Tuesday, March 5

Cometdocs: A Good Tool For Writers?

Cometdocs: A Good Tool For Writers?

Ever had to convert one kind of a file into another? If your experience was anything like mine it wasn't painless.

Recently a website that provides free online file conversion and storage, Cometdocs, contacted me about doing a review of their product so I asked C.G. Cameron, writer and techie extraordinaire, to help me out. Here's the bottom line:
The restrictions on the free account aren’t too tight, and the paid accounts show where their funding comes from, which I find reassuring. (I don’t trust places where I can’t see what’s in it for them.) This looks like a usable business model and a useful service.
Sounds good to me! (By the way, neither C.G. Cameron nor myself have any affiliation with Cometdocs. I was provided with access to their service for the purpose of this review but that is the full extent of my involvement with them.)

Here is C.G.'s review:

C.G. Cameron's Review Of Cometdocs

Cometdocs is a place on the web which lets you store and/or convert your files for free (with limitations). Or in tech-speak, it’s a cloud storage service that also offers file conversions.

In their words:
Cometdocs (is) a fully free (no ads) document management web tool which lets users:

1. Convert their files between 30 possible file formats
2. Store files online
3. Share them with friends privately or publicly – with full control over
privacy and sharing settings
4. Transfer large files to others easily and effectively.
If you’ve ever lost the original of a paper and desperately needed to get the sole version you still have on pdf back into an editable format, you know it can be a challenge.

If you don’t set up an account and just use Cometdocs anonymously (aside from giving them an email address), they deliver your conversion via an emailed link, saying “Link will be valid for 24 hours, after which all data will be deleted from our servers.” If you set up an account, you can have it held for longer.

How it works:

Click the + and add your file to the clipboard. Wait while it uploads. Click on the task you want, Convert, Transfer, Store or Host, and drag the file into the box. Then choose the next option (in the case of Convert you have a choice of any Office product, plus TXT, most graphic formats, plus DXF, ODS, etc. Then enter your email address and they send you a link to download the converted file.

So I tested Cometdocs with the most complicated document I had available, written in three languages. The original was created on a friend’s PC in Word. My Mac has the same English and some of the Tibetan fonts installed, but not the Chinese font he uses although it has the default Microsoft Chinese fonts. He sent me the original Word and the pdf he’d created, and I used Cometdocs to convert the pdf back into MS Word and then compared the results.

Original PC Word document on my Mac:

The Chinese came up on my Mac as gibberish, and some of the diacriticals were missing on the Tibetan. Over all I could read the English and some of the Tibetan. The pecha boxing came through a mess, as usual. Word’s page margins don’t move well between Macs and PCs. Definitely it was not adequate for anything except extracting the English from the document.

Cometdocs Word document after converting the pdf

Cometdocs recognized most of the Chinese and displayed it using the installed Windows Chinese font. Cometdocs missed several characters, but showed more than half successfully. Probably if the pdf had used the standard Microsoft font Cometdocs would have recognized more. Cometdocs completely failed to recognize the Tibetan. Not at all surprising. It also didn’t catch all the diacriticals in the English, so a capital U with umlaut came up as < instead, and a capital U with a line across the top came up as U umlaut. But it did catch the italics and the punctuation and mostly got the right font in the English as well. It did a good job on the pecha boxing, better than the straight migrated version.

It was a difficult test and I was impressed with the results.

But that’s not all. There’s also the cloud storage.

Transfer lets you send a file to a friend by storing it on Cometdocs’ servers and they’ll send a link to the friend so they can download it. Handy if you have a home video you want to share.

You can also share your files publicly, somewhat like Flickr does photos, or list them as Shared or Private. It’s cloud storage space but without file type restrictions like Google Docs has.

For someone without easy access to their own web server space, this could be very handy.

What you get with a free account

Free users can do:
- 3 conversions weekly per IP address
- 100 MB worth of daily file transfers per IP
- transfer and host links are valid for 24h
Free registered accounts can do much more including control sharing visibility and store up to 1GB of documents. And you can pay either $9.99 a month for Premium or $19.99 a month for Pro access to convert more files and store more files. The restrictions on the free account aren’t too tight, and the paid accounts show where their funding comes from, which I find reassuring. (I don’t trust places where I can’t see what’s in it for them.) This looks like a usable business model and a useful service.

C.G. Cameron (@jazz2midnight) is a web developer and writer, living in Vancouver, Canada.

Thanks C.G.!

How much of your time is spent trying to get technology to work as opposed to actually writing?

Other articles you might like:

- Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews
- The Writer's Journey: Writer As Hero
- Hugo Gernsback And The Future That Might Have Been

Photo credit: "It's all in your mind" by

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