5 Ways to make a PDF file

by The Reviews Team


So much of our digital communications is still a combination of electronics and paper. So how nice it would be to have a common standard to exchange documents. Adobe recognized this years ago and developed a technology called “PDF” or portable document format. It preserves your original document’s layout and content, but it also enables you to authorize or prevent unauthorized editing, printing and copying of your content. And your PDF file can be printed on a wide variety of output devices.

Because of PDF, users on any platform, and with no other software than a free copy of Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, can access content - including rebate forms, user manuals, event entries, newsletters and business reports - that virtually anyone could create. PDF lets people exchange nearly any type of electronic document with complete fidelity.

A special thanks to the folks at Adobe who originally developed this PDF system and for their opening up their architecture, even though it meant more competition. Smooth move.

Reviews are listed in ascending order of sophistication and price. As usual, go to the web site and update your program.


Charles W. Evans, Reviews Editor

cutePDFCutePDF Writer: Not Just Cute But Easy

by Mel Babb

Most of you who have used the internet have seen the Adobe’s Acrobat Reader open at times to display a PDF (portable document format) file. But how many of you have actually created a PDF file and why would you want to do it? A PDF file can be opened and viewed with Acrobat Reader and it will be seen as the writer formatted it – same fonts, spacing, highlighting, bolding, italicizing, tables, graphic placement, etc. Although you may not have been aware of it, a browser like Internet Explorer or software like Word often changes these things, sometimes making the document difficult to read.

The CutePDF Writer tool gives a quick and easy way to create PDF files. It’s simple. Download and first install Ghostscript, a special converter, and then CutePDF Writer. These two small files work on all versions of Windows. Note that after installing, there’s no program to open and use. Instead a “printer” has been added to your printer list. That’s because to create a PDF file from the file menu you choose the Print command, not the Save As command. Specifically, whenever you want a PDF file, open the Windows document in the program you created it in, say Word, or PowerPoint. Make any page setup changes you want for the final document from Page Setup on the File menu. For instance you may want the document laid out in landscape orientation. Then, from the File menu choose Print. Select the “CutePDF Writer” printer from the Printer Name box and make any other print setting changes you want. Click OK or print. A Save As file box appears prompting you for a file name. If you do not change the location, the file will be saved in My Documents. Enter a name and click Save. Instead of printing out a hard copy, a PDF file is created. (No, you do not have to check the “print to file” box in the printer dialog box). To see the document, open My Documents and double click on the file with the Adobe icon adobe icon and/or PDF extension.

This is a very simple program to master. Although some options exist in the printer dialog box from the Advanced button, no adjustments to them are needed to create a PDF file. For updates and info go to www.cutepdf.com/products. Oh yes, it is freeware!

Mel Babb is a HAL-PC member and a one-on-one computer software tutor for companies and individuals. Contact her at melbabb@earthlink.net.

jawsJaws PDF Creator

by Jackson Harmon

Jaws PDF Creator is a modestly featured, but flexible alternative to Acrobat. Global Graphic’s PDF creator is designed for the SOHO and consumer. If you can live without features such as the ability to combine multiple files into a single file, you should take a close look at this creation writer.

Jaws offers more than just the basics, including the ability to prevent users from copying, editing and printing your PDF files. But more important, Jaws did a superb job creating PDF files from the test file. Jaws automatically created a table of contents based on our Word styles, and it converted all three of the external links in our Word document to live links in the PDF file.

Jaws comes in three main parts. It creates a new “printer” that enables you to export files from any program in PDF format, and you can adjust the PDF export settings within Windows. You also get macros that plug into Word and PowerPoint, which provide you with a good range of export options, including how hyperlinks and bookmarks should be handled in the resulting PDF file. Finally, you get a desktop icon that you can use to create PDF files in a hurry by dragging and dropping EPS or PS files on to it.

Like most of the programs in this roundup, Jaws creates PDF files significantly larger than those that Acrobat 6.0 makes. But Jaws closely matched Acrobat's quality when converting CorelDraw, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

The Web pages Jaws converted into PDF files looked good, but Jaws didn't convert the links. It compressed the graphic test file to an impressively small 98K - an important advantage for sending files by e-mail. Jaws' compression degrades photo quality (as it would any program employing compression), but you have the option of changing the level of compression or turning the feature off entirely.

The control panel icon gives you complete control over your PDF properties, and you can choose between the supplied presets (print, press and Web) or create your own. You can change compression settings and font embedding .

The program works well and provides all the features you’re likely to need for basic PDF work. It doesn’t include Acrobat’s more advanced features, like Web site downloading or digital signatures, but then again, if you don’t need those features, then look seriously at this program.

If you can live without features such as the ability to combine multiple files into a single file, you should take a close look at this tool. For updates and more info on this $79 go to Global Graphics Software at www.jawspdf.com/.

Jackson Harmon is a family member who is a retired technical writer and is proficient in PDF files. He can be contacted at reviews@hal-pc.org.

pdfFactory PropdfFactory Pro

by Mary Alice Johnson

I selected pdfFactory Pro by FinePrint Software as an example for my journalism students. I looked for a PDF creation program that had a modest learning curve and an adequate range of intermediate features. We are developing a web site and I thought this would be an ideal way to introduce students to PDF files and how best to deploy them. Occasionally we’ll send in media for competition and a PDF file is ideal. So for more sophisticated or complex media we can save the PDF in high resolution, while a copy goes to the web site in a much lower and more easily downloaded size.

This program installs easily and does not put icons all over the place. Very well behaved! When the Print dialog box appears on-screen, you simply select pdfFactory as the designated printer. To the right, click on “Properties” and you’ll are presented with a menu and a number of features or options under each tab at the top (see accompanying graphic for specific tabs). Initially I simply used the installation default selections. This was quite sufficient for learning purposes. Some words seem a bit odd, but that’s a small point. For instance, “Metrics” is actually page size and resolution. In the Graphics tab you can select both resolution and quality. If you check “Use PDF Security” you’ll then have about seven options including security level, password protection and which parts (graphics, certain text, etc.) that may/may not be altered or printed.

Along the way you can select various program settings based on how you want it to create your PDF file. Under the Bookmarks tab are two deceptively simple selections. Select the second one, “Automatically create bookmarks….” and you will then have a dozen options and features about how and what form you want your “bookmarks” to be created. One feature I had not considered before was combining PDF pages. Often we have a small manual, but do not need to change all the pages

OK, but what about actually creating a PDF file. I brought up the “PDF Test Page”, used the default settings, clicked on Print, then was requested to either save, name, send or Help. I saved it, then viewed it, then was impressed. I compared it to the original – no change, although there was a slight shift in color – not much, but a little bit. The test document was fairly simple and took less than a minute to create.

So can it do everything? No. You cannot edit a PDF document or create new content.

I am impressed with the ease of use and simple to navigate and the quality of the resulting PDF file. Four stars for this program…powerful simplicity. For updates and info to this $99 program go to www.pdffactory.com/.

Mary Alice Johnson is a HAL-PC family member who is a HS teacher and journalism advisor. She can be reached at MAJohnson@juno.com .

Business WriterBusiness Writer does PDF!

by Monte Goodman

Business PDF Writer from Bureausoft is for the most part a business application that lets users create a PDF file (Portable Document Format). They can e-mail the file to anyone using almost any operating system. They claim it works in 60 different languages. I tested in only three languages. English, Japanese and Hebrew. It’s compatible with Windows 98 through Windows XP. However, I tried it on Windows XP Pro and Windows 98 SE. In addition, Bureausoft says it works with over 700 applications. I tested it with three. Word 2003, Excell 2003 and Outlook 2003.

A home user could use it to create PDF files for a personal web page. We have all seen how things look different using different browsers. Well, using a PDF file, it also prints how you wanted it to viewed. Considering the price of this software, it is not for the casual user. It is for someone who will use it on a regular basis. The basic menu is easily navigated and uncomplicated

This program is so uncomplicated to install and use. It installs as another “printer” on your computer in just one minute. Then to use it just select the “Print” command from any Windows application and chose Business PDF Writer as your printer. Converting the test document into a PDF file and printing it was a snap. The test file provided to use with the program and newly created PDF file, when printed, were identical to each other when compared. Also, I printed a document written in Japanese and one in Hebrew; then created PDF files from the same documents. I printed all of them and compared them. They appeared to be exact duplicates.

Other nice features: you can change the document properties of a PDF files; reduce the actual size of PDF files (compressed PDF files can be viewed normally by Adobe’s Acrobat Reader); change resolution; and password protect all or parts of the file. Acrobat Reader is a free program that can be downloaded from www.adobe.com.

The one thing that was a little annoying was after installing the program, I had to go back and change my default printer to what it was before installing the software to do normal printing.

If you need to create PDF files, on a regular basis, this program is a valuable adjunct, including the single copy price of $149. Discounts for multiple licenses. Purchasing the program provides technical support and future upgrades free, for registered users. For more info go to www.bureausoft.com/ .

Monte Goodman is a HAL-PC member and Help Desk volunteer. Works on the front desk every Saturday morning. He has worked for a major trading company for 25 years importing steel and he can be contacted at monte@hal-pc.org.

Adobe AcrobatAdobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard

by Larry Dybala

Acrobat 6.0 is the current version of this versatile program that creates portable document format (PDF) files from any Windows application. Acrobat produces a file that does not require the native (original) application for viewing or printing. You only need Adobe Reader 6. A PDF file looks like the original document both on the screen and when printed. PDF files are especially useful for single-source publishing, where the document will be produced for both print and online distribution.

Installation was easy. The install detected the previous version, Acrobat 5.0, and allowed me to uninstall it (as is recommended) from the installation screen. I accepted all defaults; but you can custom install the product. Installation took just minutes. You are then asked if you would like to register, and if so, it accesses Adobe’s secure web site for that purpose. The program does not require activation. It has minimal requirements (it needs only 64 MB of RAM) and should work on most basic computers.

The default installation adds an Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard icon to the desktop and buttons and macros for one-click PDF creation to Microsoft Office applications and to Internet Explorer and Outlook.

Ease of Use

The interface has been greatly improved, making it easy to use the basic features to produce PDF documents. It has the look and feel of Windows XP and the ease of use of Adobe Photoshop Elements. It opens with a right panel titled How to..? Create PDF, Review and Comment, Secure, Sign, etc. When you click Create PDF, for example, you get a list of ways to create PDF documents: from a file, from a web page, from a scanned document, from multiple documents, etc. Then you receive simple step-by-step instructions on how to perform this task. You can keep the right panel open while you follow the steps.

When you create a PDF document, the information in the original document is converted to text and graphics in the PDF document. You can convert to PDF by right-clicking on a file or selected files in Windows Explorer and then choosing one of the options for converting to PDF or click one of the buttons in Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. Some applications allow you to save or export a file as PDF. You can even produce PDF documents from printed documents (by scanning) and web pages. Finally, you can do it the old way , and print to the Adobe PDF printer from any application.

New Features (which I tried and which worked as expected)

  1. Right-click in Windows Explorer to convert selected file(s) to PDF
  2. Click a button added to Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook to convert the web page or email message to PDF
  3. Use custom page sizes
  4. Combine multiple files from various applications into one PDF document
  5. Create PDF files from a screen capture
  6. Convert Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to PDF from within Acrobat, in addition to creating them within the MS Office applications
  7. Search PDF files in a desktop or network folder or even over the Internet
  8. Acrobat 6 can read aloud all or part an Acrobat document.

Standard vs. Professional vs. Elements

This standard version of the program is all that most users would need. Unfortunately, if you want to create Acrobat forms, you need to buy the professional version. It is twice the price of the standard version and also creates PDF files in high-end Windows applications with one click of a button and has additional tools for working with large-format documents. For more info and a copy of Reader go to www.adobe.com.

Larry Dybala is member of HAL-PC and leader of the Adobe and Windows Publishing SIG. He is Web Site and Content Coordinator at The University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston.

Contact him at larry@dybala.net.