What's SEP?

This proprietary reader for SEP files and PDFs needs work to challenge Adobe.

What's SEP? If you Google the SEP file extension, you might think it's an enhancer for The Sims, the popular game. Or maybe it's a TIFF, or maybe a printer separation page. For our purposes, SEP stands for Sursen e-Paper. It's a proprietary digital document technology that competes with Adobe's PDF format, especially in China, where it holds a substantial market share, according to the developer. So, sooner or later, a lot of people will probably need to open and read SEP files. That's where Sursen's SEP Reader comes in. It's a free SEP file reader that also opens PDF files. It's pretty basic, with limited options, but whether it does the job, we just can't say.

SEP Reader has an attractively skinned interface with Vista-style highlighting and colorful icons and menus as well as a full suite of controls. However, the only option we could find was the ability to select or deselect which toolbars to display. We clicked open, browsed to a folder of PDFs, and clicked one at random, a product manual with color images. We were able to view it, expand it, export it as a text file, and do most of the things a free PDF viewer should do. What it won't do is save PDFs as SEP files, which is how we'd hoped to get one to open in SEP Reader after repeatedly failing to find an example of a SEP document online, even at Sursen's somewhat limited Web site. Apparently, the format is still scarce in Western markets, and our searches turned up "everything but" Sursen e-Paper. Unfortunately, Sursen didn't think to provide a sample SEP file to view, even in its own documentation, and the Help file crashed when we tried to open it in Windows 7. These are two issues that need immediate attention before we can recommend SEP Reader.

Sursen claims various advantages for SEP over Adobe's PDF format, but until we can see a SEP file, we can't judge for ourselves. SEP files may or may not become common outside of the Chinese software market, but SEP Reader isn't quite ready for the show, either.

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