How to make a PDF document

How to make a PDF document

What is PDF?
PDF is short for (P)ortable (D)ocument (F)ormat. Publishing your documents in PDF format allows most people to see your documents in the same way on most computer systems. PDF viewers are available for free for PC, Macintosh, UNIX, and other systems. Publishing using PDFs is useful for those times when you make a document using software that most people don't have, but you still want to electronically share your document using the same layout that you designed.

Usage Notes:
I have found PDFs very useful for the Copy function of my scanner. I run the scanner's Photocopy program and have it print to my postscript printer driver which saves the document to a postscript file as described below. Conversion to PDF then is done. This is useful to keep electronic records of tax forms, rebate receipts, accident reports, etc., which makes these documents easy to share should the need arise. Just be sure to have good backups of all your electronic documents.
How to make a PDF - The simple way
The simple way to make a PDF is to buy software from an electronics store, office supply store, or online. The software is typically installed as a printer driver. Any program that lets you print can direct it's output to your PDF printer driver to directly make a PDF file.

How to make a PDF - The free way
One free way to make a PDF is a two step process.

  1. Make a postscript file of your document
  2. Use Ghostscript and Ghostview to convert the postscript file to a PDF file
On a MS Windows computer, you can make a postscript file by installing a postscript printer driver (even if you don't have a printer). Postscript is a language that some printers understand. Ghostscript and Ghostview are used to make and view postscript files.

In Windows XP:

Install a postscript printer driver:
  • Click the Start Button
  • Click "Control Panel"
  • Click "Printers and other hardware"
  • Select "Printers and Faxes"
  • Click on "Add a printer"
  • Click "Next"
  • Click "Next" (Local printer / don't check "Automatically detect...")
  • Set "Use the following port: to File: and click "Next" (If you are using Vista or Windows 7, you may have to install the printer normally (don't select a FILE port) and then later when you print, check the [x] "print to file" box on the print dialog box (those operating systems may have strange file permissions issues if you try to install using the File port))
  • Select the manufacturer: Apple and Apple Color LW 12/660 PS as the printer model and click "Next"
  • Click "Next" (selecting "No" to answer the default printer question)
  • Continue to click "Next" / "Finish" / etc while answering the questions with answers that match what you want.

Install Ghostscript and Ghostview
Go to here and get Ghostscript 8.62 and GSView 4.9

Make a postscript file
Use any Windows program that can print and make a document. Next, print using the Apple Color LW 12/660 PS printer driver that you installed. If it is an option, click "Print to file" so that you get a better FileSave dialog box. Print your document and name it something like (Be sure to save it in an easy to find place such as C:\ -- if you use Windows File Explorer to look at the filename, you may see that Windows has named it something like at which point you may rename it back to -- if you are having trouble viewing file extensions, then in Windows File Explorer, click Tools on the menubar, Folder options, the view tab, and uncheck the option, "Hide extensions for known file types".

Use Ghostview to convert to PDF
Ghostview may now be used to convert your Postscript document to a PDF.
  • In Windows File Explorer, double-click the file called It should open up in Ghostview
  • In Ghostview, click on (menubar)--File--Convert
  • Set the Device to "pdfwrite" and choose the highest resolution available.
  • The following settings appear to not be necessary with current versions of Ghostview; but if you notice quality or filesize issues, then you might try the one time settings: click the "Properties" button and set "UseFlateCompression=true", AutoFilterColorImages=true, ColorImageFilter=/FlateEncode, AutoFilterGreyImages=true, GrayImageFilter=/FlateEncode -- these settings seem to provide very good output
  • Click "OK" and give it a filename such as MyDocument.pdf

This doesn't always work with all fonts or other document parts.
You may want to experiment with other pdfwrite configuration settings.
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