I use to wonder if I can create a PDF file without spending too
much money on the Adobe software. Also, many people have asked me how
do it and I couldn't answer them. After having done some research and
some experiments myself, I came
up with this trick, which will allow us to virtually convert any
file into a PDF file.
What We Need
Windows 95/98 CD-ROM (It has been known to work with Windows
Adobe Acrobat Reader (Although you
to view a PDF file, the display quality of the document viewed by
Reader is much better.)
Create a postscript file from the document you want to convert.
(Print the document we want to convert through a postscript printer
to a file.)
Convert the postscript file to a pdf file through pdfwrite
device from Ghostscript.
Install a Postscript Printer Driver
Unless you already have a postscript printer driver installed, follow
these instructions. Even if you already have one, you may add another
one for pdf purpose only. You don't need to have the actual printer.
Start -> Settings->Printers
or double click My
Computer->Printer. Then your printer folder will show up.
Double click Add Printer
In Windows 98, Add Printer Wizard window will pop up.
should have something similar.) Click Next.
Choose Local printer. Click Next.
Choose a postscript printer driver. How? Choose one with "PS"
or "PostScript" attached to its name. It is a good idea to
choose a color postscript printer because you might want to make a
PDF file. For example, HP PaintJet XL300 Postscript will do the
job. I myself use to use Tektronix Phaser 220i. (There is no
"PS" or "PostScript"
in it, but this driver helped me first discover how to make postscript
files from windows applications; however, the unprintable area
printer is quite large.)
Stephen has reported that HP Laserjet 8150 PS
driver gives even
better results. "I got
better results with an HP Laserjet driver (the Laserjet 8150 PS)
because my original Word document used Garamond 12 font. This font was
rendered poorly with the Textronix driver and other HP's I tried. I
think the reason may be that of the ones I tried, only the 8150 used
"Postscript Language Level 3"; the others used level 2 (whatever that
Thomas suggested HP
Laserjet 5500 drivers work very well if you want color. "I found that
the HP Color Laserjet 5500 gave excellent results - no other I found
could do a large A3 colour pdf..." The driver can be downloaded here.
Choose a printer port. (I recommend FILE but LPT1
Name your printer and decide if you want it to be your default
Choose NO for printing a test page because you don't
Click Next and you will be prompted to insert your
Viola! You got yourself a new printer driver. Now look at
folder. Right click on your new printer and choose properties.
Click Paper tab and choose Letter unless your
Click PostScript Tab. In the PostScript
box, choose PostScript(optimize for portability - ADSC). Note:
you can also create an EPS file by choosing Encapsulated PostScript
(EPS). This file can be used as an image in LaTeX.
That's all you need to setup the printer driver. However, you
with other options and see what the output will come out. Click OK
when you're done.
(for GSview) and gsXXXw32.exe
Ghostscript) from the site.
Install both of them. (It doesn't matter which one is installed
Open GSview and you will be prompted to choose a
version of Ghostscript.
Install Adobe Acrobat Reader
Obtain a Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe
web site then follow the installation instructions.
Ready to Rock
Now you are ready to create a PDF file. Remember, the
principle is Document file->Postscript file->PDF file.
Create a postscript file from the document. I will show
Suppose you want to create a postscript file from a word document
by MS Word. (Other applications should follow the same pattern.)
Open the document with MS Word.
Click File->Print from MS Word menu
In the Printer Name box, choose the printer you have
(e.g. Tektronix Phaser 300i )
Check Print to file box. (If you choose FILE
printer port, this step is not necessary.)
Click OK. Then you will be prompted to name your
Click OK to save your postscript file.
Now you have a postscript file but the file extension is .prn.
might want to change it to .ps. If your Windows doesn't show
file extension, you may do so by opening Start->Windows
Choose View->Folder Options. Click View tab
and uncheck Hide
file extensions for known file types.
Create a PDF file from the postscript file.
Double click your .ps file. GSview will pop
postscript file open.
Click File->Convert from GSview
Under Device box, choose pdfwrite. Select the
you want. (Normally larger resolution means larger file and better
quality.) Select the pages you want to print. The option Shrink to
fit Page Size from the drop-down menu might be useful sometimes. If
you like, you may experiment with the properties of pdfwrite. Then
You will be prompted to name your PDF file. Write your
with .pdf extension. (e.g. mydoc.pdf) Click Save
You can make smaller and sharper PDF files if you use standard
(e.g. Times,Courier, Arial/Helvetica) in your document because those
fonts are "built-in" in the reader so the program won't encode the
fonts into the PDF files.
Some people have reported that the printer drivers Apple Color LW
12/660, HP Laserjet 8150 PS, HP Laserjet 5500 give even better results.
Our readers have reported some problems using this method:
Printer drivers are tied to the physical capabilities of the real
printers. For example Tektronix Phaser 220i can't print beyond a
certain boundary so you may not create a PDF file beyond that boundary
using that printer driver. Some printers won't print color when the
paper is large so you can't create a color PDF file using those printer
drivers if you choose large paper.
Some advanced features such as hyper links are not supported by
If you use HP PaintJet XL300
your MS document that contains non-vector graphic pictures (e.g. jpgs
or gifs), you might experience color changed in the graphic. (See cactushp.pdf (414 KB).) I suggest using Tektronix
Phaser 300i instead. The "Tektronix Phaser 300i" version of
cactushp.pdf is cactustek300i.pdf(346
There was a report that this method (or just the printer
Phaser 300i) doesn't work well with MS Publisher. For examples, some
photo and text box are missing in the pdf file. And the pdf file
contains only the first page while the original document has more than
one page. If you don't have that problem or if you can fix the problem,
please describe how you do it in my
forum. Thanks a bunch. Updated:
Some have reported that HP Color LaserJet printer driver would
solve some problems, but still could not solve the multiple page
Doug emailed me about
an alternative method using RedMon (Redirection Port Monitor).
It looks very interesting. (Thanks, Doug!). (Also check out Gene's document below.)Here is what he said:
If you want to print directly
from Word (or some other application) to a
PDF file without having to go through the extra steps of creating the
file then running GSview to convert the file, here is an alternative
I have set up an 'Apple Color Laserwriter 12/600' print driver, but I'm
using a program called RedMon to create a virtual printer port that
redirects to the ghostscript program. The RedMon program then runs the
appropriate ghostscript options to convert the print job to PDF. So I
up with a Doc -> PDF with no intermediary steps -- I print to the
printer and a standard dialog pops up for me to enter the filename for
One minor problem is that I can only write the PDF files to local
attempting to write to networked drives fails. However, this might be a
limitation of the version of RedMon I'm using (v1.5, but v1.7 is the
The home page for the RedMon (Redirection Port Monitor) software is at:
As the documentation states, it's
not a trivial configuration, but once
it's set up, it works quite well. If you have any questions, feel free
Gene Van Dyke has made an excellent document
about how to create PDF files for free based on the information on this
website and RedMon Site. (Thanks Gene!) Check it out. Here is
what he said:
I have combined information from your site
and the RedMon site. I actually put this together for a non tech-savvy
friend who needed a free PDF solution. I intended this for absolute
beginners and I think others may find it useful.
(Hey Gene! I lost your email address. Can you email me again? Thanks. 2/21/04)
Some of our readers have suggested some free software that help
creating PDF files. If you know any other like this, please email me (make sure to put PDF web site as the ONLY subject line, otherwise your mail may be filtered out from my mailbox)
and I will put them here.
PDF reDirect (Free, No popups, Can save to hard drive or network -- Suggested by Michel of EXP Systems)
WinPDF (document info, content encryption and live hyperlink support -- Suggested by Alain of PDFDesk Informatique)
Go2PDF (document info, content encryption support -- Suggested by Alain of PDFDesk Informatique)
PDF4Free (document info support -- Suggested by Alain of PDFDesk Informatique)
PrimoPDF (a free PDF creation tool that allows you to 'print' to PDF from virtually any Windows application -- Suggested by Doug S. of ActivePDF.)
For any comments, please sign my
guestbook. If you have any suggestion or any question or any
problem report, please go to
forum. Feel free to answer any question if you know the answer. I'm
not an expert in this area myself, so your answer might help me learn