July 7, 2009

Ever wanted to create and work with PDF Files?

Modified 7/10/09 to add additonal programs to convert & modify PDF files

Just about everyone knows about Adobe Acrobat files (*.PDF) and how to open and view them. There are basically two most used free viewer programs:

  1. Adobe Acrobat Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader/)
    Be careful when you download it. By default they check a box stating that you want the Google Toolbar added to the download/install. If you don't want it (and I don't) uncheck the box before you download.
  2. FoxiITReader (http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/)
    this is widely considered a better viewer than Acrobat reader. It's small and fast. I have both installed. At work, I use Acrobat. At home I use FoxIT....

How do you generate your own PDF files? Actually more and more programs are starting to add the ability to "Save As" to a PDF file. However, it's still a small number. The most common way is to install a program that will add a "printer" the will generate the PDF file when you "print" to it. There are numerous ones, but the ones I see used most are:

  1. CutedPDF (http://www.cutepdf.com/)
    This program is free and has no "nagware" or other restrictions. This is my favorite for personal use.
  2. PDF Creator (http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/)
    This is an open source program that works very well both on a personal workstation and a server. I use this one on my Citrix XenApp servers. The interface is a bit more cumbersome, so I personally stick with CutePDF for personal computers.

The problem comes in when you want to edit a PDF file. PDF files are generally used because they:

  1. will display and print exactly as shown in the original program,
  2. cannot be edited

While both readers do allow you to copy/paste text, you lose all the formatting

The "standard" way to do this is by buying and installing the complete Adobe Acrobat product. This will allow you to edit, combine PDF documents, insert or delete pages and so much more. The problem is that it will cost you a LOT of money. It can run several hundred dollars (USD).

For most of us, that's a bit of overkill. Kind of like buying a super computer to calculate the square root of 4... :-)

There are programs that will let you do a lot of this either free or at a much lower cost.

  1. PDFMerge (http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfmerge/)
    This is another ScourceForge application. It's open source and free. It allows you to merge multiple PDF files into a single file. It has a lot of options and does a fabulous job. The only option I miss is the ability to delete pages.
  2. Able2Extract (http://www.investintech.com/)
    This program will let you convert a PDF file to another format. They include Word, Excel, HTML and others. I works extremely well. It isn't free, though. The Able2Extract PDF Converter 6.0 runs $99 (USD). There is a Able2Extract Professional 6.0 that will also convert PDF files that have been scanned. It runs $129 (USD). These are if downloaded. You can get a CD for an extra charge.
    Both versions of the program work flawlessly for PDF files that are not scanned. The Professional version will convert PDF files that were created by scanning, but in my experience, it will convert the text fine, but images will not convert.
    Both versions can be downloaded for 1 7 day free trial.
  3. Open Office (http://www.openoffice.org/)
    This is a free suite of applications that compete with Microsoft Office. It can read and save files in Office format. It is supposed to be able to create and convert PDF files

If you have other programs or experiences, post a reply or e-mail me at rasilon@aol.com.


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