A Word To The Wise!
Inventive, malicious virus writers seem to want to pollute
they touch. And sadly, the PDF file format is no exception.
In fact, PDF files carrying viruses were first discovered way back
The initial virus - which was named "Peachy" or "OUTLOOK.PDFWorm -
used Microsoft Outlook to send itself as an attachment to a PDF file.
Virus researchers found that these PDF file viruses were activated when
the file was opened with Adobe Acrobat, but not with Acrobat Reader.
So the PDFs were perfectly safe when viewed in a browser, but they
became wildly unsafe the instant they were opened on someone's hard
These days all good anti-virus software routinely scans PDFs for viruses.
And PDF infections aren't very common in any case.
Nonetheless, it's probably wise to scan any PDF you received that
doesn't come from a trusted source.
Particularly if you intend to open it up in a PDF creator. And most
especially if it comes to you from a spammer.
How To Get A Cheap(er)
Adobe Acrobat on Ebay
If you really, really
have to have Adobe Acrobat (but still
don't want to pay the full price) you can usually buy a discounted copy
Here are the Adobe Acrobat sales occurring on eBay Australia right now:
PDF Creation Software
The PDF (Portable Document Format) file format was invented
by Adobe Systems
PDFs allowed for the exchange of documents in a manner that was
independent of the application software, hardware and
operating systems in use: a concept that we take for granted today,
but one that was pretty revolutionary in the early 1990s.
And while the uptake of PDFs was initially slow - partly because other
people invented competing file formats at around the same time that
did similar things, and partly because early PDFs were big and bloated
- over the succeeding years the PDF file format steadily rose from being
a niche format mostly used by desktop publishers into the default
document exchange standard that's now used around the world.
A large part of the credit for this must go to Adobe themselves. They developed
and distributed the Acrobat Reader from their web site at no
charge from 1993 to the present day. This popular browser plug-in allowed
anyone to view PDFs over the Net. And this - in turn - made Acrobat
Reader an essential addition to everyone's browser (you can get Acrobat
Reader on our
browser plugins page).
Adobe also allowed other companies to develop software that let ordinary
people create and/or manipulate PDF files rather than try to
corner the market (even though their own Adobe Acrobat was initially
the only program on the market that allowed anyone to create
PDFs, and is still technically the best). Many other software companies
in similar situations had tried to develop monopolies - and died. But Adobe
didn't - and it thrived.
So having seen off all rival file format competition by being
open-handed, far-sighted and deciding to compete on the basis
of having superior software rather than trying to hog the market,
Adobe finally cemented the dominance of PDFs in 2008 by turning the PDF file
format into an Open Standard. This was officially published by the
International Standards Organisation on 1 July 2008 as ISO 32000-1:2008.
What the open standard means is that while Adobe still hold the patents
to the PDF format, anyone can now create applications that can read
and write PDF files without having to pay royalties to Adobe for doing
So what do you do if you want to create PDFs but don't have US$299
to US$699 to purchase your own copy of Adobe Acrobat? Well, the good
news is that you can now use any of a large number of non-Adobe PDF
creators to do pretty much the same thing.
They may not quite do everything that Adobe Acrobat 9.0 does (or do
it to the same exacting technical standards). But they certainly
do produce workmanlike PDFs for everyday use easily
And that includes these terrific - and completely free - PDF writers:
Popular PDF Creators
is a simple, lightweight PDF creator that allows you to turn
that you could print off your computer into a PDF. Like
Adobe Acrobat, doPDF installs itself as an extra printer driver
it's installed, all you need to do to create a PDF is select "Print" from
within your software application, then select doPDF as the printer to use
and then specify where you'd like the finished PDF saved to -
doPDF supports a variety of standard page sizes
(eg: A4, Letter, Legal etc) but it also allows you to set any custom print
you'd like to use if none of the standard sizes meet your needs.
You can also set the print resolution
to anything between 72dpi
(for very lightweight PDFs) up to 2400 dpi
(for highly detailed but
bulky PDFs); and doPDF also allows you to create searchable PDFs
will allow users to search the text inside your PDF file (search engines
will be able to do the same thing if you upload the PDF to the Internet).
doPDF runs on Windows
(XP, Vista and Server 2000/2003/2008), comes
in 20 language versions
and has won many awards. We think it deserves
to. It's simple, fast, effective and reliable.
Magic Document Solutions' MagicPDF
is a simple freeware PDF creator
that offers much the same functionality as doPDF (above
). That is
to say, it offers all the most popular features
of Adobe Acrobat in
the freeware version (ie you can create PDFs from any Windows software at
the click of a button by specifying MagicPDF as the printer, and you can
also set the printing size, screen resolution and location of finished document).
There's also a US$50 MagicPDF Pro
commercial version available if
you want to upgrade at some future time in order to use more advanced PDF
creation features. In tests we conducted between doPDF and MagicPDF we found
very little difference
in either ease of use
or the end
between the two products, so we thought it was unfair to leave
either of them off our list. But if you have simple PDF creation needs
then which of these two you choose to use is really a matter of personal
choice. Technically, they're both equally good
. MagicPDF runs on
2000, XP, 2003 and Vista and has interfaces for English, French,
Spanish, German, Asian and Middle/Eastern European languages.
If you want slightly more advanced
features that simple PDF creators
provide or are running an older version
of Windows, then EXP Systems'
may be the answer to your needs. In addition to
PDF creation, PDF Redirect also offers you the ability
your PDF so you can optimize your settings on the fly;
to merge PDFs
together to create composite documents; to
your PDFs with passwords; and to set the viewing style
of the finished PDF. PDF redirect is a freeware
version of EXP Systems'
commercial US$20 PDF Redirect Pro
which offers even more advanced
features and it runs on all versions of Windows
from Win98 to Vista.
PDF Redirect has won gongs from Download.Com, ZDNet and PC World and has
been downloaded more than 500,000
times. We thought it was pretty
Get PDF Redirect
If you need more advanced
PDF creation and/or manipulation features
than those provided by doPDF or MagicPDF - or even PDF Redirect -
), then PrimoPDF
is well worth looking at. PrimoPDF provides
a feature set that rivals Adobe Acrobat
(for example, the ability
PDFs for press, print or the web; the ability to optimize
PDF files for page-at-a-time web display; to compress
and embed fonts
; to add bookmarks
; to add
; and the ability to merge
amongst many other things). Naturally, though, the bigger the feature set
the bigger the learning curve. So while you can get productive with PrimoPDF
in a matter of minutes
, full use of all
features generally requires a thorough reading of its well-explained, illustrated
manual. PrimoPDF is a cut-down freeware version
of the commercial
(which can also be obtained as 14 day trialware on
the site). PrimoPDF runs on Windows 2000, XP and Vista and we were very impressed
with it. If you have advanced PDF creation needs, we think you probably will
While Windows users have to hunt around for non-Adobe alternatives if they
want to create PDFs, Mac OS X users don't
: the ability to generate
PDFs is already built into the OS X operating system. All the same, it's
a pretty simple
printing capability (much like that provided by doPDF
or MagicPDF, above
, or Microsoft's Save as Pdf, below
if you run a Mac and want to do some more advanced
things with PDFs,
is a nice add-on to have. PDFLab lets you split
PDF documents as well as insert images
. You can also quickly split a document
into many documents
(one document per page or one document for odd pages and one for even pages);
a document; add a watermark
several documents together. PDFLab is freeware
runs on OS X 3x or 4x; and the latest release fixes a couple of annoying
(but non-fatal bugs) that existed in the previous version.
Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS 1.0
Finally: if you have Microsoft Office 2007
and simply want to be able
to print PDFs from Office 2007 applications, Microsoft have released an
that will allow you to do just that. Simply download and install
Save as PDF or XPS 1.0
and you'll be able to create simple PDFs from
any of Office's eight
programs (ie Access, Excel, InfoPath, OneNote,
PowerPoint, Publisher, Visio and Word). In order to be able to use this plug-in
you'll need to have a licensed copy
of Office 2007 and be running
XP, 2003 or Vista. You'll also need to be able to tolerate
the very limited
number of PDF creation options that this plug-in
gives you (which - to us - looks like an afterthought
the marketing deadlines that all Microsoft's products have to stick to, whether
they're actually ready for release or not). Against that, though, you'll
have the security
of knowing that the software comes from Microsoft
and that it will be every bit as trustworthy
as everything else they produce.
Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS 1.0
This page last updated: 04-Sep-2008