Make a Quality PDF Without Owning Acrobat

February 19, 2004 - 2:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

I was at a colleague's design studio the other day, and she was a little stressed out. She needed to send a PDF of a Quark 4 document to a client asap, but she didn't own Acrobat.

Normally that wouldn't be a problem for my friend — her lead designer, who works out of his home, has Acrobat and does all the PDFing for the studio — but he wasn't around. And the client needed the PDF *now*.

If she were running OS X, we could've tried opening the Quark 4 file in Quark 6 or InDesign, and "cheating" a PDF by using Apple's built-in Save As PDF function. This button appears in every OS X-compatible program's Print dialog. It doesn't create press-ready PDFs but it provides "good enough" ones in many situations.

Alas, she was still running OS 9, like a lot of designers.

Then it hit me — let's try Adobe's free "Create a PDF Online" service! I had run across the site a few times over the past year but never needed to use it.

We went to the Adobe site to look for a link to the service. Adobe keeps it well-hidden. According to Google, only one page in the vast landscape of has a link to the service, the main Acrobat Pro product page:

…scroll down and look in the right hand column for a little image that says "Create Adobe PDF Online," and click it.

Or go right to the site (bookmark this because you'll never find it again):

Adobe's Create PDF Online service allows you to upload a regular document to their server — Microsoft Office files, most Adobe program files, most image format files, AutoCAD, WordPerfect, Rich Text, and PostScript files. They create a PDF out of it and either e-mail it to you or e-mail a link to where you can download it. You can even upload a Paper Capture type of file and they'll OCR it for you (convert a scanned page to searchable text).

The first five PDF conversions are free, so there's nothing to lose.

After registering my friend's e-mail address with the site, we wrote the Quark 4 file to PostScript and uploaded it. The turnaround from uploading a file to getting your completed PDF isn't specified explicitly, as far as I could tell, but her 12-page PDF came through in just a few minutes. And it was perfect! We checked it in Reader and then sent it off to her client.

Crisis averted! Thanks, Adobe.

When you've used up your free trial you have to sign up for one of the paid subscriptions: Either $9.99 a month or $99.99 for a full year of as many PDF conversions as you want, subject to their restrictions (which are pretty lenient). Compared to Acrobat Pro's SRP of $449, that's a bargain.

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