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August 10, 2011 8:47 PM   Subscribe

How's your little US nonprofit avoiding Adobe Acrobat and printing PDFs for free?

I work for a small nonprofit in the United States. There are about 25 of us, all working on Windows XP or Windows 7 machines. At present, we are all using Adobe Acrobat 7, 8, or 9 (purchased for each machine at a steep nonprofit discount through saintly TechSoup) to print various documents to PDF.

We pay less for Acrobat than we would in the for-profit world, but it's still a substantial cost for us. And all we're doing is turning Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and the occasional webpage into a PDF. Why do we need this big, expensive tool?

There's plenty of Windows freeware out there that says it will print to PDF. But it's hard to evaluate them because search engines return a mix of user reviews and marketing.

So I ask you: What are the best free PDF printers here and now, especially for those of you that deploy them for groups of colleagues? I'd love to drop Acrobat and use your suggestion, so thanks for your replies.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
pdfforge works great for me. It is free.
posted by procrastination at 8:50 PM on August 10, 2011


CutePDF works for us.
posted by songs about trains at 8:58 PM on August 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


I always use the CutePDF writer for my machines.
posted by msbutah at 8:58 PM on August 10, 2011


Nthing pdfforge aka PDFCreator. I don't like CutePDF because I think the name "Cute*" is pandering, but it performs equally well. They both use the same back-end GhostScript package for the heavy lifting, as do a lot of other free PDF printers, so it's really whatever your preference is.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:02 PM on August 10, 2011


Print driver PDFCreator works great for me for all the apps you mention and many more.
posted by buzzv at 9:03 PM on August 10, 2011


In the unlikely chance you're on a recent version of MS office, Microsoft offers a free plugin for printing PDFs in Office 2007, and the capability is built in for Office 2010. If you have a spade Mac around, any Mac can print any file as PDF.
posted by anildash at 9:04 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


How are you opening those Word and Excel documents? If you have Office 2007 or 2010, there's Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS. If you're using free software like OpenOffice, then it looks like you should be good to go.
posted by rh at 9:12 PM on August 10, 2011


I like PrimoPDF.
posted by phunniemee at 9:14 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


google documents handily saves copies to pdf.
posted by lia at 9:18 PM on August 10, 2011


Google Documents is certainly an interesting option, and we're already partially invested into that platform. How universal is this, though -- if I want to PDF-print an image or a PowerPont slide or a page on a website or a screenshot or something else, will Google Documents be able to help me?
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 9:24 PM on August 10, 2011


I use PDFCreator linked to above by buzzv. Works well everytime. Easy to use, can combine multiple dos into one pdf, etc.
posted by AugustWest at 9:28 PM on August 10, 2011


CutePDF behaves as if it were a printer on your system, so whenever and wherever you hit CTRL+P, there it is in your system's print dialog.
posted by klanawa at 9:42 PM on August 10, 2011


I too use PDFCreator at work, which behaves like a printer. It will also let you print multiple documents to one PDF, which I find very handy.
posted by maryr at 9:46 PM on August 10, 2011


While we're here, for my personal general PDF-reading usage I've shifted to Sumatra. I tried FoxIt for a while, and it was ok, but their in-app ads and wonky, annoying update prompts drove me away. For me, Sumatra just displays the doc and STFU, which is what I want.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:55 PM on August 10, 2011


If I want to PDF-print an image or a PowerPont slide or a page on a website or a screenshot or something else, will Google Documents be able to help me?

It won't. You'll need something which installs itself as a print driver for this.
posted by galaksit at 9:55 PM on August 10, 2011


+1 CutePDF. I've used it for many years.
posted by valannc at 9:57 PM on August 10, 2011


if I want to PDF-print an image or a PowerPont slide or a page on a website or a screenshot or something else

Why would you want to PDF print any of these things? In all cases, an image - either PNG or JPG - would be much more suitable. Both formats can be viewed on all platforms, if not more, that a PDF can be viewed on. In addition, the PDF format just embeds images as PNG or JPG anyway.
posted by rh at 9:57 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I use Open Office in Lieu of a lot of Microsoft stuff and it has an export to pdf option, also.
posted by smoke at 9:59 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My office has Adobe on one computer for heavy PDF work, and everyone else downloaded CutePDF onto their computers to print PDFs as needed. Works very well for us.
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:02 PM on August 10, 2011


I'm with smoke's endorsement of OpenOffice.org (and I'm actually using the LibreOffice fork). I'm having some issues with .pptx and .docx cross compatibility, but if you're sourcing the documents or can get them to .doc or .ppt it's doing pretty well for me.
posted by straw at 10:05 PM on August 10, 2011


Yes, please stop using OOo and use LibreOffice instead. I'm no one but have been on this ride since StarOffice 3 and the quicker we can all move along the better.
posted by BeerFilter at 10:10 PM on August 10, 2011


OpenOffice indeed.
posted by davejay at 10:11 PM on August 10, 2011


Sorry, yes I meant Libreoffice, still keep forgetting the namechange.
posted by smoke at 10:28 PM on August 10, 2011


Sure: Open/LibreOffice.org, etc. That's certainly how I live my life outside of work. I'm constrained to adminstering a Windows Server 28 network serving 25 Windows workstations. So, yes, I'll continue to take advantage of superior alternatives for Linux in my personal life. This is all about finding the best Adobe killer for a network of Windows PCs. Thanks for all suggestions so far -- I'll be testing them tomorrow!
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 10:36 PM on August 10, 2011


Hmm, not sure what you're talking about there. LibreOffice is not just Linux; there is a windows build I'm running on my XP laptop right now.

I'm not saying it's THE solution for you, but installing a program is installing a program, and it does the [windows] job fine on my pc.
posted by smoke at 10:39 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that most freeware is licensed for personal use, not for business use, so using it for work would likely run afoul of that if you care about such things. And yeah, Open/LibreOffice are available for a variety of platforms including Windows.
posted by katyggls at 10:44 PM on August 10, 2011


I find CutePDF works fine for docs unless you have embedded links in which case they get stripped out.
OpenOffice keeps the links intact when exporting a doc as pdf.
posted by adamvasco at 11:40 PM on August 10, 2011


My favourite is bullzip or the aforementioned PrimoPDF. All other options (and I've tried a staggeringly large number of them) are subjectively more rubbish than my selection.
posted by seanyboy at 12:39 AM on August 11, 2011


Libreoffice works fine on Windows 7 (I use 3.3.3. as 4 had some problems with Word documents) and PDF creator creates very nice PDFs.
posted by joannemullen at 12:50 AM on August 11, 2011


Do you use the security features of Acrobat? If so then many of the free alternatives won't be good enough for you as they create a document with no security whatsoever.

I use dopdf because its simple and does the job just fine. However I have no need to prevent people from printing or copying text out of the pdf.
posted by mr_silver at 1:42 AM on August 11, 2011


LibreOffice, pdfforge or get a Mac and PDF generation is built into the OS.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:00 AM on August 11, 2011


FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.): " if I want to PDF-print an image or a PowerPont slide or a page on a website or a screenshot or something else"

If you're running Windows 7 (or Vista), the built-in Snipping Tool works great for creating a PNG out of anything on your screen.

Start > All Programs > Accessories > Snipping Tool

If you really a need a simple PDF printer without the bells and whistles, here's another vote for CutePDF Writer, which I've used for several years.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:32 AM on August 11, 2011


nth PDFCreator: You can also use it to print to png, jpeg, multipage Tiff, RAW, and just about anything else you can name. Left to the default settings it is as good as CutePDF and just as simple (Well ok, you have to press 1 more button each time, but it lets you set the author and title however you want.)

However it can also merge different documents into 1 PDF, and a thousand other things pretty easily. Also it has a cooler name, animation, and gets more regular bug-patches.

(Or you could write all your documents in LaTeX......ok ok, I'll go sit in the corner now)
posted by Canageek at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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