One of the most exciting things about the internet is the way that it simplifies the sharing of information. There are so many ways that you can do this but the most important thing to consider is will my visitor be able to open what I have created. I received a file from a colleague who saved it using Mac Pages but since I was using a PC I could not open it. Luckily this format contains a hidden PDF sample so I was able to open that. PDF is one of the most common formats for sharing documents and the great advantage is that you know your work will display to your clinet in exactly the same way it displays for you – even if you use different paper sizes like A4 in Australia and UK or Letter in the US.
In this article I will cover a simple way to create a PDF file from any application which can print. I will also cover briefly some of the other options you have to protect your work with passwords so that it cannot be copied or changed.
Open Source PDF creation tools
I have a number of licensed PDF creation tools but I still find that open source PDF Creator from PDFForge is one of the best I have used. It is simple and it is also free for personal or commercial use (donations to the creators are optional but appreciated). Download the installer for you computer. When installing the application there will be an option to install the PDF Toolbar – I do not install this optional component as it does not seem to add any real value and regularly checks for updates which can trigger alarms on some security software. Simply uncheck the boxes when asked if you want to install it as shown here.
Once the installation is complete the PDF Creator will appear as if it were a normal printer, I have chosen to have this as the default so that I create electronic paper rather than tree consuming paper as my first option.
So now you can simply choose this printer instead of your regular printer and it will allow you to save or email the resulting PDF document. To try this out, open up any document, or even print this article, then choose ‘print’. You will see the normal print dialogue box with a list of printers installed on your computer, this time choose the PDF Creator – the next thing you will see is a dialogue box that allows you to add information to your PDF and choose what to do with it. Save is my most common choice and if you tick the checkbox it will open up the resulting PDF when you are done.
Adding security to your PDF documents is simple
It took me a little while to locate the security option within PDF Creator but once you get there you have lots of options such as – prevent copying (the reader can not select text and copy it to another document), prevent printing, even prevent the document being opened without a password.
First open up PDF Creator by locating it in your start menu or application menu. The PDFCreator PDF Print monitor will open up. You can use this application for all sorts of things like combining documents and directly printing screen shots to PDF – but more on that another time.
Using the PDF Print monitor, choose options (from the icon shown here as #1 or from the menu under Printer). On the second dialogue box that appears click on the PDF icon on the right hand side (#2) then the Security Tab (#3). You can now see checkbox that enables you to use security and a list of all the options you can use.
Now you need to choose a password for your document and make sure you record it carefully. I use password management software that helps generate passwords and keep track of them. You can read about that in my article on password management. It is really important that you have a good quality password here and that you keep track of it effectively – particularly if you are producing a large number of documents
I love the PDF format because it is so easy to share your work with others and have it appear as you expect. It is much more portable and secure than other options and is a very common standard on the internet.
Here’s to your publishing success,
your ‘peoples geek’