Ritergal's Favorite Free PDF Software

We’ve all read PDF files — you know, all those free eBooks, instruction manuals, reports and brochures that open in Adobe Reader. For several years the only way to create files like this was to use Adobe Acrobat, and that is indeed a high end product. The latest version of their “standard” version costs half as much as a new computer. Forget Adobe. Anyone can make PDF files now by downloading software that is absolutely free.

I tried half a dozen free programs, and PrimoPDF stands head and shoulders above the pack. It’s the only completely free program I found that gives you the option of selecting your desired degree of compression and adding security settings. Whether you use PrimoPDF or something else, it serves as a virtual printer. You “print” pdf files rather than exporting them, and you can print to PDF from any program that uses a printer, not just word processing programs. If you need to edit a PDF file, you edit the source document, then reprint it, as you would with a paper document, so always save your source document as well as the PDF version.

When you select PrimoPDF as your printer, several seconds may pass before an options window pops up. Then you'll be able to select from four options, Screen, Print, eBook, and Prepress. These selections determine the resolution of your finished file, and the quality of hard copy if desired. You can also add a password and other security options. Finally, you can add more material to the end of an existing PDF file. This last option sets it head and shoulders above the pack. If you need help with these options, consult the online manual.

You may be wondering why I'm so excited about this freebie and writing about it in a blog about lifestory writing. The PDF file format is recommended by digital archivists as the best available format for long-term document storage. It embeds the fonts you select, and stabilizes format, so it will look the same on any computer, anywhere in the world, whether it's a PC, Apple, Linux, or whatever, and hard copies will print the same way from any printer. Your digital stories will remain accessible longer, perhaps decades longer, in PDF format than any other.

Microsoft Word is notorious for completely changing their format every few years and creating chaos. Most recently, word is out that they have rendered Word documents created with early versions of the program inoperable with the latest version, “because they may contain unsafe material.” That's scary! What if I want to view that story I wrote fifteen years ago? If you open a WordPerfect document from 1990 today (assuming you still have a copy of WordPerfect) I guarantee you it won't look like it did when you created it. Whatever program you use, if you format a document with the Jester font, almost nobody will have that font if you send them the story, so it won't look exactly the way you intend. PDF files embed the font, so it's as stable as hard copy.

I nearly always convert documents to PDF format before I e-mail them to other people or post them on the Internet. Aside from the size advantage and font consistency, there is an inherent element of security in any PDF file. Since you can't directly edit these files, nobody will be able to interject another point of view.

Another advantage of having a PDF printer is the option it gives you to store records on disk rather than in a file cabinet. When I place an online order for anything from books to plane tickets, I “print” the receipt as a PDF file rather than hard copy. I've scanned in oodles of old family history documents like report cards, immigration documents, etc. With the Append feature in PrimoPDF, I can “bind” all those jpg graphics files into a single PDF document for easy reading, compact storage, and simple retrieval.

I strongly urge you to download PrimoPDF and start using it! Even if you are already using OpenOffice (my office suite of choice), the robust PDF generator built into that program only works within the suite. PrimoPDF will do the heavy lifting with website printing, graphics programs and more.

Write now: about all the ways you'd use a PDF printer if you had one, and then surf over to PrimoPDF.com and download your very own copy.


Tara said...

Again, I thank you for this link!

Ritergal said...

In case anyone is wondering, the files PrimoPDF creates are generic PDF files that will open in Adobe Reader, Foxit, or any PDF reader.

JoJo said...

Just this WEEK I was wondering how to best create .PDF files. Thanks!