Technology Tuesday/Web Wednesday Archive

An archive of the TT/WW sessions 2000-2007

What is PDF anyway??

Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) is an open standard for electronic document sharing.

A PDF is a universal file format that generally preserves all the fonts, formatting, graphics, and color of its source document. On PCs, PDF files are viewed, navigated, and printed with the free Adobe Reader® software. Macintosh users can use Preview or Adobe Reader.

Advantages to PDF:

  • Cross-Platform: Anyone with the free Adobe Reader software can open a PDF document. This helps solve the problem when you can’t open files because you don’t have the applications used to create the documents. Tagged PDF can be viewed on Palm OS® devices, on the Web, or in print.
  • Control of Appearance: Formatting, fonts, and graphics can be lost because of platform, software, and version incompatibilities. PDF files always display exactly as created, regardless of fonts, software, and operating systems.
  • Printing Ease: PDF files print correctly on any printing
  • Useful for Sharing: Using Acrobat, you can annotate documents with comments or create a form for someone to complete
  • Accessibility: Tagged PDF files contain information on content and structure, which make them accessible with the help of screen readers.
  • File Size: Many PDF documents are much smaller in size that their source documents. This makes downloading faster for recipients.

Creating PDF files

The main way is to use the full version of Adobe Acrobat® or Adobe Acrobat Professional®: currently $120-180 education price) The full version does allow you to create PDF files from supported programs (Illustrator, MS Office, JPEG, TIFF, HTML) as well as import via a scanner and capture a web page. You can also combine two PDF documents into one, make basic edits and create forms.

If you only have to make a few PDF documents for a project, you can use Adobe’s online conversion tool: Create Adobe PDF Online ($10 per month or $100/year, with the first five documents free;

If your needs are more long term but fairly simple, such as creating PDF handouts of PowerPoint slides or from word processing files, you might to consider some of the freeware solutions listed below.

These options all work pretty much in the same manner. You must download and install one or two files: the “printer” driver and a PDF converter. Once installed, you open your document and you “print” it to the program’s printer. Give the file a name and it is saved to the location you choose.

Print PDF995 screen

For Mac Users:

  • MAC OS 7 – 9: PrintToPDF ( and click PrintToPDF-2.4.4.sit (shareware $20 USD)
  • Mac OS X users – choose “Create PDF” in the Print Dialog box from any application

mac-screen.pngResources and Links

Freeware PDF options – see below for details about each one

For more information about creating PDF files

  • Planet PDF – forums, technical tips and more information about Adobe Acrobat and the PDF format