Low-cost Alternative to Adobe Acrobat for PDF Creation/editing

PDF..the Portable Document Format is associated with Adobe Acrobat, and rightfully so, since they are the ones who developed it. It is a powerful tool that allows almost universal ability to read and view documents, regardless of the program that was used to produce the original material. This is the main reason that many forms, applications, and other documents are made available for download in the pdf format. The utility to open and view the documents, Acrobat Reader, (currently at version 7.05 and counting), is available free from the Adobe site. The newest version even comes with an enhanced ability to make comments or notes on a document and save the result, provided that the originator enabled that function.

What if you want to do more than just read the document? What if you want to delete a few items or pages, or add a few? Or make even more involved changes? What if you want to create your own PDF’s? You can do all this and much more too if you want to purchase the full Acrobat program. Have you got $299.00 + Tax (standard edition) or $449.00 +Tax (Pro edition) in loose change in your pocket that you just feel a need to get rid of? (Well, you could always send it to this author!) That’s what the full editions will likely set you back. I have the current edition (Pro) on my computer and it can do a lot of things very well, but I only added it recently because I got a great deal on it from a friend. Before I got Acrobat, I did an exhaustive search for alternatives (free or low-cost alternatives) to the pricey Acrobat suite. I found many offerings at free download sites-most of these were a 30-day free-trial (shareware), and some were offered totally free. Most of the programs I tried did an adequate job of creating PDF documents; the differences came in what extras they could do.

The first thing to understand is that pdf creation is not something mysterious. These utilities can create full fledged pdf files by using a modified print engine. Think of it as if you have another, imaginary “printer” attached to your computer (only this one doesn’t take up any space, needs NO CABLES and never needs new ink cartridges!) and this printer churns out pdf filesâÂ?¦from anything you tell it to. That’s right. ANY application that allows you to print (just about everything) will allow you to create a pdf document. Including the internet. See a webpage you want to save? Make it into a pdf by clicking a mouse. Text, pictures and all. An auction on eBay you want to watch? Create a pdf from the page. The resulting files look great too-clean and sharp. They also e-mail well, since the file sizes tend to be more efficient.

If you are using anything other than Adobe Acrobat for this, you will probably end up installing a program plus another, open-source file (called Ghostscript) which will allow you to perform this “magic” with a few clicks whenever you want. It’s really a simple install and should not pose a problem for anyone with any computer experience at all. At the end of this article I will cover what I consider to be the absolute best of these alternative programs and it can load the Ghostscript utility for you. In effect, you actually DO install another “printer”, which will show up on your printer menu anytime you invoke the print function (just like the win XP fax “printer”).

Creating a pdf document out of that webpage, or letter or whatever is great but that is only scratching the surface. So let’s look at what else you can do and you can decide what is important or what you might want. One of the great features of PDF is the ability to create “booklets” from many single files. I am currently auctioning baseball cards on eBay and every time I sell one, I create a pdf of the auction page. When I get a bunch, I merge them into a single booklet. I can put in a table of contents and arrange them any way I want. This brings up another feature-merging files and re-arranging them. Or adding more to an existing booklet? Or deleting a few? These are functions that most of the alternative programs can do, with varying degrees of user-friendliness. If this is the extent of what you want to do, you can probably find a few that will do it for no cost, but there is a big gap between $0 and $449. There are also a lot of commercial products in the $50.00-$99.00 range that will do all that and some added functions. I am now going to tell you about the one I found that I have to recommend, unconditionally. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was the best $?? that I ever spent on software of any kind.

The program is called PDFill. It was originally developed to offer the ability to fill out on-line forms and submit them at a later time. Then they added the ability to create your own pdf forms, complete with checkboxes, radio-buttons, text-boxes etc from a scanned document, from scratch, or from an on-line form. Then they added a whole suite of pdf tools and this suite just keeps getting bigger and better. Once you pay for the license (a real bargain) you get free support and upgrades for LIFE! With the tool set you can:

  1. Merge PDF files into one large one.
  2. Split off or re-order pages
  3. Encrypt/decrypt files with security options
  4. Rotate or even crop pdf pages (including pdf photos)
  5. Reformat multiple pages into one page – comes in handy if you convert several smaller photos into individual pdf’s-you can make them into an album page
  6. Add header or footer information
  7. Add a watermark (by text or an image)
  8. convert images (.bmp, .jpg, .png, .gif, .tif, .wmf) into pdf
  9. convert pdfs into images (.png, .jpg, .bmp, .tiff)
  10. Create or fill forms using pdf and e-mail them
  11. convert post-script files into pdf’s.

These are the main features but there may even be more that I never used. An interesting note is that the reformatting of multiple pages into one is something that I have not been able to duplicate with even the full pro edition of Acrobat! I purchased a license for this program, the day after I started my 30day trial, about a year and a half ago and I still use it even with the full Acrobat. It has gone up in price since then and is still a bargain for what you get at $19.99 (I paid $9.99). If you want to get your feet wet in the format that is the likely front-runner to global universality and will permit all of us to collaborate on all sorts of projects, then this is the best $19.99 you will spend. Creating fully searchable pdf documents is a big step forward in taming the paper document monster that threatens to swallow all of us.

So where do you go to get this wundertool? Here is the URL: http://www.pdfill.com/

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