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Create PDFs as Easily as Printing Your Document

by Tammy Lenski
April 2007

From the Mediator Tech blog of Tammy Lenski.

Tammy Lenski
pdfSo you’ve created a document for an ADR client and you’re ready to send it through cyberspace as an email attachment. Maybe you used a well-known program like MS Word or WordPerfect. Or perhaps you used software the receiver may not have on their own computer…iWork, MS Publisher, Excel…whatever.

After your care in making the document look professional and pretty, you probably want it to look exactly the same on the receiving end. The trouble is, even if the receiver has the same software, your document may look slightly different…or like a complete mess.

Portable document formatting, or PDF, to the rescue. PDF documents ensure that

  • Your document always look exactly the same to anyone viewing it, regardless of the hardware or software used and regardless of the availability of the same software on the receiving end.
  • Documents can be magnified without loss of viewing quality.
  • The document’s file size is compact, making it easier to send via email attachment (particularly if you’ve included graphics).
  • Document and logo colors are preserved in ways they usually aren’t via fax.
  • Your document can be archived efficiently and the content is searchable, making it easy to locate information quickly.

But Adobe Acrobat, the power-house program for creating PDFs, will set you back about $450 US. It’s a powerful program to be sure, but for many small businesses, it’s more power than needed…and those of us who’ve used it can vouch for it’s sluggish, slow-your-system-down reputation.

If you want some of the most important benefits of PDFs but don’t want or need everything that Adobe Acrobat offers, there are several free options that do the job remarkably well. Here are a few to consider:

If you use a Mac (or maybe just one of the newer Macs), you’re in luck because the print function already includes a pdf converter. To use it, choose Command-P, then, in the PDF button in the lower left corner of the print screen, select Save as PDF from the drop-down menu. There are additional PDF-related options as well.

If you use a PC, take a look at DoPDF, the free PDF converter for Windows machines. The setup is straightforward…just download it and then double-click to install. Then, when you want to convert a document to PDF, choose Print and you’ll find that doPDF has installed itself as a “virtual printer.” Select it and you’re good to go. A lot of folks seem to prefer PDFCreator, which is also free, has even more functions, and is definitely worth a look.

If you use a PC and use Firefox as your browser, you may be interested in the free FoxIt, a Firefox add-on that not only allows you to view and “print” PDF documents in your browser window, but also allows you to fill in PDF forms on your computer. There’s a FoxIt pro-pack available for purchase if you want even more bells and whistles.

Happy PDFing,


Dr. Tammy Lenski helps people resolve conflict in ongoing business and personal relationships and bring their "A" game to difficult conversations. Since founding her NH-based conflict resolution firm Myriaccord LLC in 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide as a master mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator. Author of the award-winning book, Making Mediation Your Day Job, she recently received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Her second book, The Conflict Pivot, was released in 2014.


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