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ChatPDF Review – Is It Still Worth Trying?

In this world where ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude can do almost anything, is an AI chatbot primarily focused on PDF inputs still necessary? Let’s review ChatPDF to answer that question.
Updated June 6, 2024
An artificial intelligence drowning in documents, generated with Midjourney
An artificial intelligence drowning in documents, generated with Midjourney

When AI first became popular, LLMs were a lot more simple. A quick text prompt and it can generate walls of text related to your question. When companies realized the full potential of AI, they started thinking of different ways to prompt. 

Thus, PDF-based AI chatbots were born.

One of the first adopters of this technology was ChatPDF. At the time, it proved to be useful since it’s one of the few who can accept PDFs as input. But now, with popular chatbots such as ChatGPT and Claude allowing multimodal prompts, does ChatPDF still have a space in the evolving AI market?

In this article, I’ll review ChatPDF by discussing what it is, its features, price, and most of all, why it’s no longer relevant in 2024.

What is ChatPDF?

ChatPDF is an AI-powered software that allows you to upload PDF files as its main knowledge base. It’s primarily for students who need to digest large PDF files of science journals and previous literature. 

How To Use ChatPDF?

ChatPDF is a fairly straightforward application. All you need to do is prepare a PDF file. For the sake of this example, I’m using an old reviewer as my input. To start, click the “Drop PDF Here” field in the front page, then select your PDF file.

From there, you should be redirected to a chatbot whose UI looks like this:

You can now ask the chatbot questions and it will answer based on the PDF file. For instance, here’s what its response when I asked what is a data warehouse::

One thing worth mentioning is that, while it definitely sources the answer from the PDF, it doesn’t just copy-then-paste the information from your input as its response. Instead, it analyzes the information provided from the PDF and uses that as its context to give a completely new answer.

I also wondered what would happen if I asked ChatPDF a question unrelated to the PDF file I used. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t provide any real answer — instead, it defaulted to a generic response about not having enough information on the subject matter.

If you create an account, ChatPDF also grants you access to a chat history which includes all your past conversations with the chatbot. 

Features of ChatPDF

ChatPDF is a barebones application. Here’s a rundown of its few features:

  • PDF Upload: This is the main draw of ChatPDF. It allows you to upload PDF files as its chatbot’s source of information. You can also upload multiple PDF files in one conversation, so ChatPDF can consolidate all information available in the input.
  • Chat History: Like ChatGPT, ChatPDF has a chat history feature that allows you to revisit previous conversations with the AI.
  • Multilingual Support: ChatPDF supports PDF files in any language.
  • Source Citing: Once you ask ChatPDF a question, it will provide an answer along with a source citation (which PDF, what page, etc.) within the PDF file.
  • API: With payment, you can implement ChatPDF into your own application or website.

Pros & Cons of ChatPDF

PROS

CONS

  • Feature-rich.

  • Strong and coherent writing voice.

  • Flexible pricing plans.

  • Content is automatically SEO-optimized, but still gives you manual controls over everything if needed.

  • Smooth blog transitions and headers that make sense.

  • Allows you to use GPT-4.

  • Supports almost all languages.

  • Slow turnaround time (more than 10 minutes if you need video screenshots)

  • Relatively new product with a lot of potential but limited reviews online.

  • Limited generators (Only GPT-3.5 and GPT-4)

ChatPDF Alternatives

ChatPDF isn’t the only AI model that can answer questions based on an uploaded PDF file. Here are other chatbots to consider:

ChatGPT

ChatGPT doesn’t need another introduction, but I’ll give one anyway. This AI chatbot took the world by storm in its public release, and is widely considered as the starting point of this new era of AI. The premise is simple: give a prompt, receive an answer. Despite the numerous controversies surrounding its company, ChatGPT continues to be the most popular choice of LLM for many.

Is It Worth Using ChatPDF Over ChatGPT?

One of ChatGPT’s newest features is multimodal prompts. This means receiving prompts in any format, whether it's spreadsheets, images, or even PDF files. 

So, is it worth it to use ChatPDF over ChatGPT? It depends.

One of the things that ChatPDF has that ChatGPT doesn’t is that the core functionality (uploading PDF files) is not locked behind a paywall. The latter only allows you to use PDF files as prompts when you’re using ChatGPT Plus, which costs about $20 per month.

However, you get so much more in that $20. ChatGPT Plus can analyze everything in a PDF file, even images. It’s also much more accurate in responding using the information provided in the uploaded document. You can even play around with ChatGPT’s many features — for example, you can generate images based on information in that PDF file or answer math questions using the Wolfram Alpha extension in ChatGPT Plus.

Claude

If not ChatGPT, then why not Anthropic’s entry to the LLM game: Claude. Despite its relatively late release date, this chatbot is slowly gaining traction in the AI world for its good mix of ethics, accuracy, and intelligence.

Is It Worth Using ChatPDF Over Claude?

For me, there’s no reason not to use Claude over ChatPDF. Unlike ChatGPT, Claude’s PDF upload is not locked behind a paywall. You can upload any number of PDF files as a prompt as long as it doesn’t exceed 25mb for free users.

What’s more is that Claude 3’s benchmarks showcase better results than most of its counterparts. This means you can trust that Claude is more accurate in its responses even with larger PDF files.

How Much Does It Cost?

ChatPDF has a free version that allows you to upload two PDF files a day with a maximum page count of 120 each. Beyond that, you need to pay for their premium plan which costs $14.99 per month or $104.99 per year.

The Bottom Line

Let’s go back to the question posted in the title: Is ChatPDF still worth trying?

To me, the answer is no.

Compared to other LLMs that enable you to upload PDF files like ChatGPT, ChatPDF is missing a lot more features that makes the application more accessible and flexible. And compared to Claude, ChatPDF’s free version is far more limiting and less accurate.

The harsh truth is that other AI models have completely eclipsed ChatPDF in functionality and accessibility. That’s why the answer is a solid no, ChatPDF is definitely not worth trying in the context of its competitors.

Want to read more about LLMs? I highly suggest articles like this one or this one. Good luck!

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Written by John Angelo Yap
Hi, I'm Angelo. I'm currently an undergraduate student studying Software Engineering. Now, you might be wondering, what is a computer science student doing writing for Gold Penguin? I took up studying computer science because it was practical and because I was good at it. But, if I had the chance, I'd be writing for a career. Building worlds and adjectivizing nouns for no other reason other than they sound good. And that's why I'm here.
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