The PDF format allows us to share information in read mode. It is very convenient for digitalising business cards, invoices, reports and pretty much any kind of document that we don’t need to edit but want to have at hand.
The PDF format was created in the 90s and PDF documents soon became the standard because of how easy they are to open, share and read. Nowadays PDF documents can be opened and read from all kinds of devices, from desktop computers to laptops and smartphones.
But what if you want to create a PDF document from a Word or an Excel file? Some years back the only solution was to buy a paid version of Adobe Acrobat, which allowed users to create PDFs from scratch, edit them, etc. Nowadays that same process is much simpler.
On Macs, the option of creating PDF documents is available by default, while in Windows all you have to do is install one of the many virtual printers available online. Let’s see how they work.
How to create PDF documents on a Mac
You have created a text document, a spreadsheet, a drawing or a presentation and you want to save it as a PDF so that you can easily share it, later on, with friends, contacts or clients.
On Macs, the process is as easy as activating the Print command (CMD+P) from within the application in which you’re viewing or editing the document, then, instead of selecting a printer, in the printing pop-up window you’ll find the option PDF in the bottom left corner. Clicking on it will open a drop-down menu allowing you to open the PDF in Preview Mode, save the document as a PDF, share it by e-mail or via Messages or update it to your virtual iCloud space, among other options.
When selecting Save as PDF, you’ll get the option to change the document’s author name, its title, and even to encrypt and password protect it to prevent others from opening or printing it without your permission.
How to create PDF documents in Windows
Creating PDF documents is as easy in Windows as it is in Mac OS. The only difference is that to do so you will first have to install a virtual printer.
Unless you have Windows 10, which includes a virtual printer by default called Microsoft Print to PDF. Just as with Mac, you’ll simply have to activate the Print (CTRL+P) command from whichever document viewer or editor you happen to be using and select the aforementioned virtual printer.
If the virtual printer isn’t duly configured or the documents it creates don’t display properly, you’ll have to go to Configuration > Devices > Printers and scanners, then click on Add a printer or a scanner, select the option “The printer that I want isn’t listed” and in the window that will appear, displaying the text Find a printer using other means , select the last option, then in the following window, select Use an existing port and choose the option FILE: (Print to a file). In the next window that will appear, you need to choose the printer driver, which in this case is Microsoft > Microsoft Print To PDF. Lastly, make sure that you select the option Use the currently installed driver (recommended) and accept the printer name filled in by default.
Virtual printers for creating PDF documents
If you use a Windows version older than Windows 10, you will have to install a virtual printer if you want to be able to convert any kind of document to PDF.
There are many different options available and they all work in pretty much the same way: they create a new printer in the section Printers and scanners and when you select “Print”, you then choose that printer, which will create the PDF for you.
The difference between the different virtual printers available is that some of them have additional options that others don’t, such as password-protecting your PDF documents to prevent them from being printed or opened by unwanted parties, or even the ability to add notes.
Bullzip Free PDF Printer
Bullzip Free PDF Printer is a free virtual printer that has paid advanced options. It is compatible with Windows XP and higher, and Windows Server 2003 and higher.
Among the extra functions that it includes are the possibility of encrypting the document so that it can only be opened by inputting the correct password, of adding a watermark to your PDF to prevent unauthorized copies, or the ability to digitally sign your PDFs.
If you’re looking for a virtual printer that is as simple as possible, you’ll definitely like CutePDF Writer . It’s compatible with all versions of Windows, from Windows 98 onwards, and is ideally suited for old computers.
Its only inconvenience is that in order for it to work, you’ll also have to install Ghostscript.
DoPDF is another convenient virtual printer. It doesn’t require Ghostscript and is just as simple and easy to use, which also means that it doesn’t have any additional functions.
The creators of 7-PDF Printer offer several different versions of their product. In most cases the free version should be more than enough, as in addition to converting files to PDF, it also allows you to password protect your documents, add a watermark, create a separate PDF for each page of the original document, save it as an image file besides as a PDF (JPEG, PNG, EPS, PS, etc.), rotate pages, etc.
The free version of PrimoPDF is a simple virtual printer that includes password protection, as well as the option to customise the output resolution (allowing you to create better-looking documents, which on the other hand, take up more disk space).
They also commercialise a paid version that includes PDF to Word conversion and an editor so that you can change things after you’ve converted your document to PDF.