How to Print to PDF

A newsletter reader asked today, “How can I save an image on a web site, such as a census page image, as a PDF file?” I decided to answer here in the newsletter in case someone else has the same question.

The short answer is, “there are several methods of saving images to PDF files.” However, I will expand on that with longer answers below. First, you need to save the image to your computer’s hard drive in almost any format. With most web pages, that means saving it in the same format that is used on the web site. Then you need to convert it to PDF. In many programs, that is called “print as PDF.”

The following is for converting specific images, not for saving entire web pages as PDF files. I will later tell how to save entire web pages as PDF files.

Saving the image

In most web browsers, go to the web page of interest, move the mouse icon over the image you wish to save, right click with the mouse, and select “Save image as…” You will then need to select where to save it and also give the newly-saved file a name. On my Mac computer I keep a folder called Downloads where I place all newly-downloaded files. This is also the default folder for downloads on most Windows computers. Then I can later convert any file in that folder to whatever format I wish and save it to an appropriate folder for long-term storage. Every few weeks or so I delete all the older files in the Downloads folder as I no longer need them. You might want to do something similar just to keep things organized.

Macintosh

Apple includes all the needed PDF software with every Mac. Use Finder to go to the Downloads directory (or wherever you saved the image), double-click on the image and wait for it to display on your screen. Unless you have changed your system settings, the image will be displayed in Preview. Within Preview, select FILE in the upper left corner, then select PRINT. A new pop-up window will appear. Click on PDF, and then select “Save as PDF” from the selection list that appears. Follow the menus, and your new PDF file will be saved wherever you specified.

The Macintosh also has a second program that can be very useful. Preview is sort of a Swiss Army Knife for images of all sorts. If nothing else is available, display the image you wish to save on your screen and then launch Preview. Select FILE and then select TAKE SCREEN SHOT. Select the area of the screen you wish to save. Once the captured image is shown within Preview, select FILE and then select EXPORT AS PDF…

Windows

Microsoft does not include PDF software in Windows although some companies that manufacture computers that use the Windows operating system have added this capability to their systems. Microsoft created the company’s own version of portable document files, called XPS. However, XPS files never became very popular, and you rarely find XPS files on web pages. In any case, a number of third-party companies have created software to add the capability of creating PDF files on any Windows computer.

Probably the most expensive and full-featured solution for creating PDF files on Windows is to install Adobe Acrobat.

NOTE: You will need the full version of Adobe Acrobat, not the free Adobe Reader that only displays existing PDF files.

Adobe Acrobat sells for $449, or you can opt for a monthly subscription for $19.99 a month. Due to Adobe’s high prices and the available products from Adobe’s competitors, I would never purchase Adobe Acrobat. However, if you are interested, you can learn more at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat.html.

doPDF is a FREE Windows program that will create PDF files. Once installed, it creates a new, “virtual printer driver” in your computer that is called doPDF. You print to this “printer” exactly as you print to a regular printer: with the desired document open on your computer, click on File –> Print and select doPDF from your list of printers. When you then click on Print, the result will be a PDF file, not a printed piece of paper. You can find doPDF at http://www.dopdf.com.

CutePDF Writer is a popular free “print to PDF” product that operates in much the same manner as doPDF. The same company also sells (for $49.95) CutePDF Professional, which adds capabilities such as the ability to create PDF booklets, combine multiple PDF files into one, add watermarks, edit forms, add comments, add headers and footers, rearrange pages, security, digital signature, scan, FTP, and more. I suspect most genealogists will be satisfied with the free version. Details may be found at http://www.cutepdf.com/.

PrimoPDF is also a very popular free program to create PDF files with Windows. The company’s web site claims that PrimoPDF has been downloaded more than 27 million times. The company also sells other products to convert PDF files to Word format, to edit existing PDF files, and more. Again, I suspect most genealogists will be satisfied with the free version. Details about PrimoPDF may be found at http://www.primopdf.com/.

You can find quite a few other programs that will create PDF files on a Windows computer. The above list is simply a list of the more popular products and are ones that I know will work well. A quick Google search will undoubtedly find other PDF products as well although I may not be as familiar with each of them.

If you have any of the above products, you can convert almost anything that appears on your screen into a PDF file, including web pages. In fact, the same will usually work for Microsoft Word, Excel, Facebook, and many, many more applications. In most cases, use the web browser (or Word or Excel or whatever application you choose) as normal. To save to a PDF file, select FILE in the upper left corner, then select PRINT and choose “Save as PDF.” (The exact wording might be slightly different, depending upon which print-to-PDF product you have installed. However, the wording should be close to “Save as PDF.”)

Save an entire web page as a PDF file

If you have none of the above products installed but wish to save a web page as a PDF file, you can use the Web2PDF web site to create PDF files for you. This free, cloud-based service will read any publicly-available web page and convert it to a PDF file which you can then save on your own computer. It won’t save password-protected pages, however, as the service has no method of logging onto such pages. You can learn more about this free service at http://www.web2pdfconvert.com/.

The Chrome web browser also has a built-in method of saving web pages to PDF files. You do not have to install any special software in your computer nor any extensions in your browser because Google Chrome itself acts as the PDF writer. Open any web page inside Google Chrome, press Ctrl+P (or Cmd+P if you are on a Mac) to open the Print dialog, and change the destination. The entire web page will be saved to your computer as a PDF file. My experience with creating PDF files from the Chrome browser is that resultant PDF files often are not an exact copy of the original. Formatting tends to be erratic. I would suggest using one of the above programs instead of the Chrome browser whenever possible. I bet you will then be happier with the results.

Summation

The above methods are quick and easy solutions to creating PDF files. However, once created, PDF files can be changed, appended to, converted, extracted, and more. One resource that I use frequently is the PDF Tutorial at http://www.labnol.org/software/adobe-pdf-guide-tutorial/6296/. It has very brief descriptions of things that can be done with PDF files and, in many cases, links to more detailed descriptions of the various tasks.

Have fun with PDF!

18 Comments

I use Libre Office, which will save as PDF on Windows.

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I recommend looking at Nuance’s suite of Pdf software. I’ve been using their products for years and am very happy with them. Their Professional Pdf Converter, which I’m now using, is very functional; easily extract pages from a downloaded book and convert them into a new Pdf for source documents. It sells for around $50, but look at Amazon and eBay – I got my copy for $25.

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    Bob, I’m also using a product by Nuance…….Paper Port 12 is my scanning program and I can print ANYTHING from the web to it. I just love it !!!

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Some of the free Windows PDF print utilities will install additional software/adware that you don’t want. Most of these have a box during the install that you can uncheck, but do a web search on the product name and adware to make sure that it isn’t one which gives you no choice at all.

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Safari on Mac also has the link “Print” , When my Epson printer window opens, I click the PDF button and then “save as PDF” which opens a window where I can select any file to have it saved to. I use this all the time rather than printing items from the web.

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PDFCreator or TinyPDF are others to try for Windows.

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Anyone know how to insert a hyperlink in a pdf file – a webpage or an email address?

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    PDF files can have hyperlinks but not all programs used to create PDF files have that capability. Therefore, “it all depends” upon the program being used to create the PDF file.

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    Can you name any programs that would have this capability, that I might already have installed on my computer?
    Thanks.

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I love my Foxit Reader program. Like Adobe Reader, It is a PDF reader program but it allows me to print to it, creating a PDF file. I can also do editing in the form of highlighting, drawing, and adding text notes.

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I’m wondering how to create a single pdf file on my mac from multiple pages of a book transferred from my old pc. I know how to scan images into a multiple page pdf, but these pages already exist as individual jpeg images and I’d like to have them in one pdf file. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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Actually, it is way simpler on the Mac than the long many step description provided in the article. STEP 1: With your web page as the active screen, do a Command-P or choose Print from the File menu. STEP 2: From the PDF popup menu in the lower left of the print dialog box, choose Save as PDF and make sure it is saving to the location you desire. STEP 3: Click the Print button. That’s it. Note: If you have PDF sensitive apps such as Evernote, Dropbox, etc…, there will be a choice further down the popup’s menu choices to save the PDF directly into those apps.

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    Correct. The method you described is simpler and works well if you want to print the entire web page. However, the article above describes how a person can save JUST THE IMAGE as a PDF file as was asked by the newsletter reader. Saving only part of the page as a PDF file does require a few more steps.

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I’m a bit confused about your statement that you need the full-blown version of Adobe Acrobat to print to a pdf file if you use Windows. I’ve never had the full version of Adobe and have used nothing but Windows, and I save/print to pdf all the time, and have done so for a very long time. I am also glad I learned how, because it immediately cut down the amount of printing to paper I did by a significant amount. Many of the Windows-based programs I use easily save to pdf (e.g. Word) and Google Chrome gives me the same option as well when I use the print command (I just set the printer destination as “PDF”). I’ve also had printers with software that allows my computer to save to pdf.

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I have used Photoshop Elements (several different versions) to convert a .jpg or similar format to PDF. Also if the item saved as a Word Doc there is an option to save as a PDF.
Just another option without downloading something else.

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THe IBM version of Open Office, Lotus Symphony, saves the links when converted into a PDF. I use it to send out copies of presentations (created in their version of PowerPoint) to our local Genealogy Society. I expect any version of Open Office would do the same. That would include word-like docs and spreadsheets as well.

Paid Evernote also saves as a PDF, but the free version saves as HTML so I use the “print to PDF” trick.

THanks for reminding me of all the options.

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The best thing I found to save to a PDF or print a web page w/o the extraneous stuff on the page you don’t want is CleanPrint. It resides in your favorites and when you are on a web page you want to save as a pdf file, just go to your favorites and click on it. A screen will come up with the capture of the web page and you can delete what you don’t want, then save. I use it for crochet patterns on the web that are not in PDF form.

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