How to Print to PDF From Any Application

PDF (Portable Document Format) is one of the most popular and widely accepted file formats. It’s used mainly for distributing various documents – when you send someone a PDF file you can be certain they’ll be able to view it, as multiple PDF viewers are available for every platform and OS. But first, you need to create the .pdf. There are several ways you could go about that – using a converter tool, a PDF-specific document editor, or printing a document to the PDF format. The latter approach, i.e. printing to PDF, is arguably the easiest one, so that’s the one I’ll explain in this article.

To print something to a PDF file, you will need to install a virtual “PDF printer”. There’s a number of freeware applications available – PrimoPDF, CutePDF, Pdf995 and so on. At their core, most of these are very similar – each installs a virtual printer driver that intercepts the specially formatted, printing-ready data that word processors and other applications send to the printer. The virtual printer then converts the data to the PDF format using a third party library (called Ghostscript) and saves the result in the location you specify.

So if all those print-to-pdf tools are so similar, which one should you pick? I recommend doPDF – a lightweight application that doesn’t require any additional software. Unlike most other PDF converters, with doPDF you only need to download & install one program and you’re set.

To create a PDF file from any document, first download and install doPDF. It’s very simple – there’s practically no configuration to worry about. Then open the source file in any editor that supports printing. Lets take Microsoft Word for this example (the procedure is nearly the same in any application). In Word, select “File — Print…” to open the “Print” dialog and choose “doPDF v6” from the printer name dropdown. doPDF will ask you where you want to save the .pdf file. Choose a location and let the virtual printer do it’s job. After the PDF has been created it will be automatically opened in your default PDF viewer.

Using a virtual PDF printer is the easiest way to convert files to PDF as it works with almost any file format. Now you’ve learned how to print to PDF from Word or any other application, and it probably took you less than 10 minutes – congratulations.

This article about printing to PDF was written by Janis Elsts, a techy blogger and web programmer. As a bonus tip, check out my tutorial about free PDF to Word converters – see how you turn a read-only PDF file back into an editable document.

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