Faster and easier way to view and create PDF files

March 30, 2007

All of us have come across PDF files while viewing documents via the Internet. Maybe to view a tax form, or an instruction manual for your washer, or a brochure. A neat thing about PDF documents is that they look almost exactly the same as their printed version — and if done correctly, one can even search for a certain word inside the PDF document. (If done incorrectly, the whole thing is like a series of pictures — and you then cannot search for certain words in that document.)

Adobe Reader logoBut what is NOT so neat is Adobe Reader — the premiere program used to view PDF files. It sometimes seems to take forever to start up, or takes up an inordinate amount of memory on your computer just sitting there waiting for you to open a PDF file. And if you wanted to create a PDF file — well, you had to purchase an Adobe Acrobat program (although several major word processors like Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect allows you to convert a document to PDF).

My recommendations (for PC computers / laptops — Macintoshes, scroll down):

  • Get Foxit ReaderFoxit PDF Reader — to read / view PDF files. It’s free. It opens quickly, and works pretty well with other programs. Make sure it’s configured to be the default PDF viewer.
  • PrimoPDFPrimoPDF 3 — to create PDF files. Also free. It’s tiny, and it only does one thing — but it does it well. It installs a new “printer” onto your list of printers, and can be accessed from just about any program. When you want to convert a document, webpage, spreadsheet, whatever to PDF, all you need to do is to print it, then select “PrimoPDF” from the list of printers. Then save it using the name you want, and that’s it.

Our lives are already pretty complicated — and PDF documents are supposed to simplify our lives. Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader don’t, and so that’s why I’m happy to recommend Foxit PDF Reader and PrimoPDF 3.

Mac OS X TigerUPDATE 3/30 at 8:35pm: Before, I said “Sorry, Macintoshes, you’re outta luck.” I was in error. Those who have OS X Tiger have PDF viewing and creation functionality built into the system. Too cool. But not cool enough for me to convert back to Mac’s, sorry.

(Thanks, Craig from Riverside, for reminding me about these wonderful programs and for clueing me in to Mac OS Tiger’s built-in PDF functionality!)

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