From the Kenosha News on 12-18-05

Use free software to view and create PDFs

If you get forms or brochures on-line, you’re probably familiar with PDF files. PDF stands for “portable document format,” and it provides a universal way to distribute documents. The documents that most benefit from a PDF format are ones that are very complex and/or are designed not to be modified. For example, if you want to download a form to fill out and mail in or a brochure for a travel destination, it will most likely be in PDF format. Once in a PDF format, the document will always look exactly the same as the original.

In order to view PDFs on the web, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader software. It is generally pre-installed on new computers, or you can get it for free on-line at www.adobe.com. Click on the link for Adobe Reader. You can get versions for Windows, MacOS, and even PDAs like Palm and PocketPC. It may suggest that you’d be better off with the full Adobe Acrobat version, but if all you want to do is view PDFs, get the free Reader. Once Adobe Reader is installed, each time you click a link to a PDF, Reader will launch automatically and open the file.

Since PDFs are often fairly large, opening and viewing them can take time, especially over slower internet connections. If you want to try a few samples, here are some interesting items in PDF format:

Once you open a PDF, you’ll notice you have a new toolbar, including new buttons to save, print, search, and so on. Use those instead of the buttons for your browser. The arrows at the bottom allow you to move from page to page.

With Adobe Reader, you cannot modify the document or fill in an on-line form. To do that, you would need Adobe Acrobat – the full version – which can cost over $200! If you only want to create PDFs from your own documents, you can download a free program called PDF995. Its only caveat is that it displays a “sponsor screen” each time you create a PDF unless you pay $9.95 to register the program. Go do http://pdf995.com and click on the link to download the PDF995 printer driver. Once that is downloaded, it will prompt you to download the converter as well; both are needed. After you install the second piece, a screen will display with instructions how to create the PDF.

Basically, PDF995 appears as a printer driver in your other programs such as Word, Excel, or Photoshop. You then print your file to the pdf995 “printer” and choose a name and location for the PDF file it creates. Nothing actually prints, but the resulting PDF is displayed on your screen. You can then print the file, share it via e-mail, or put it on your web site.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 12-18-05