How to create PDF files

Convert a print file to a PDF

If your application does not yet offer support for PDF, you need extra software. This software can convert a printfile (usually a PostScript file) to a PDF file. Some applications acts as a dummy printers, intercept the output of an application and directly convert the data to a PDF.

Below is an overview of some of the solutions that are available on the market. Some of them are perfectly usable for prepress, like

  • Acrobat Distiller (part of Adobe Acrobat)
    Acrobat Distiller is a separate application that can convert PostScript files into PDF-files. In many ways it resembles a RIP which, instead of writing a bitmap pattern to an imagesetter, writes the resulting PDF file to a disk. Distiller is part of the Adobe Acrobat package. It is available for Mac, PCs and some UNIX flavours.
  • Adobe Normalizer
    The Adobe Normalizer is a library with Distiller-like functionality that is sold to graphic arts manufacturers who want to create a complete PDF-based workflow solution. There are several products that use this technology, including Agfa Apogee, Kodak Prinergy, Screen Trueflow and Fujifilm XMF. Since Normalizer is a library, the implementation of each vendor can be different. All of these solutions are expensive prepress systems that can do a lot more than just create PDF files. Their functionality goes far beyond the scope of this page. Some, including Agfa & Kodak, also sells a more limited version of their workflow that specifically targets medium size design agencies.
  • Jaws PDF Creator
    This is a commercial equivalent to Acrobat Distiller, created by Jaws, a subsidiary of Global Graphics. The same technology is also used in QuarkXPress 6&7. I have never used PDF Creator myself. Reviews I read about it seem to indicate that it is a very interesting product for office use but slightly less optimized for prepress use than Acrobat.

Other solutions are more geared towards home or office use. Among these are:

  • Ghostscript
    Ghostscript is a freely available PostScript RIP created by Alladin Systems. It can also be used to view or print PDF files but better still: it can even export to a PDF file. Ghostscript is available for Macs, PCs and UNIX.
    Ghostscript is mainly used in the Soho market as well as in educational environments. I do not think it is suitable for prepress use but I don’t really know much about it. An often heard complaint about Ghostscript is that it is not really good at handling fonts: Text in Ghostscript PDF files is not displayed as beautiful as it is in Acrobat PDF files.
  • various PDF printerdrivers
    • PrintToPDF is a shareware Macintosh printer driver that creates PDF files. PrintToPDF is not as powerful as Acrobat, but it creates simple PDFs for a much lower price ($20). It can be downloaded from the web site of Jim Walker. I have not tried this little application yet but it is a safe assumption that it is not really meant for prepress use.
    • Similar tools also exist for PCs.
  • various tools to convert native file formats to PDF. The majority of these focus on popular file formats such a the Doc files created by Microsoft Word.
  • on-line PDF services.

Use an on-line tool that converts a document to a PDF

For some web services you do not need to create a print file: simply upload the source document to the site and it will convert it to a PDF file. An example of this is Adobe’s own web service. These aren’t services that focus on creating high quality print-ready PDF files but if you received a native file and don’t own the matching application, it can be a solution.

4 thoughts on “How to create PDF files

  1. 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.

  2. 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.?

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