How to Create PDF Files From Your Documents Free (& Legally!)
I used to cough up the $200-300 for Adobe’s Acrobat – the full version of their software that let’s you produce documents in the PDF portable document format (Acrobat Reader is still free, and there really is no reason to use any 3rd party “reader” application since it is, well, free!). The full version is complicated and expensive when 90% of the time, you’re just using the function where you can “print” from any application to a viritual printer. Instead of printing out documents to a physical printer, it converts your document into a PDF file and saves it to your hard drive. There are tons of other features like text editors, bookmarks, etc that the full version of Adobe Acrobat includes, but it does not have the most intuitive menu’s and the learning curve is a little steep for most busy people. The other probelm is that Adobe is now asking for almost $500 for a new, full version of the software – which they “update” and force you to buy upgrades every other year or so…so in reality, even if you are a moderate user and use it once a week to convert a document during a year, Adobe is charging you over ten bucks to convert each document to PDF – that’s pricey for anyone!
We just want a way to PRINT from any application we’re using like Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Internet Explorer, etc and auto-produce a PDF file on our PC so that we can email it or post it on the web somewhere so that others can read it easily. And we want to do this free, right? And more importantly, when possible, do it legally, of course — which is precisely the scenario for both solutions we will discover today.
There are a couple of options available that satisfy our requirements – and one that I’ve been using lately is an online PDF generator web site: www.PDFOnline.com. You simply upload your document from your hard drive to the site and it will convert it and then email it back to you as an attachment within a couple of minutes depending on the size of their queue. They do convert over 10,000 documents a day, so it’s not instantaneous, but in my experience, it has been pretty fast (about 3-5 minutes turnaround usually). The online version can handle .DOC to PDF, .XLS to PDF, .PPT to PDF, .TXT to PDF, .HTML to PDF and most image formats like .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .TIFF to PDF. Both of the options discussed here are free from any traces of “sponsored” messages in the final file, so recipients aren’t going to see any advertising watermarks, etc in the final file. PDFOnline is beneficial since you don’t need to install anything, you can generate PDF documents when you’re not at your own computer, and you can even generate one and have it sent to a 3rd party directly. They do have a printer driver that can be purchased for 15 bucks (cheap!) and can handle much more formats, etc.
If you’re looking for an installed printer driver converter solution, I currently use PDF995 which has a suite of PDF tools available at www.PDF995.com. The software is free, and throws up an sponsor ad in a web browser window when you convert a document, but again, the end-user/recipient will not see any advertising messages at all. They also have PDFedit995 which allows you to do a couple of more things like combine documents, rotate, odd size documents, etc — worth the price (free!) to try out.
The one consideration is why you are using PDF format for your documents. If it’s for “protection” issues, where you don’t want the content to be easily ripped-off, these may not be the solutions since I believe that PDF995 for example, creates documents where if the user is smart enough to press the “Text” tool button, they can highlight-copy-paste into another document/clipboard relatively easily. But then again, there are many other tools that allow for PDF-to-Text or PDF-to-HTML conversion the other way, if your recipients wanted to steal the text/content of the document. This is where document security, etc may be worth it in the original Adobe Acrobat or other paid appplications available today.
May your documents be portable and widely read!