors and self-publishers have many sources of content now, and we’ve been doing digital layout long enough that there’s an entire pre-history to the Adobe InDesign era.
For instance, authors are getting rights back to books whose sales have dwindled for the traditional publishers who originally produced them.
In some cases authors were smart enough to hold onto the digital rights, so are free to publish ebooks.
But sometimes, what you’re left with isn’t exactly perfect for publishing a new edition.
Recently a number of authors have inquired about whether we can rescue their book from on old PDF file, and Adobe Acrobat can export all the text in the file so you can start over again.
But looking at a fully-formatted, completely laid out, typographically complete book makes us long for more. I mean, why start over if you don’t have to?
What if we could put that PDF through some kind of magic software that would turn it into an… InDesign file?
That tantalizing prospect got Tracy and me talking about the possibilities. Right away we identified two products that promised exactly this result: to create a real life InDesign file directly from a PDF.
We decided to split the labor and evaluate one each. Here are the results, with Tracy’s review today, and mine to follow tomorrow.
Recosoft PDF2ID – PDF to InDesign Converter by Tracy R. Atkins
$199 MSRP – http://www.recosoft.com/
The Recosoft PDF2ID converter plug-in promises a quick and easy way to convert a PDF into an InDesign file to edit and work with. For authors and other publishing enthusiasts, this sounds like a fantastic way to bring in back-catalog books in order to refresh or edit them, as well as a way to take previously converted works and import them into InDesign for a variety of purposes. As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the app and give it a spin.
Installation was very easy for this application. It was a digitally delivered download that was simple to install. I was able to load it up in no time and the application can be accessed directly from within InDesign on the File menu. Simply click the new “Open PDF / XPS File” option and you are in business.
Upon execution, the plug-in brings up the PDF/XPS import menu, and allows you to choose a PDF file. PDF2ID then presents you with several options for conversion and layout.
The process to convert the PDF file was quick, taking less than a minute for a 29-page sample book.
After conversion, the file opens in InDesign and at first glance everything looks great. The fonts all carry over it seems, and the file is the right trim size for the book. Even the margins look right and the pages appear to have transferred properly.
I was really excited to see the front matter and title pages come through and it appeared as if the plug-in works properly. It looks great that is, until you dig deeper on the content of the file and the internal layout of the book itself.
Some real and substantial problems start to show up post conversion for books. One of the first things you notice is that the text justification from the PDF is missing. Normally, correcting this is simple, as you set the justification for the text in InDesign and it flows through the body text.
In this case, the text blocks on each page have to be adjusted individually and set to justified manually, as the text doesn’t flow correctly from page to page like in a normal InDesign layout.
I tried the full array of settings and options and couldn’t get the text on the page to link with the text on the next page, making reapplication of justification very difficult and time consuming.
To further clog the works, the conversion doesn’t recognize headers or footers, or at least, doesn’t differentiate them from the body of the book. The running heads and page numbers are placed on the page along with the other text, meaning you will have to remove it all manually and re-set numbering and running heads.
This could become a huge and time consuming effort if you have a work of any real size.
Other issues became apparent upon further inspection.
- The text brought over retains the hyphens from the PDF, meaning you will have to do a programmatic action in InDesign to remove them. It’s not a huge deal, but is time consuming and will require a review of the materials.
- The conversion wasn’t really smooth for images that have text wrap, or for drop-caps, as they were a bit of a mess and would also require cleanup.
- Footnotes were all included with the body text also, making references and citations a total rework item.
- The leading and sizing was off too, making some of the pages come up short and empty at the bottom since the text isn’t linked between pages.
With all of the problems, the file became a big ball of frustrated mess to try to clean up and I gave up. Sadly, it just wasn’t going to work.
In conclusion, after my initial excitement, the low-down feeling of disappointment set in. It seems that the Rectosoft PDF2ID converter just doesn’t have the chops to handle the needs of those who work with books, which is a shame.
- Easy to install, takes only minutes.
- It works on a PC or Mac, and the latest versions of InDesign.
- Fast, especially on a multi-core processor.
- Doesn’t work well for book interiors.
- Too many inconsistencies in conversion will require a LOT of cleanup.
- Recosoft has a “no refund” policy, so you have to pay to play.
Coming Next: Markzware PDF2DTP
Tomorrow I’ll have a closer look at the other conversion solution we identified, and explain why Tracy was so disappointed with the output of the PDF2ID software.
Have you tried this type of conversion? What kind of results did you get? Let me know in the comments.