Making PDF: Portable Document Files

By Joe Burns

...use these to jump around or read it all

[Adobe Cheap]
[Ghostview And Ghostscript]

One of the questions I get a lot at HTML Goodies is how one goes about making an AdobeAcrobat PDF (Portable Document File) document for downloading.

I think most everyone has the Adobe Acrobat PRD reader. That's a free download from the Adobe site. The problem is that the free software doesn't allow you to make your own PDF files. To do that, you need to get the pay-for version. I wrote this tutorial on December 12, 2000 and at that time the Adobe site was selling the full Acrobat version for just about $250. The Acrobat InProductionsoftware was a little more pricey at around $500. There's a deal to buy both at the same time and if you go searching around to the Web, you'll save a few bucks.

So, there you go, to make PDF files, head to the Adobe site, drop a few hundred and get the software.

Of course, that's not the end of the tutorial. That would seem a little goofy, eh? I decided to kill an afternoon and take a stroll around the Web just to see if there were easier, nay, cheaper, methods of getting your own PDF files. I found a few that range from just a few buck to fully free.

Adobe Cheap

Adobe knows there are people like me that will tell you where to go to get PDF files created so they have attempted to counteract these quests by offering a service that will create a PDF for you. It's called Create Adobe PDF Online. At the time of this writing, you could get a free trial that makes a few files or pay around $10 a month or $100 a year to make as many PDF files as you'd like.

It seems like a nice cheap method since you'd need to be using the site for a little over two years before you'd actually spend as much money as the software itself would cost.

Basically you upload a word processor file (many formats are supported) or point the system to a Web page URL and the system does the rest. You choose to either download the fully-formed PDF or have it sent to you as an email attachment. What a deal!


There's a PERL script floating around that you can install on your system that will make PDF files in much the same method as the Adobe service above. Here's the linkto search on Yahoo!

The code is shareware and does have a price attached, but it is much lower than buying the Adobe software. I found version 4.0 available for around $85 at the time of this writing. As the versions go backwards, you'll find the costs drops.

If you'd like to try the CGI for free, then try this page available from SanFace.com. It runs the version 2.0 of txt2PDF.cgi and it works. I've tried it. The file took until the next day to arrive in my mailbox but it arrived just fine. You'll note that this is not a full-page version deal. You need to copy and paste into the screen so text-only pages go best here. (Thus the name...txt2PDF, get it?) But...if text is all you want to do then this is a winner.


There's a nice piece of shareware out there ($35 at the time of this writing) that will make a PDF from a series of files formats. It's called Win2PDF and can be found here. Again, I haven't tried it but it certainly got some pretty good reviews.

If you'd like to do a search to try and find it cheaper or from a different download source. Here's the Yahoo! search for the software.

Ghostview And Ghostscript

Here's your fully free PDF deal. This pagesponsored by the University of Arizona is offering the Ghostview And Ghostscript software as free downloads complete with instructions.

I should state here that I have not downloaded and tried this method. Furthermore, I cannot take any responsibility for what might happen if you install the software. I am simply making this method known to you. I don't know why there would be a problem, but for legal purposes, you try this method at your own risk. OK? OK!

The format is fully outlined on the page but here's the basic push. You need to install a printer on your system that will save files as "postscript". The page suggests the HP PaintJet XL300 Postscript . Yes, I know you don't own that printer. You don't need to. The author suggests that the printer may already be in your operating system software so you won't even need any new software. What a great and wondrous world we live in.

Once you have that pup installed, you will save the document you wish to turn to PDF to that printer except you will save it to file. You'll want to assure that the file saves with the extension ".ps". It sometimes saves as ".prn". You don't want that. Force the computer's hand and save as ".ps".

Now it's super easy. Open your file system and click on the file. The PostScript panel will pop up. Choose the Ghostscript control panel and save the file as a PDF. The author has offered a few examples of documents he's saved through the system. I looked. They're pretty good.

That's That

Hopefully you can find and use one of these pieces of software. I'm quite interested in if any of you get the Ghost software to run. I haven't tried a lot of this software because I have access to the full version at my University. A short walk at lunch and I'm done. Plus I like the people that work in the faculty computer lab.

Once you have the PDF file, getting it to display is just as easy as making a hypertext link right to the PDF file. The browser will do the rest. Just make sure you upload the PDF file. That mistake is so common. When one of my images or files throws an error I always check to make sure I uploaded the item. More times than not, I didn't.

Oh well, recognize the same mistake...every time you make it.




[Adobe Cheap]
[Ghostview And Ghostscript]

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