I haven’t really added much new listings to our free webmaster resources directory lately – so today I wanted to bring you 2 amazingly useful and free programs. PDFFill as a free alternative to Adobe Acrobat Pro, depending on the functions you need; and Rankaware which essentially brings our online SEO Panel to your desktop allowing you to keep track of and monitor your various search engine rankings.
Most webmasters need to work with PDF files, granted if only occasionally, and there are plenty of free tools around to help. Typically they’ll concentrate on a single function, though; just looking at their names tells you all you need to know about PDF to JPEG Expert and CHM to PDF, for instance.
PDFFill Tools is a little more ambitious, fortunately, cramming 15 different functions into a single small and entirely free program. There are tools to create PDFs from images, PostScript files or direct from your scanner, and then you can add watermarks (text or image), headers or footers, merge or split the files, encrypt/ decrypt them, rotate the documents, crop them and more. Furthermore a virtual printer driver is included, too, enabling you to create PDFs from any printable document.
While this all sounds great, there is a problem: the interface. Each of these tools is entirely separate from the others, represented by a separate dialog box with minimal visual feedback. If you’re adding an image watermark for example, you don’t get to view the target file first; you can’t point and click where you’d like your picture to be, and there’s no way to preview how the finished pages will look. Instead you must choose your image, set its position in inches, and export the file before you get to find out.
Once you understand how PDFFill Tools works, though, this isn’t a major issue. Several modules don’t really need any immediate feedback (“Scan to PDF”, say), and they all have plenty of useful options and settings. If you do find that you need a more visual approach, a trial version of PDFFill’s PDF Editor is included with the package. It has all the features of the tools, and more, and can be yours for a very reasonable $19.99. Although to be honest I haven’t found a reason to pay for that yet.
For us webmasters we know that you can spend a very long time optimizing a website in order to get the best possible search engine rankings. It’s a complicated process; and to boot other sites will be doing the same thing, and search engines are tweaking their algorithms all the time, which makes it all the more difficult to assess how well you’re really doing.
Rankaware is a free tool which can help by checking your site’s rankings for multiple keywords on Google, Yahoo and Bing, compiling an attractive report to show how this is changing over time. The program installs quickly and easily, without any adware or other annoyances. On first launch you’re presented with a simple Windows 8-like interface, all colorful panes and flat buttons. Options are kept to the bare minimum and you’ll figure out what to do within seconds – mainly since it will guide you through the initial setup process.
Setting up your first website, for example, is just a matter of entering your site URL, the keywords you’d like to check, and the search engine region to query (google.com, google.co.uk, google.co.jp and so on). Click Done and Rankaware quickly checks your rankings, displaying the results in a graph and table. These results can also be exported to either CSV or PDF format and further customized with a company name, logo, and social networking links.
You’ll then have to run periodic checks to see how your rank is changing, and unfortunately there’s no way to do this automatically. Instead you must relaunch the program, click the Update button and wait for the results. As a webmaster – there’s significantly more annoying things out there than clicking a button. For free.