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How to make a PDF file

Updated on March 22, 2014

What is PDF?

"How do I make a PDF file" was one of Flycatcher's questions from the "How To...How Do" quest list.

PDF is short for Portable Document Format. Adobe created the PDF file 20 years ago to enable computer users on a wide range of platform to share a document without any changes to the document's formatting and font types.

If you click open a PDF file, it will usually open in Adobe Reader or other PDF reader software. If you don't have Adobe Reader, it is free to download from Adobe's website.

But how do you create a PDF document from scratch?

Save a file as PDF - Save your MS Word doc as a PDF file

PDF file, screenshot, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Adobe PDF, pdf, make PDF
PDF file, screenshot, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Adobe PDF, pdf, make PDF

The good news is that you can save a text file from MS Word as a PDF file. In fact, you can use the "Save as .... Format ... PDF" on most text editors.

In MS Word for example, when you click "Save As..." you can open the drop down box which gives you different types of file options. If you select Portable Document File here, you will create your PDF file.

Just remember to save your file as a Word .doc or .docx file as well. That way you can edit it later in Word and save it as a PDF again. Most versions of MS Word can't open a PDF for editing, although MS Word 2013 apparently does have this feature.

But how do you EDIT a PDF file? - If you don't have the original Word version, you'll need some software

Adobe created the PDF format, and they still have the best software for making PDF's.

Adobe Acrobat is the software you need to get the most out of PDF files. With Acrobat you have a wide range of tools, commenting and sharing options for sharing the documents over the web and working with others on the document.

You can protect your contents by using digital signatures for copyright, setting passwords so that others cannot alter your files, and certificates.

Because of the way the PDF format compresses the file contents, you can also embed multimedia files into your document, including sound files, animations, Quicktime or AVI files and still have relatively small file sizes.

You can create forms with interactive buttons, and you can include attachments and interactive links to websites.

The version of Adobe Acrobat Pro I am using now is X, but XI is the newest release.

I have chosen four versions of the software for you to look at below, as well as the Acrobat XI Classroom in a Book.

I find the books easier to work with than the online help guides because with the book open in front of me I can work through whatever it is I am doing without flicking from the software screen to the help tab.

Acrobat XI Standard Win [Download] [Old Version]
Acrobat XI Standard Win [Download] [Old Version]

This is the PC download version of the standard software above.

If you live in the US and have a US billing address, you can buy it on Amazon and the software files will be sent electronically, immediately. Very convenient!

 
Adobe Acrobat XI Classroom in a Book
Adobe Acrobat XI Classroom in a Book

Read the manual! You can become a real pro with Acrobat XI when you work through the Classroom in a Book. With tips and tricks to get you really proficient, fast.

 
Adobe Acrobat XI Standard [Old Version]
Adobe Acrobat XI Standard [Old Version]

This is the latest Acrobat and the standard version of Acrobat XI for PC. With this version, you get an integrated Acrobat toolbar for Microsoft and browser applications for quickly turning documents and web pages into high-quality PDF files.

You can also create PDF documents from ANY desktop app that prints.

And you can convert back the other way - you can convert PDF files to Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint to PDF directly from your Office application in Windows.

 
Adobe Acrobat XI Professional Student and Teacher Edition [Old Version]
Adobe Acrobat XI Professional Student and Teacher Edition [Old Version]

At under $120, this is one of the cheapest versions of Acrobat, but you will need to verify you are a student or a teacher to purchase at this special price.

 

What Acrobat Pro looks like

PDF file, screenshot, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Adobe PDF, pdf, make PDF
PDF file, screenshot, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Adobe PDF, pdf, make PDF

When you open Acrobat Pro, you'll have a few different options for creating a new PDF.

I often work from documents created in other file formats eg Scrivener and Pages and I import them by saving them as a PDF then opening them in Acrobat.

PDF file, screenshot, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Adobe PDF, pdf, make PDF
PDF file, screenshot, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Adobe PDF, pdf, make PDF

This is one of the features I use most often when compiling content, especially for creating ebooks.

Once you create your files in your text editor, save them as a PDF.

You can select files you have already created and combine them into one document in just a few clicks. Just select the compile a PDF option and choose your files.

I use this method to compile separate chapters into ebooks. It is especially useful when you are collaborating on an ebook with a number of contributors, because when you use this compilation method, it is very easy to juggle the chapters to get the best topic flow.

pdf file, acrobat pro
pdf file, acrobat pro

You can re-order the files by drop and drag, the same way you drop and drag your Squidoo modules and widgets.

In this screenshot I have opened the Tools tab on the right of the document to give you a look at some of the editing options.

And there you have it, a beautifully compiled PDF file, which you can edit and tweak within Acrobat Pro until it's ready to share.

Have you ever had trouble using PDF files?

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    • FrancesWrites profile image
      Author

      FrancesWrites 3 years ago

      @BarbaraCasey: Thanks, Barbara, and you are right: you can create a PDF using Word easily, but you can't secure it from copy and paste.

      We used the security options on the initial publication of our "Be Depression Free Naturally" ebook, then switched to e-Junkie for our delivery and payment processing. e-Junkie has their own system of labelling each page of a PDF delivery for security. Then we updated the ebook and went to Kindle Direct Publishing, with their DRM.

      But the security function was valuable to us in the first version, and I've also seen it used in small offices to secure things like Statement of Work agreements and other contracts. It's very handy, though I do wish Adobe would offer an update version of their new software at a reduced price for existing customers, because upgrading regularly is costly!

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 3 years ago

      I have an even older version of Acrobat than yours... time for an upgrade, I think. Creating a PDF from Word is easy, but I don't think you can add "security" to it (to keep people from copying and pasting your work). With Adobe Acrobat you can. I like your use of screen shots here... really makes it easy to follow.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      Yes, I sure have had trouble, but they are valuable and it's much easier to use them now.

    • profile image

      Mobley5 4 years ago

      Really helpful lens. Thank you.

    • FrancesWrites profile image
      Author

      FrancesWrites 4 years ago

      @othellos: Happy to help othellos!

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Very informative lens. I solved all my questions from here. Thumps up and bookmarked for a later reference. Thanks for sharing:=)

    • FrancesWrites profile image
      Author

      FrancesWrites 4 years ago

      @Ardyn25: Thanks ardyn25!

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 4 years ago

      I've been wondering about PdF files and how you would go about making them. Thanks for the awesome post!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Great info.

    • FrancesWrites profile image
      Author

      FrancesWrites 4 years ago

      @TransplantedSoul: It is so good, I have used it for what I need to do but there is so much more it can do that I don't use. I agree, the upfront cost of software isn't cheap but I have used Pro X since early 2011. For nearly 2.5 years of usage, it's about 40 cents a day. Not bad, when you look at the life of the software.

    • FrancesWrites profile image
      Author

      FrancesWrites 4 years ago

      @Magda2012: Happy to help! Thanks for stopping by and commenting :-)

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      I use Acrobat Professional. It is expansive, but so powerful.

    • Magda2012 profile image

      Magda2012 4 years ago

      Sometimes..

      Thanks for sharing this, very useful.