How to create PDF files

You can make PDF files from more or less any document. There are 4 ways to do this:

  • Some applications can use PDF as their native file format: you can save files as PDF files, open and edit them again.
  • A number of applications feature an ‘export to PDF’ kind of function. This is either a menu option in the “File” menu or accessible through a button in the toolbar.
  • There are a number of tools on the market that can convert a print-file (usually a PostScript file) or a native file to a PDF file.
  • Use an on-line tool that converts a document to a PDF.

The chapters below look at these 4 options in more detail.

PDF as the native file format

There aren’t that many applications yet that can use PDF as their native file format. I think all of the existing ones actually use a trick to do this: they embed their native file format as metadata in a PDF file. The only applications that I am aware of that can use PDF as their native file format are Adobe applications such as Illustrator or Photoshop next to some PDF editors (which obviously use PDF as their native file format).

Export to PDF

A number of application have built-in support for exporting PDF files. The list of applications is too long, so I’ll just mention some of the most important ones:

  • Virtually all Adobe applications
  • Most illustration programs such as Corel Draw
  • OpenOffice

There is software on the market that installs such an “Export to PDF” menu option or button in applications.

  • Adobe Acrobat Professional adds PDF capabilities to other applications such as Microsoft Office and AutoCAD.

There are a number of development tools or libraries available that allow programmers to embed a function to create PDF files. If you are a programmer, it may be worthwhile to take a look at:

  • PDFlib from Thomas Mertz.
  • ReportLab, an open source PDF generator for Python scripts.
9 August 2013

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4 responses to “How to create PDF files”

  1. Roland Smith says:

    The standard TeX (and friends) distribution TeXLive has been using PDF as the default output format for some time now.

  2. Micah Jamison says:

    Hey there, are you able to recommend any good free pdfhosting sites? Regards

  3. Dave says:

    For Windows PC users: I have been using PrimoPDF for a couple of years. It works through your normal File > Print function. I have tested in out on programs like Photoshop, Word, Excel and seems to work fine.

    Best thing about it, is that it is FREE and also has a pre-press function.

  4. prepress operator says:

    the printery I work for accepts much of its work done in Publisher and Word etc., which I am really uncomfortable working with. (I prefer professional work done in Design programs like Adobe programs). However, this is just how it is for now… What can u say regarding the conversion to pdf from programs like Publisher, Word etc., versus the conversion to pdf from programs like Illustrator, Photoshop etc.?