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By Jeff Segarra

PDF files are one of the most commonly used formats for scanned and shared documents, and an indispensable part of small business document workflows. This file type has several distinct advantages over other types of documents, including their universal visibility and readability (on different computing platforms, like Windows and Mac OS), security and searchability, to name a few. These files provide an electronic image of text and/or graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted.

With PDF software, employees are often able to fly through paperwork and streamline internal processes with enhanced dexterity and the production power of ten workers. However, the reality is many of them are barely scratching the surface of PDF capabilities – according to The Standish Group, less than a third of an enterprise application features are commonly used.

With the increased adoption by small businesses of housing documents on the cloud and the ability of employees to work remotely, now more than ever businesses need to equip their employees with technology that fits seamlessly within how they share, print and scan documents. To increase productivity, small businesses can leverage five underutilized (and not well recognized) PDF super powers which can help small businesses save time, simplify tasks and efficiently solve problems. These include:

File Conversion

Without the ability to seamlessly convert files from PDF to editable text (like Word documents), employees often waste valuable time typing out entire documents or reformatting via copy and paste. Online file converters are one solution, but they often come with drawbacks like safety privacy, inconsistent output quality and inability to handle large batches. Manually typing out PDFs to make them into workable documents eats away at precious time and can be burdensome for small workforces. Shape-shifting, or file conversion capabilities inherent in PDF software offer the ability to convert static PDFs into Microsoft Word documents in the blink of an eye.

Combine and Split PDFs

Who has time to reassemble documents page by page or try to copy and paste everything into a single document? PDF software features the ability to seamlessly merge separate PDFs into a single file or split and rearrange pages to form the perfect document. When collaborating on a single project, teams frequently hit roadblocks that stem from working in a single file or separating the work among numerous files. PDF software makes it easy to merge multiple PDFs into a single file or split one file among several team members. This added flexibility gives organizations the ability to collaborate easily without delays brought on by technical headaches.

Electronic Editing and Retention

PDF software features tools allowing users to insert editable areas into files to create forms that can easily be filled out electronically. The software also comes equipped with tools for redacting, dates stamping, digital signatures, encryption and authentication. PDF/A is a sub-format that protects against future technology changes that could make digital documents hard to read, and is therefore ideal for industries with strict archival requirements, like insurance.  This added versatility helps workers conform to company and industry best practices and compliance requirements.

Tablet Compatibility

Tablets should be no obstacle when working with PDFs and it’s important that the PDF software of choice be compatible with Microsoft 10 touch-enabled devices or other tablets. Drawing tools paired with the option to change the size of toolbars and icons make editing PDF documents easy no matter the device. The compatibility also means users are able to take advantage of features specific to tablets such as mobile capture, a technology that uses mobile devices to take a picture of paper documents and produce a working digital copy.

PDF Toolbars

For today’s busy employees, it is absolutely essential for software solutions to have simple, streamlined displays of functionality, versus a jumbled and confusing set of randomly displayed buttons. A surprisingly high number of enterprise applications experience low adoption, making user-friendly interfaces critical. New PDF software offerings are providing interfaces and toolbars similar to Microsoft Office applications to help users hit the ground running. These toolbars are the foundational building block to making the tools described above more accessible and discoverable, thus transforming non-technical workers into PDF power users.

Experts agree that workflow automation is a necessity, not a choice for enterprises –especially for small- and medium-sized businesses. Optimizing workflows can be the key to maximizing resources, and improving both customer and employee satisfaction. Bringing improved agility and nimbleness to document management processes is a key element of optimized workflows and PDF files in particular possess many “hidden powers” just waiting to be unlocked.

Jeff Segarra is the senior director of product marketing for the Nuance Document Imaging Division.