One recent project I worked on started with a PDF file. Not being the owner, I didn’t have the ability to change the file. I needed the file in a format that I could update and reuse. Granted, I could’ve used Acrobat’s text select tool or snapshot feature. Neither of those solutions seemed attractive. Instead I needed something that preserved the graphics and allowed me to edit the file. That’s when I found Zamzar.
Converted File Types
What’s appealing about Zamzar is the service can handle a multitude of file formats in 4 main categories:
Documents (csv, doc, odp, ods, odt, pdf, ppt, and xls)
Image (bmp, jpg, tiff, ps)
Music (ac3, au, flac, m4a, mp3, wav, wma)
Video (avi, flv, gvi, mov, mp4, mpg,
The list above represents the starting file formats. In other words, there are more formats they handle on the output side. As example, I can convert a CSV file into a Microsoft Access database file. I just can’t start with the .mdb file as my source.
How to Convert Files
Another attractive aspect of the service is the simple 4 step interface. Once you add a file in Step 1, it is added to the Files to convert: section. I have to admit the first time I used the service I was confused because the Files to convert section was below the fold and I couldn’t see it until I scrolled down. I also expected my source file to stay in the text box. The advantage to this approach is you could do multiple file conversions of the same type.
Based on the source file extension, the system presents conversion formats in Step 2. The only other required piece of information is your email address. This address is used to send the link to your converted file. They do not come as file attachments.
Depending on your input selection and size, you may see a progress bar. I did notice some of the MP3 podcasts files I converted, showed inaccurate upload times. For example, one file said it would take 68 minutes to upload when it only took 6.
One feature I would like to see is an approximate time till your file is completed. In my testing the conversion times ranged from 2 hours to 6 hours. This is probably based on server load which can be variable. It could also be the company plans to do a priority service for a small fee. The take away is don’t expect immediate turn around for your files.
Eventually, you’ll get an email with a link to your converted file. In my case, the PDF to Microsoft Word conversion came out pretty good. The layout was preserved and I can edit most of the document with the exception of some embedded logos. The file size was larger but I expected this since PDF files have great compression.
There are several limitations to the service and I got caught twice by one of them. You must pick up your converted document within 24 hours. I can assure you the files get deleted as I missed that time window. I submitted two files on a Friday night and tried to pick them up on Monday morning. When I clicked the link to get my file I was told I was out of luck and needed to resubmit.
The service also puts a cap on how many files you can convert at one time. Presently, this is set to five. Collectively, the total files can’t exceed 100MB.
If you’re in need of converting files, this site is worth a visit. We didn’t test all combinations, but we’re pleased with the ones we did try. My only reservation would be using this service with confidential information. While I’m sure the folks behind the company are trustworthy, it’s just not good practice to submit confidential documents across an open network. In those rare instances, I would search for software you can install on your machine.
- Site: http://www.zamzar.com/
- Cost: Free
- Rating: ★★★★☆
Last Updated (Monday, 14 September 2009 22:28)