Adobe PDF was developed in the early 1990s and if you ask me, that is where it belongs. Unlike other file and text sharing formats like HTML, ePub and Markdown, it is heavy, rigid and most importantly, not open-source.
As much as I’d like to see the death of PDF, it is still useful (and sensible) for a lot of people, especially Office users. If you have to deal with PDFs now and then but don’t want to download a dedicated Windows app, you’re in luck. You can convert files to and from PDF, compress and merge them in mere seconds for free with the help of these two online tools.
Cool Tip: If you deal with a lot of PDFs at work, check out our guide to improving your PDF workflow.
Converting With PDF Online
Some testimonials and Facebook comments on PDF Online site call the service “a life saver”. If you are ten minutes away from a deadline and you just have to send a document in PDF, this website could very well be your savior.
It’s a simple site with two sections – Word to PDF and PDF to Word.
It says “Word” but that’s just a suggestion. Open any of the tabs and you’ll see that the website plays nice with many more file types. The website will convert formats like Word, Excel, PPT, TXT, Images (JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, GIF) to PDF. You can also feed in a PDF and have it output in one of the above formats.
It’s an easy process. Use the Upload a File to Convert… button to choose the file from your storage and wait for the servers to do its thing.
I put in a Word document that was generated from a Markdown file, complete with formatting and links. The PDF carried forward the same formatting without any problem but the links for some reason did not work.
Compressing And Merging With smallpdf
smallpdf has a great looking website with clearly marked out functions to begin with. There’s a feature and a description for each task and nothing more. Click on a task you want to accomplish and you’ll be taken to a new page where you can upload the file in question.
The website plays a nice animation while the servers are busy uploading and converting the file. The website manages to hold your attention for those couple of seconds.
smallpdf will convert Word, Excel and PowerPoint files to PDF for you. It will also let you convert JPG images to PDF and PDFs to JPG images.
But these functionalities are not unique to smallpdf. You’ll find them in countless others online PDF conversion tools. What this website does great is compression and merging.
I threw a 6 MB PDF generated from InDesign ( at 96 PPI it was already low res) and the results surprised me. smallpdf took the PDF down to just 1 MB without losing much of the visual quality. The text was just as sharp and some images looked a bit low res but it was not a deal breaker.
The service will also allow you to merge two PDFs in one if you need to. This also works well.
Remember that Word document I uploaded to PDF Online where the links weren’t hyperlinked? I did the same thing with smallpdf and guess what, it worked. I got a great looking PDF file in a couple of seconds complete with links and formatting.
PDF Online has been on the web for years. I’ve used it in the past and many users swear by it. But there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is smallpdf. The next time I have a PDF related issue, that’s where I’ll be heading.
Top image via André Gustavo Stumpf.
Last updated on 03 February, 2022
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