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2015 Donald R. Snow

These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter, and are posted on  where there may be updates, corrections, or additions.

2015 Donald R. Snow
These Freeware Corner notes are published in TAGGology, our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG) monthly newsletter, and are posted on  where there may be updates, corrections, or additions.

PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is a file format that has been accepted worldwide since it prints exactly the same no matter what computer, operating system, or printer you are using.  Many organizations such as the LDS Church have adopted this format for all their manuals, handbooks, magazines, conference reports, etc.  To form pdf's programmers have written small programs called pdf printers that install on your computer in the printer menu so anything you send to the regular printer is redirected to form a pdf file instead.  You just select that as the printer instead of your regular hardcopy printer and it asks you what to name the file and where to save it.  This file can then be archived, copied, emailed, or printed, as needed.   PDF printers are sometimes called pdf virtual printers or writers and many are free.  This article will discuss several free ones and give some ideas about using them.

CutePDF Writer --
doPDF --
Doro PDF Writer -- 
PrimoPDF -- --
Each of these is small, easy to install, and easy to use.  An article that lists and reviews these and several other free pdf printers is .  This is a website that I have subscribed to and trust their recommendations.  Some free pdf printers put a watermark on the first page and some put one on every page.  None of the above do, but if you want to use one that puts a mark on the first page, just include a blank page at the start and discard that page after the pdf is formed.  To delete the first page of the pdf use a pdf editor.  See my class notes PDF's AND DOCUMENTS on my webpage  for information and links.  PDF printers usually have a setting so that as soon as the pdf is saved you see it in your default pdf reader, e.g. Adobe or Sumatra or many others.

Instead of printing to pdf, you might want to save a webpage to pdf.  Some browsers have built-in pdf printers, e.g. Firefox, so you don't need an extra pdf printer program.  Sometimes when you print to pdf you want all Internet hyperlinks to be active in the pdf so when someone clicks on them in the pdf they take them to that website.  This includes both links starting with  http:// ,  as well as words that are hyperlinked.  Most pdf printers will not yield pdf's with active Internet links unless you are printing from a word processor (LibreOfrfice, OpenOffice, Word, etc.) where you have the links in the doc file already.  To make pdf's of webpages, not just screenshots, etc., and keep the links active there are extensions in browsers that will do this.  In Firefox use Print Pages to Pdf -- .  In Chrome use CleanPrint and Save -- .  There are also readability programs that install in browsers to save webpages in more readable form, e.g.  Print Friendly & PDF , Clearly (for Evernote) , and  Readability .  However, these readability programs usually change the format of the page, so even though you are forming a pdf with active hyperlinks, it doesn't look exactly the same as what you saw on screen.  For some uses that is fine, but not for others.

1.  Set one as the default printer on your computer
I set a pdf printer as the default printer on my computer.  Then when I am ready to print something, I print it to pdf and see if it is exactly the way I want before I make hardcopies.  At present I am using CutePDF as my default pdf printer, but I have used several others.  When I'm sure it looks the way I want, I save the pdf with a name that describes what's in it, and then print the hardcopy from that.
2.  Keep a pdf copy of your hardcopy stuff
The pdf on my computer is an exact copy of whatever I printed from it, and, if it's for a class, I can show the pdf on-screen or use it to print more copies when I need them.  I do all the handout notes for my family history classes this way. 
3.  PDF's are easier to find than hardcopies
If you name them appropriately, pdf's are easier to find than hardcopies in a file cabinet somewhere.  Besides, for many things I don't need hardcopies.  For example, when I order something online, I do a screenshot pdf of the order and label it so I can tell what the file is and with the date.  For screenshots to pdf I usually use the free  FastStone Capture 5.3  which has many more features than other screen capture programs.  I especially like its ability to capture to pdf an entire scrolling-screen window.  It can save files in various formats, but for documents I usually use pdf.  The freeware program EVERYTHING -- -- makes finding them on my computer very easy. 
4.  Use pdf printer to convert tif's or jpg's to pdf's
By printing tif's or jpg's, or any other format of file, to a pdf you can covert files to pdf's.  There are pdf conversion programs, but printing to pdf does the job quickly and easily.
5.Family Ordinance Requests (FOR's) for the temple
FamilySearch Family Tree already has a way to print FOR's to pdf, but printing them to a pdf printer works too.  With the FOR as a pdf you can email it to someone else to print and take to their temple or FamilySearch Library to get the ordinance cards made and you don't have to snail-mail cards.  Some temples can even print the ordinance cards if you just have the barcode number of the FOR on your smartphone and you don't even have the hardcopy FOR.

If you haven't tried a pdf printer, download one and give it a try.  You may find it a help when you are thinking of printing something.