The .pdf file format, developed by Adobe, has become ubiquitous. For lawyers, most, if not all, courts that accept electronic filing require documents to be filed in .pdf format. Most lawyers who try to go “paperless” will also store their documents in .pdf. And exchanging .pdfs is generally is how most lawyers handle electronic discovery of documents (let’s put aside discovery of data and metadata for another day).
If all a lawyer has is the free Adobe Reader, however, that lawyer is limited in what he can do with the documents. If a lawyer needs to sort, stack, combine, annotate, or mark-up a .pdf file, that lawyer needs to purchase the rather expensive Adobe Acrobat Suite or other commercial software that allows manipulation of the .pdf file.
Early on in my practice, I found the website smallpdf.com, which lets you do many of these things for free. Originally the site allowed you to compress a .pdf file, often to as little of 25-30% of its original size. The site has since developed features such as converting .pdfs to and from Word, Excel, Powerpoint or. JPG formats, as well as merging and splitting .pdfs. The interface is a simple drop and drag your files into the box. The site is cloud based and deletes whatever files you upload within one hour.
Using this site, I’ve been able to compress files so they could be sent by e-mail, combine and separate pages of documents, and convert the occasional .jpg that I get from a client or adversary, all without a hitch. Converting a .pdf to Word usually works well, though sometimes I have found that the converter turns the text in the .pdf into a graphic table, rather than text. For now, there is no feature allowing markups or annotations on a document, though I have found other “freemium” sites to do that (perhaps for another blog entry).
The site is run by Immaterial LLC, based in Zurich. And for now, I give them a big thumbs up for providing a very convenient and free service.