How to choose the best PDF SDK for an enterprise

It has been a while since I have published my research along with my thoughts on how to choose the best PDF SDK for an enterprise. PDF programmatic conversion and manipulation solutions have changed, while server-side PDF applications have become more trendy in 2021. But there are still some opportunities for improvement for the client-side segment; some client-side solutions are already achieving leaps forward in terms of performance, accuracy, and supported features through use of new technologies, like WebAssembly. All that made me update my article to satisfy the needs of modern software engineers in adopting a capable SDK.

Software developers have a choice of multiple Software Development Kits and libraries to manage files in PDF format. There is no single solution which could satisfy everybody’s needs. I have selected the most popular kits on the market and compared them to find the best one. But before continuing further, it is necessary to find out what PDF is, and why so many software developers convert documents to and from it.

Over the last 30 years, Portable Document Format (PDF) has become the most popular way of presenting and exchanging electronic documents. PDF uses PostScript, a language that describes the layout of everything that can be embedded in a document; vis-à-vis text, fonts, raster images and vector graphics. It also includes all the information needed to display it; like fonts, colors, etc. Once created, the PDF document cannot be edited unless you have the special tools. Thus it is tamper-proof.

PDF is an open format, which does not require any royalties. It preserves the document integrity across all platforms, so no matter where you open the document, be it on a Windows or a Mac or a Linux machine, the document shows exactly the same. This format also comes with multiple options for security, such as access, watermarks, and digital signatures. Finally, PDF has the ability to contain an unlimited amount of data, which is compressed into easily-exchangeable file size, while maintaining image quality.

SDK is a software development toolkit designed to work with PDF documents. It is a tool that lets programmers create applications that can convert documents between formats (PDF, HTML, Word, etc.). PDF SDKs are the foundation for enterprise PDF management.

For enterprises, the price-performance compromise has now shifted in favor of performance. Most SDK’s on the market today offer similar quality of conversion. So speed and reliability are more important. Engineers also look at what platforms and programming environments the SDK supports. Local support within the continental U.S. is important as well.

To conduct the experiment as well as the comparative analysis I have selected several SDKs I have personally used: Aspose, iText, PDF Tools AG and Foxit. easyPDF SDK used to be my favorite solution for creating PDF Apps with no coding, however, in 2020 I have decided to try PDFTron SDK which offers a high level of customization.

There are many more PDF libraries available, of varying quality and completeness. The following provides what, in my opinion, are some of the best and most popular.

PDF SDK Comparison analysis, as of October 2020

PDF SDK Comparison analysis, as of October 2020

For my test, C# was used, which is also a popular environment for desktop and server applications. I also tested Word to PDF and HTML to PDF conversion for speed benchmarks.

Each of the five SDK’s has been tested on the same notebook with Intel Core i5 processor and 16 Gb of RAM running on Windows 8. In each case, Word and HTML files with tables, graphics and raster images have been converted to PDF. PDFTron was the easiest to install and demonstrated the best performance. It provides a fully customizable UI that matched my desired look and feel. Moreover, this SDK supports PDF/A, which is specialized for use in archiving and long-term preservation. The company also provides two levels of support, free trial support and paid professional support. Support engineers are eager to help customers kick- start their enterprise PDF projects.

I am sure that the most important criterion for enterprise users is error handling and recovery. The PDFTron SDK has robust error-handling built into it. It has cloud-based, high-capacity deployments, which process thousands of PDF conversions every day, and are used by Fortune 500 companies.

In conclusion, it is important to mention that any given PDF SDK did a satisfactory job and share many baseline features for day to day operations, like conversion and viewing.

But if you desire a flexible, end-to-end document solution, one that covers your current needs and possible future requirements, with hundreds of unique PDF SDK and document processing features, support for 30+ file formats and all the major platforms, plus market-leading service and responsiveness — then you may want to consider the PDFTron SDK.

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