Nuance Launches Free PDF Reader


I previously made my case for moving away from Adobe PDF Reader, which despite frequent patches, continues to hold an appalling security track record. In a nutshell, hackers and malware writers increasingly are using vulnerabilities found in this popular PDF document viewer as a base from which to break into and commandeer computers.


This is especially important for SMBs, since they often do not have employees dedicated to security. If the risk of a security breach can be lowered simply by switching to another free application offering the same functionality, why not do it? So far, the alternative free PDF reader that I have been recommending -- and which I personally use, is the Foxit Reader for Windows.


Putting another high-quality PDF reader on the market, Nuance Communications last week released (also free) Nuance PDF Reader. Nuance Communications is the creator of the well-known Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech-recognition software and OmniPage OCR (Optical Character Recognition), among other excellent applications.


In an e-mail, Nuance highlighted the strengths of its new product versus Adobe's PDF Reader. It:

  • Turns off JavaScript processing by default, reducing its attack profile.
  • Is fully compatible with Adobe Reader, but removes proprietary Adobe "extras" to reduce download and installation size.
  • Has support for forms and annotations features not available in alternative readers.
  • Comes with a built-in SharePoint Connector for users to open and save PDF files directly into Microsoft SharePoint repositories.


Another feature supported by the Nuance PDF reader is built-in support for a new Nuance PDF Document Conversion Service hosted at NuancePDF.com. Users can send a PDF file from within the reader to the cloud service for conversion into Microsoft Office document, which is returned as a secure e-mail attachment. The service uses technology invented by Nuance in collaboration with Microsoft.


I've not had the opportunity to give this conversion service a spin, but it sounds like a useful feature to have available. According to Nuance, this PDF-to-Office conversion allows for unlimited access and will be free "until further notice."


The Nuance PDF Reader installation file is just 18MB and is available in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with additional languages to be introduced later. You can download the reader for the Microsoft Windows platform from Windows 2000 through Windows 7 at www.nuance.com/PDFReader.


Let me know how it works for you.