For journalists on a mission to convert PDF files to data spreadsheets, Zamzar's free conversion application won't get the job done in many cases because of its tendency to split data over multiple sheets.
The application allows users to quickly convert files to different formats, including from a PDF file to a spreadsheet. But when given a multiple-page PDF file, Zamzar automatically converts it to multiple spreadsheets instead of a single spreadsheet. Our attempt to get around this problem -- by using the site to convert the PDF to a txt file, then a spreadsheet -- caused even more problems.
In response to an email, Zamzar's support team said one spreadsheet per PDF page is currently the default.
"We are looking at introducing more options to give users the power to choose 'multiple worksheets' in one PDF instead, but unfortunately that feature is not available right now," the response read.
Beyond this chief problem, Zamzar is less than perfect. In some cases, unnecessary blank rows appear after the conversion takes place, but those rows can be deleted quite easily. In one test, multiple rows of data in a PDF file were condensed to a single cell of a spreadsheet after the format conversion.
On the upside, the conversion process itself takes little time. The website is simple to navigate and shows users, with four simple steps, how to turn a PDF file into a spreadsheet. The converted spreadsheet is sent via email and often takes a few minutes for large files and just seconds for small files.
In its current state, this application could be useful for very small data sets or in rare circumstances in which each page should be translated as a separate data spreadsheet. And if Zamzar offers an option to convert a multiple-page PDF file to a single-page spreadsheet in the future, the application could be a very useful tool.
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