I think I’ve made my dislike of Adobe known previously, but there are plenty of reasons to look for alternatives to Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader: Price, bloat, load time, and interface.
Make anything a PDF:
There are a lot of programs that use the same approach of a printer sub-system. I’ve listed a few of them and my notes below. Essentially where you would normally save a file, instead you print it. Instead of choosing a physical printer, you choose one of these virtual printers. Your computer thinks it is printing a document, but instead prompts your for a location to save the file. Any program that you can print a document from, you can turn into a PDF.
GreenPrint PDF GreenPrint has been previously discussed for its paper saving methods, but one feature that was overlooked was its simple PDF printer. Choose to print to the ‘Green Print PDF’ printer and you’ll be prompted where to save the file and very quickly receive the file. This was the most accurate translator of the PDF printers that I tried.
PDFCreator PDFCreator allows for metadata to be added to your PDF as you save the file. Other than that it’s fairly standard.
CutePDF CutePDF is a tiny download and earns its place on the list.
doPDF doPDF doesn’t take the standard approach like a few other PDF printers here and doesn’t use ghostscript. This makes for a small install and barely any resources used.
Microsoft Office 2007: Save As PDF Use this official plug-in from Microsoft to save any of the Office 2007 components as PDF documents.
OpenOffice An open-source alternative to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice has a direct ‘Export to PDF’ feature in its programs to save as a PDF.
To edit a PDF:
Below I’ve listed a few ways to make changes to a PDF for free. Unfortunately, none of these solutions are as dead on as using Adobe Acrobat. Depending on what you’re trying to do (extract text, retrieve images, rotate pages, merge PDFs, spelling correction), you might find that one of these solutions works for you.
+ Use Some PDF to Word converter to change your PDF to a word document then use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice’s Writer to edit the document. Now convert your document back to a PDF using any of the techniques above.
+ Use OpenOffice 3 (still in development) and an extension, Sun PDF Import, to open a PDF with the Draw application, make your changes and then use OpenOffice’s built-in ‘Export as PDF’ feature.
+ Zamzar – I’ve written about this website previously, but I was quite impressed using the convert feature when uploading a PDF and asking for it to be sent back as a .doc file. I believe this method kept the formatting the most accurate and without goofy results.
+ Send yourself a PDF as an attachment to a Gmail address. Then when given the ‘View as HTML’ or ‘Download’ options, choose to View as HTML and you should now be able to copy the information and make any changes and save it back as a PDF using any of the above methods.
This works nicely if you’re only looking to extract the text from a PDF, some of the other methods would be better if you wish to preserve formatting and images.
+ If you have a Linux OS PDFedit, and many others, seem to be a fully-featured, open-source alternatives to Adobe Acrobat. Here’s a good tutorial on using PDFedit under Ubuntu.
– If you have Windows, you can use cygwin to emulate a Linux shell and run PDFedit. This step isn’t for the light-hearted. It took enough tinkering, but it opens up your desktop to a lot more open-source programs. Here’s a screenshot of PDFedit in action through cygwin on my own desktop:
PDFill PDF Tools is a free tool that allows you to take care of a few basic adjustments to PDFs. You can merge PDFs, rearrange page order, rotate and crop pages, add watermarks, convert PDFs to images, and a few more things.
Cheaper alternatives to Adobe Acrobat (with trials):
If you’re still needing more editing capabilities but you’re not convinced to pay the $299 price tag, some of these alternatives will be worth looking into. I believe they all have trials and vary in price from $35-$100.
Update: See the related article on PDFEscape.