As I wrote in my weekly email newsletter (sign up here), one of my subscribers wanted to know about a free program to let him fill in PDF forms.
The Portable Document Format (PDF) was created by Adobe to be a cross-platform document display tool. Whether the user is using Windows, Mac, Linux or some other operating system, if they are using Adobe Reader to read a PDF file, the displayed document will look the same. I wish we could say that about word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software…
Adobe had the sole control of the PDF world for a long time, with their free Adobe Reader program (originally called Adobe Acrobat Reader) and their flagship product Adobe Acrobat, which created the PDF files.
In today’s world, Adobe Acrobat is available in multiple different versions (and different prices).
Also, in today’s world, very little computer hardware and software documentation comes in printed form. Now, vendors distribute their manuals on CDROM’s using the PDF format.
For most users who want to create professional-feeling PDF files, or want to keep ultimate control of what their reader can do with the file, there’s Adobe Acrobat Standard package. Owners of previous versions can upgrade
for a reasonable price.
For the more demanding person, who needs even more features, the Adobe Acrobat Professional
package is available. Of course, owners of previous "Pro" versions can Adobe Acrobat Professional Upgrade to the latest Adobe Acrobat Professional for much less than the cost of a new copy.
I use Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 at work, but I would probably have been just as happy with the Standard version. One of the main functions I use is its ability to take a scanned document and then use Optical Character Recognitionn (OCR) to turn the scanned images of text into text that I can select and copy — or, more often, that I can search.
There are many other ways to create PDF files today, for much less cost. Of course, these other methods are not as flexible and do not provide all the functions and controls of Adobe’s versions.
I use the program ClickBook MMX routinely to document my purchases on the Internet. Instead of embedding images, text and fonts into the PDF document as Adobe Acrobat does, ClickBook acts as a computer "printer" — and creates each printed page as a full-page image in the PDF document. This is just what I want when I’m trying to create electronic copies of the order page, the pages describing the product, and my receipt. I’ve used ClickBook for about several years and highly recommend this product.
ClickBook’s other major feature, which distinguishes it from all the other PDF creation programs, including Adobe Acrobat, is that you "print" to the ClickBook program. Then, you can print multiple different times (reread the paragraph on how I use the program), change the order of the pages, decide not to print some of them, and then save them all in one big PDF file. Others make you save each print task individually. Some, like Adobe Acrobat, let you add the resulting files together to make a bigger document, but it’s a separate set of steps.
There are even free programs that create PDF files. Most of the free versions are evaluation versions that print a banner at the top or bottom of the PDF pages.