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Tools for Creating PDF Files

To make PDF files, you must first purchase software. The free Reader lets you only view PDF files, not make them. Whether you purchase Adobe Acrobat, which includes multiple ways to make PDF files, or use the Web services available on Adobe's Web site, you can't make PDF files without first purchasing the software or buying the online service. The most common ways for building PDF files are listed in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Methods for Creating PDF Files


Included with Acrobat?

Provides Control of Security & Quality?

Converts Paper to PDF?

Acrobat Distiller




PDF Writer

Version 4 and earlier only



Acrobat Capture




Acrobat Capture Server




Create PDF Online


Quality control only


Acrobat Distiller

Adobe Acrobat Distiller is the most common utility used to create PDF files (see Figure 3.2). It is a separate software program that is included when you purchase Adobe Acrobat. It provides the widest assortment of options for creating various types of PDF files. Distiller works only with print-to-disk files created using a special print driver or with Encapsulated Post Script (EPS) files. For this reason, it is a bit more complicated to use, but the control you have over the quality and security of the files makes it worth the effort. You'll learn all about using Acrobat Distiller in Hour 4, "Creating PDF Files from Your Electronic Documents."

PDF Writer

Up through version 4, Adobe Acrobat also included PDF Writer as a separate utility for creating PDF files. This print driver allowed you to easily create PDF files without having to create print-to-disk files. Although PDF Writer is very easy to use, it lacks many important features found in Distiller. PDF Writer is still a good option for creating PDF files that do not contain any graphics or images, only text. Because many users still have PDF Writer installed on their computers, we cover the features of PDF Writer along with Distiller in Hour 4. Many of the Adobe Distiller features discussed in Hour 4 can be used with PDF Writer, giving you both control and ease-of-use, without giving up quality.

Figure 3.2 Acrobat Distiller lets you choose the quality of the PDF files you create.

Converting Hard-Copy Documents to PDF

If you own a scanner and Adobe Acrobat, you can easily convert any paper document to a PDF file. You can then send these files to co-workers instead of faxes or you can archive them instead of putting the paper copies into a filing cabinet. PDF files take up less space than their paper counterparts: An entire filing cabinet worth of data can be placed on a CD-ROM using the PDF file format. And PDF files are typically less expensive to send than a fax because you do not have to worry about telephone charges.

If you expect to do a great deal of paper-to-digital conversion using Acrobat, you can even use a scanner with an automatic document feeder to easily convert a large number of pages to PDF files. The files you convert to PDF can also be made searchable. These capabilities are included with Adobe Acrobat. If you plan to convert hundreds (or thousands) of pages to PDF files, you will want to consider the Adobe Acrobat Capture Server software, which is designed for high-volume conversion from paper documents to PDF files. This software is not included with Adobe Acrobat, but has some enhanced capabilities beyond those found in Adobe Acrobat. All the options associated with scanning and converting paper documents are covered in Hour 6, "Converting Paper Documents to PDF."

Making PDF Files from Web Sites

If you've ever wanted to send an entire Web site to a co-worker or to capture a Web site for viewing later, you'll appreciate this option. Adobe Acrobat includes Web Capture, which provides extensive control for creating PDF files from Web sites. This option is covered in Hour 7, "Converting HTML to PDF with Web Capture."

Online Service

If you don't want to buy Acrobat but need to make PDF files, this option my be for you: You can upload a variety of file formats to the Adobe Web site, and the site will send you back a PDF file, as shown in Figure 3.3! There is an annual subscription fee for this service, but it might be worth it if your computer doesn't fit the minimum system requirements for Acrobat and you still want to create PDF files. Access this option at www.createpdf.adobe.com.

Figure 3.3 Adobe's online service makes it possible to build PDF files even if you do not own Acrobat. You can try it free and then register t use it on a month-by-month basis or for an entire year.

Making PDF Directly

Because of the broad acceptance of PDF files, some software companies have included the ability to convert directly to the PDF file format, as shown in Figure 3.4. Programs such as WordPerfect from Corel and Macromedia FreeHand include these capabilities. Of course, most Adobe software allows you to save directly to a PDF file format without going through any extra steps. Adobe PageMaker, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop all can save files directly to the PDF format.

Although it would be nice if all software saved directly to the PDF format, it is up to each software manufacturer to decide which formats they will support. If your favorite software package does not save directly to the PDF format, contact the manufacturer and request this feature. Adobe does make some utilities to help Microsoft Office users more easily convert their files, even though Microsoft programs do not directly convert to the PDF format. These tools are covered in Hour 5, "Easy PDF Creation for MS Office Users."

Figure 3.4 Many popular programs, such as Adobe PageMaker, allow you to export or save files directly as PDF files while still providing controls over quality and security.

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