Scratching Under the Surface

Now that Windows 8 is starting to get traction on new devices, we’re seeing more and more customers using Win2PDF on tablets and laptop/tablet hybrids.  One of the more interesting entries has been Microsoft’s first foray into the hardware world with their Surface tablet.

Microsoft Surface Tablet
Microsoft Surface, photo by via Flickr

Microsoft released its newest version — Surface Pro — earlier this month.  While similar in design to the more inexpensive and lighter Surface RT, the Surface Pro really is a full-fledged PC stuffed into the form factor of a tablet.

Please note, there is a significant difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro:

Surface RT uses an ARM-processor and can only run apps designed for the newer Windows 8 style interface.  Many existing desktop Windows applications (including our Win2PDF product) will not run on this platform at this time.  Also, you can only install applications through Microsoft’s App Store.  This is probably a suitable option for people that only want an iPad-like tablet for running specialized apps or accessing email or a web browser on the go.

Surface Pro, on the other hand, has an Intel processor and uses the complete Windows 8 operating system. This makes it especially useful for business users who need a full Windows compatible PC to run any type of application (and yes, our Win2PDF product is fully supported on this device).  For our needs, and for others who need PDF tools like Win2PDF, the Surface Pro is the only model that is capable of running all applications from the tablet.

We haven’t got our hands on one yet, but most reviews are generally favorable.

  • Consumer reports:  “The Microsoft Surface Pro delivers on its promise to provide the most laptop-like performance yet from a tablet. But like most groundbreaking devices, it has flaws—including limited storage and hefty weight and size—that mean it’s suited mainly to road warriors who can’t wait for a better super-tablet device to come along.”
  • New York Times:  “But inside, the Pro is a full-blown Windows PC, with the same Intel chip that powers many high-end laptops, and even two fans to keep it cool (they’re silent). As a result, the Pro can run any of the four million Windows programs, like iTunes, Photoshop, Quicken, and, of course, Word, Excel and PowerPoint…  Are you getting it? This is a PC, not an iPad.”
  • ZDNet: “There are a number of Windows 8 laptop and tablet options, but I haven’t seen any that are as light, well designed, and compelling to me as the Surface Pro. I want a super portable computer that is well designed and does not limit me from doing what I need to do when the occasion arises and I believe the Microsoft Surface Pro is that computer.”

It has decent horsepower and capability for serious Windows users, but the Surface Pro is not without its flaws.

Wired claims that it is virtually unrepairable should something go wrong:  ” In a teardown of Microsoft’s tablet-laptop hybrid, the company gave it a rock-bottom score of just one — one! — out of 10 for repairability, lower even than Apple’s iPad and the Windows Surface RT.”

For now, the Microsoft Surface Pro seems to be a good option for users who need to access to a full-fledged Windows PC (with applications like Win2PDF), but still want the portability and tablet features like touch-screen and pen-based applications.  I’m sure the options will continue to increase as other hardware vendors introduce new products, and hopefully the competition will reduce prices as well.  Until that happens, though, the Surface Pro seems to be a respectable option if you’re looking for a tablet today.

New Year’s Resolution (part 4): A Comparison of Cloud Storage Services for PDF Users

And finally, the last in our series of cloud storage services for PDF users (see part 1, part 2, & part 3).

There are many Cloud Storage Services available to make backups of your PDF files, but we’ve found that some services are better than others based on who you are and what you need in a cloud storage solution.  Some services offer broad mobile access on a variety of platforms, and others do not.  Some offer generous initial storage for free.  Some index the PDF files for better searching.

Here’s a summary of the services, features, and our assessment of who each one is best for:

Service Features Who/What it’s good for…
Microsoft SkyDrive – free account with 7GB initial free storage;
mobile apps availabe for Windows phone, Android, and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad
The nice thing about SkyDrive (aside from the largest initial free storage space) is that it is included with Windows 8, so there isn’t any additional setup required for Windows 8 users.  If you recently acquired a new Windows 8 device, this is an easy place to start.
Google Drive – free account with 5GB initial free storage; mobile apps availabe for Android and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad This is Google’s offering and may be a good choice if you already use Google’s other integrated applications like Gmail and Google Docs.  Google Drive is also the only online service that indexes your PDF files so that they can be searched online.  This means that you can search for content within the PDF files, and not just the file names.  This alone makes it one of our favorites.
Dropbox – free account with 2GB initial free storage; mobile apps available for Blackberry, Android, Kindle Fire, and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad Dropbox was one of the first of the major online cloud storage services, so it has a large user base.  The other major technology companies (Microsoft, Google, Amazon) seem to be catching up with better initial storage, but Dropbox is still widely used, especially among home users.  Also, Dropbox just added an app for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.
Box – free account with 5GB initial free storage; mobile apps available for Windows phone, Android, Blackberry, and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad This service has the most comprehensive mobile offerings. Also, it has more flexibility for IT departments with a larger group of users that need to have centralized control and management of their accounts.  It seems to be a popular choice for enterprise users, whereas some of the others are focused more on an individual user basis.
Mega – free account with 50GB initial free storage; No mobile apps currently available This is the newest entrant into this cloud storage market.  It has a generous initial storage account and touts security and strong encryption as a main advantage.  However, its security claims are controversial and the founder’s prior company was involved in some legal issues.  We don’t recommend this service at the moment until we understand more about the technology and if the business looks both secure and stable.
Gmail * – free email service with over 5GB (and growing) free storage; Android and iOS mobile apps, and also can be accessed with any mobile email client that supports IMAP. Some organizations have firewalls that limit access to the other cloud-based storage solutions listed, but allows emailed PDFs to be sent through firewalls.  Using Win2PDF’s email option and Gmail, you can still archive PDFs by just emailing copies to yourself.  It also provides searchable index of PDF files that can be stored based on filters and labels you create.

* We like Gmail for the features, but other web-based email services (, Yahoo Mail, etc.) work similarly.

And of course, there’s always the option to use multiple services for redundancy or particular organizational needs.