Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Making PDFs

Many years ago, Adobe software made one of the most astute decisions of a major software company.

They were selling their Adobe Acrobat software, a way to display files for download so they could keep their formatting. They also sold a reader, Adobe Acrobat Reader, for $50. The idea was to sell Acrobat and then sell the reader.

Sales were evidently slow. No one wanted to use Acrobat when no one had the reader, and no one wanted to buy the reader just to read the occasional file they might receive. Luckily, Adobe realized the situation and started giving away the reader as a free download. And now they were able to sell Acrobat, since you could make a PDF file ("PDF" originally stood for "Portable Document Format") and know the recipient could easily get the software to read it.

But Adobe didn't let other other software create the PDFs; for a long time, that could only be done by Acrobat. However, a few years ago, Adobe got another bright idea: license the technology of some of their earlier versions of Acrobat so others could develop PDF creation software. Thus Acrobat gets some money from outdated software, the others could sell (or give away) a PDF file creator, and those who wanted the newest features would still be buying the latest version of Acrobat.

I generally use PrimoPDF, though there are several others. You install them on you computer and they generally work the same way: they install a "printer" for PDFs that shows up among your list of printing. If you choose this as your printer, you can then make PDFs from any document.

This is a very nice tool, especially for those who only occasionally need to create PDFs.

Note to Siena Faculty/Staff: Installation requires administrative rights, so contact the helpdesk if you want to install the software.