Unless you are prone to extended spells of hibernation, this is one file format you couldn’t have ignored in all these years of using a computer. Developed by Adobe 15 years ago, PDF, or Portable Document Format, allows you to exchange formatted (“fixed layout”) electronic documents or document “captures” as files, from virtually any application, on any computer system, and have them appear securely on the recipient’s screen exactly as they were intended to.
The PDF has been an accepted de facto industry standard for portable documents globally for many years now. Yes, PDF files are totally portable across all predominant computer (Windows, Macs, Linux, Unix, etc.) and cellphone operating system platforms, software and printers, and look the same in terms of layout and fonts across all of these.
To view a file in PDF format, all you need is to download a free tool called Adobe Reader. Adding to the lure of the PDF format is the fact that these files can also be protected against unauthorized viewing, printing, copying or editing.
Using this program, you can even create files with interactive forms, annotations, hyperlinks and bookmarks, and share them with friends and clients via mail or on the Internet. You can create a file by using Adobe Acrobat (www.adobe.com), as well as a range of other work-alikes—including several free applications—from other developers.
Using some of these freeware tools, we give you tips on ways in which you can master this must-have on your desktop: From creating files both online and offline to editing or securing them to converting them into doc or text files, it is all about simplifying computing.
CREATING PDF FILES ONLINE...
Given the Adobe Acrobat’s cost, buying it doesn’t make much sense if you don’t intend to use it on a regular basis. But there are times when you may need it to send a file in PDF format.
So, how do you create such a file? Even if you have Acrobat installed, there could be occasions when you’re nowhere near your own PC but still need to save a file in PDF format. What do you do?
Just go online to one of these Web addresses and do it all online. For free. Online PDF creation also saves you the hassle of installing programs on your PC.
Apart from the de rigueur DOC, RTF, PPT, PUB, XLS, HTML and TXT document files, PDF Online also accepts image formats such as JPG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG, EMF and WMF for conversion to a PDF. It also offers a host of other interesting services. Doc2PDF converts Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files to PDF. Here, PowerPoints can also be converted to Flash. RSS2PDF generates PDF files from RSS feeds. This way you can read them offline and on the move. Sadly, there is no image support here, at least for the time being.
You can even capture a whiteboard or business card as a PDF with ScanR.
Those of you who need to create PDF files often can also take the freeware route. For instance, you could try your hands on CutePDF, a reliable file generator. Though its files are heavier than Acrobat’s, it does its job efficiently. If you need another option to save your files in this format, do not flinch from installing doPDF either.
EDITING AND SECURING PDF
PDFill is a neat, free alternative to Acrobat Professional. This 6.6MB download allows you to merge, split, reorder, encrypt, decrypt, rotate, crop, reformat as well as create or edit a header, footer, watermark or form field. You can also convert images to PDF, PDF to images, and Postscript to PDF; and delete/flatten/list elements. You can merge multiple PDF files into one file or extract, split or reorder pages into a new file. For all this, though, you you need to install the GhostScript (9MB).
PDF Hammer is the online way of manipulating PDF docs. With this, you don’t need to install anything else to rearrange, reorder and delete pages, merge/combine files, lock your PDFs with a password. Everything is done from the confines of your Web browser—you upload your document, work on it online, and then download the file.
And if you want to ensure that no one tampers with the PDFs you have created, download an Open Source program such as PDFCreator.
Besides, encrypting your PDFs and protecting them from being opened or even printed, PDFCreator offers a wide range of utilities for everything, from creating PDFs to sending generated files via mail to auto-saving files to folders and file names based on tags such as user name, computer name, date, time or others, to merging multiple files into a single PDF.
Apart from PDFs, this handy tool can also generate PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS and EPS files.
PDFCreator: www.pdfforge.org/ products/pdfcreator
CONVERTING PDFs TO OTHER FILE FORMATS
There are a number of online tools that do this, too. But if you don’t want to upload sensitive stuff, you may prefer to do it offline and on your own machine. Maybe, you could try the simple Free PDF to Word Doc Converter. When it comes to images and charts, it permits you to choose how much of the original you want the final doc to look/contain. In terms of layout, though, everything with both these free tools may not be picture perfect. But then, you don’t mind it as long as it is free. In the online world, an amazing tool called Issuu can metamorphose any PDF into a Web-friendly, flippable, zoomable, embeddable Flash eBook. And for converting an HTML file into a PDF document, use Htm2pdf.co.uk. To meet your PDF-to-text requirements, all you need to do is load your PDF file in Adobe Reader and go to the File menu and save it as text. If you don’t have Reader installed, you can use Adobe’s email attachment PDF conversion services which allows you to submit attachments. For plain text, you can mail your PDFs to firstname.lastname@example.org. For PDF to HTML conversion, you can mail the files to email@example.com.
Also, there is an easy way to convert your Word or Excel documents into PDFs. You can use your existing accounts at Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Zoho Writer or Zoho Spreadsheets and have the job done without getting into the pros and cons of third party software installations.
Some PDF-to-Word converter:http:// somepdf.com/some-pdf-to-word-converter.html
Free PDF to Word Doc Converter: www.hellopdf.com/download.php
Adobe: www.adobe.com/ products/acrobat/access_onlinetools.html
Google Docs: http://docs.google.com
Zoho Writer: http://writer.zoho.com
Zoho Spreadsheets: http:// sheets.zoho.com
SPEEDING IT UP
The more a software program matures, the more features and functionality it adds on. And the slower it gets. A case in point: Adobe Reader. The world’s favourite PDF document reader can be painfully slow. So, to speed things up, either you kill some Acrobat Reader plug-ins you never use, or choose an alternative, more nimble program. FoxIt Reader is a far more fleet-footed and much lighter (2.55MB against Reader’s 22.4MB) program. It allows you to view or print PDF documents, add or edit bookmarks, or view PDFs as text.
If FoxIt is too fat for you at 2.55MB, check out the 1.1MB Sumatra. Its minimalistic form makes it highly portable and super fast, but without a number of heavy-duty functions.
The latest version is multilingual (it can select the text and copy to clipboard), boasts a Save As option, incorporates a list of recently opened files, opens password protected files, and also works on Windows Vista. The program is Open Source and floats around as a single file with no external dependencies whatsoever.
Then there is the 586KB TinyPDF that can run independently off any USB pen drive. It lets you append and merge PDF files after conversion (with a plug-in). TinyPDF supports large paper formats required by for desktop publishing and CAD drawings, offers JPEG compression and bicubic down-sampling to produce smaller PDF files, facilitates automatic font embedding for characters in all languages, and includes an uninstaller.
FoxIt Reader: www.foxitsoftware.com
Sumatra: http://blog.kowalczyk.info/ software/sumatrapdf
(Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)