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Vail Tech Bytes: You can create PDFs – it’s easy

Jessie Williams
Tech Bytes
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Have you ever received a Word document from someone and either not been able to open it or noticed that the formatting and layout appear to be off?

Often with text and word documents, you may have difficulty seeing the file exactly as the file creator intended, especially if you don’t have the same fonts they used, or the same version or software. PDFs can be a great way to make sure your files arrive unchanged. In this week’s Tech Bytes, we’re going to go over the basics of PDFs and how they are created, in a few simple steps.

PDF stands for portable document file, and it is essentially a “print” of the original file. Even if you use fonts and advanced layouts that normally wouldn’t translate well from computer to computer, by turning the file into a PDF, you can be assured your final product will remain intact.



PDFs require the recipient to have a program on their computer called a reader. Most computers come with a PDF reader pre-installed at purchase, but if not, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free at http://get.adobe.com/reader, which will then allow you to open and print PDF files on your computer.

One common misconception is that by installing reader on your computer, you’ll also be able to create PDFs. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In order to create a PDF that you’ll be able to share with others, you’ll need to use a different tool.



One of the most popular applications for creating PDFs is Adobe Acrobat Professional. Professional is a great tool with many advanced features that allow you to create and view PDFs in addition to creating forms, editing documents and adding encryption.

The downside to Professional is that all of these features come at a price – the standalone software costs $449 for the full version, or $159 if you just need an upgrade to the latest version.

If you’d like to be able to create basic PDFs from your documents, but don’t want to shell out a fortune for Professional, there are a couple of free tools out there that will help you create PDFs on a Mac or Windows computer.



The most recent versions of the Mac OS X operating system actually come with a PDF creator built right in. You can create a PDF out of anything that you can print. To make a PDF, it’s a simple as going to File > Print from the screen you want to save, and then look for a button in the lower-left corner of the print dialogue labeled “PDF.”

From this drop-down menu, choose the option that best fits your needs. To make a PDF to save on your hard drive, choose the “Save as PDF” option. From here you’ll be prompted to name the file and choose a save location.

You can also embed extra information in the PDF such as author and title, and you can add security features like password protection to open, copy or print the file. Finally, hit save and you’re ready to go.

On a Windows computer, it’s almost as simple. The only extra step is that you’ll need to download an application called PrimoPDF (http://www.primopdf.com). PrimoPDF is a free application and works the same way that the Mac PDF creator does – from the print screen of an application.

This time though, you’ll actually look for and choose PrimoPDF right from the list of available printers. When you hit the print button, the PrimoPDF interface will launch and present you with a number of options to create your PDF. Select the profile that best matches your document and then use the “Save As” menu to give the file a name and choose a save location. Primo PDF also has security and document settings options as well.

Remember, anything that you can print from your computer, you can turn into a PDF by following the steps above. This includes not just word and text documents, but Web sites, spreadsheets, image files and more.

So next time you have a file you want to share, consider turning it into a PDF first, to ensure that what you create is exactly what your recipient will get.

Jessie Williams is the owner of Second October Media, http://secondoctober.com, a Web development and graphic design firm in Edwards. Have a tech question you’d like answered? Send her an e-mail at info@secondoctober.com.


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