As you probably know, there are many different types of computer files, and different file types are generally opened by different applications. Doc files open in Word, xls files in Excel, jpg files in your image editor, html files in your web browser, and so on. All these different types of files are necessary, but you might occasionally run into a problem with portability. Maybe you want to send someone a spreadsheet but they don't have excel. Maybe you want to save a web page to your computer for later, but there's not really a good way to do that.
In situations like these, you can just save a pdf version of the file. Pdf readers (like Adobe Reader or Foxit) are freely available, so anyone can view the file from any computer. Also, pdf files are designed to be printed, so you can be sure that printing won't be a problem.
So how do you turn something into a pdf? You use a pdf writer like CutePDF or PrimoPDF. In this post, I'll demonstrate how to use CutePDF to generate a pdf our of any file you can print. This assumes that you use Windows, but I'm sure there are similar programs for Macs as well.
Step 1: Install CutePDF
Go to cutepdf.com and click on the "Free Download" link to download the installer. Once it's downloaded, run the installer and click through the steps just like you would with any other installation. The only thing to look out for is that it will give you the option to install a "crawler toolbar" which you should choose not to install.
Step 2: "Print" to pdf
Pdf files are a little unique, because you don't actually "save" them. The pdf format is sort of like a digital version of a printed sheet of paper, and they way you generate a pdf is to actually "print" it to your computer. If that doesn't make sense, don't worry. It will soon enough.
To get started, open up a file that you would like to turn into a pdf. This will work with any type of file that you can print such as a Word document, spreadsheet or web page. For this example, I'll print Bracken's blog post from earlier this week. So go ahead and open up the file, and then select the print option (just like if you were printing it to an actual printer). You'll see a menu.
Select the "CutePDF Writer" option and click on the "Print" button. A new box will pop up.
Navigate to the folder you want the file to be saved in, and click the "Save" button.
That's it. You now have a pdf version of the original file. You can open it with your normal pdf reader, email to a friend, print it, or save it for later. The one thing I should mention is that this pdf file won't necessarily look exactly like the original file. It will instead look like what the original file would have looked like if you had printed it. Web pages in particular don't always print well, so your pdf might look a little strange, but that's not CutePDF's fault.