VSJ – November 2005 – Sounding Board

Council Member Paul Lynham, FIAP kicks off our new-look Sounding Board (see October’s VSJ) with a review of PDF Creator.

Other than tools for application development (where I tend to use the most advanced features), I usually fall into to the 80% of the 80/20 rule i.e. 80% of the users only use 20% of the application’s functionality. In previous companies, I have used commercial offerings of PDF creation applications such as Adobe and Jaws, mainly for keeping user guides up-to-date after creating new features in the products I developed.

Recently, I needed to create a PDF from a Word document and looked around at what was available. One of the products I tried was PDF Creator  (V0.8.1 RC7), which is an Open Source application, available under the GNU General Public Licence. It downloaded and installed very quickly and within a couple of minutes I had my first PDF document created and open.

Screenshot 1

It is a very straightforward application to use and installs itself as a printer driver (screenshot 1). When you are ready to output your Word file to a PDF, you choose the print option, but instead of using your normal default printer, choose the PDF Creator from your list of printers. After clicking to print, up comes a dialog where you have the option of supplying some of the PDF’s properties. After supplying a filename, a small animated splash screen is displayed during the creation process and a few seconds later, the PDF opens in your default PDF reader (this behaviour is configurable).

The application has a host of options (screenshot 2) and comes with a help file, although I haven’t had to use this yet! I have been happily using it with the default settings, without any problems. Although I have only used it from Word, it will work from any Windows application, at least so long as it can print via the standard Windows printer.

Screenshot 2

Some commercial applications may install a new menu option in the File menu of Word that allows you to create a PDF from the document you are currently working on. The slight advantage here is that you don’t have to choose the printer, but on the downside, I have found that these menu options tend to remain after you have uninstalled the software!

Another look at screenshot 2 shows PDF Creator’s approach to this problem. It allows you to integrate the application into the shell as an option. When you do so, you can right click on a document such as a .RTF or .DOC and the local menu displays the option ‘Create PDF and Bitmap with PDF Creator’. Remove it and the menu option disappears.

PDF Creator is freely available from http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/ and if you like it, you can support the project by making a donation.

[Something you want to get off your chest or a gem you’d like to share? Email me (Robin Jones) at eo@iap.org.uk.]

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