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.
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…
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.
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!