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PDF for Everyone

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 9:22 AM on April 7, 2009

There was a time, back in the technological dark ages, just a scant two or three years ago, that PDF’s could only be created by Adobe Professional. It was so fancy, so rare, and so expensive that it didn’t even need a real name, just “Adobe Professional.” To differentiate from other Adobe products, we often called it Adobe Acrobat Professional, just to denote it was different than the free Acrobat reader we all needed on our computers.

But the tide shifted when Adobe lost their tight control on the PDF production framework. Now anyone can make a PDF, for free, any time, using software that is usually already installed or easily installed as a plug-in to existing products. Microsoft Office has a save-to-PDF plugin, and so does Open Office. And now, Firefox does too. Self-publishing websites now have their own proprietary and functional PDF converters for use by authors, and if all else fails and you can find nothing else,you can go out and download a free PDF creator like PDF 995, or PDF Converter from SourceForge. Many of these freebies now come with all the bells and whistles of Adobe Acrobat Professional, including style sheets, text-to-audio creation functionality, and complete creation tools.

I played a bit today with the Firefox plugin, which is made by Nitro, and it is adequate for the task. It is easy to save off a PDF of a website, links intact, for use in presentations or just to save for archival purposes. My complaint would be it doesn’t allow me to change any settings, and it is a bit slow to create the page. The output is really good, though, so it’s not a bad tool at all.

There is no reason for anyone not to be able to produce a PDF these days, whether or not they have Adobe Acrobat Professional.

3 Comments

  1. From wpdunn71901 at 10:08 pm on April 7, 2009

    Do you think that PDFs are going to be the standard for VI/Blind users?

  2. From Susabelle at 5:12 am on April 8, 2009

    The publishers would like it that way, but the VI/Blind users have the last say-so when it comes down to it. Accessible PDF’s are great and work wonderfully with most screen reading or enlargement software. But locked PDF’s do not. It really depends on how the publisher creates the content in the first place.

  3. From Derek K. Miller at 9:59 pm on April 18, 2009

    Those of you using Macs have native Print to PDF support in every application, which is handy. No direct support for links, notations, etc., but for basic PDFs it works great.