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Free version of Nitro Reader stacks up against paid pdf programs

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

Sometimes the better things in life are free. That's especially true of a pdf program called Nitro Reader. It's free, as is its better-known cousin, Adobe Reader. For the latter, there's probably not a computer in North America and points west that does not have Adobe Reader installed. But folks ought to give Nitro Reader a run for the money, too.

A pdf — portable document file — can be opened and viewed on most common operating systems. Create a pdf on a Mac, and you can open it on a PC running any version of Windows. It's an industry standard.

The problem with Adobe Reader is it does only what its name promises: It will read pdf files, but it will not create them unless you upgrade to the paid version. Nitro Reader not only can create pdf files, it can help you annotate them, attach yellow sticky notes to your work, and even let you make corrections and additions to your work. Adobe Reader, which has a slicker interface, will let you attach yellow notes and type a signature that you can attach to your file.

Creating a pdf file is as simple as dragging and dropping the file onto the Nitro Reader desktop icon. After that, you can annotate, add text, email or bounce a rubber ball on your PC. Forget I said that. Adobe Reader gives you only five free pdf's. (In my test run, however, it could not convert a Microsoft 2010 file to a pdf.)

If you like what you see in the free version, a $99 upgrade will let you edit text, create Word files from pdf's and more. Adobe Reader has an upgrade version for about the same price but charges a yearly subscription fee.

Either way, the paid versions are worth the price. Nitro Reader has excellent tutorials, including videos, and the help files are numerous and directions are easy to follow.

But for free, Nitro Reader is worth considering. It can be downloaded at www.nitroreader.com. Adobe Reader can be downloaded at Adobe.com.

• Tip of the week: Most financial institutions offer statements as pdf's. They're easy to download and even print out. You can change the file name to describe it more fully by doing a “save as.” If you back up important files, drop the files into appropriate folders in your cloud backup program.

Noah Matthews is a writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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