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Creating PDFs on Linux

29 Sep 2007 | | No Comment

It’s easy enough to create PDFs on a Windows or Mac machine, but what about Linux? A quick search of the web will show you that Linux doesn’t have half the number of PDF creator options that Windows and Macs have, not even close, in fact your options on Linux are quite limited (which is hard for me to say, since I’m a Linux fan).

You might be asking why would anyone need more than one PDF creator? The answer is simple, if there was one free PDF creator that did everything (retain links, bookmarks, indexes, tables of contents, convert entire websites, optimize output, control font embedding, add metadata, etc), then you wouldn’t need more than one, but there isn’t, so you need options.

Here are some of the options for creating PDFs on Linux:

  • CUPS-PDF: This is perhaps the most well known PDF printer driver for Linux. If you are using Ubuntu then CUPS-PDF is provided as part of the distribution, you can install it by following these instructions. My main complaint is that you cannot manually specify the location that you would like to save your printed PDF to, instead the application prints all PDFs to a hard coded location (in Ubuntu it is a folder called PDF in the home directory). Also, you can only configure the PDFs paper size, color and margin, you are unable to configure settings like the desired file size/quality, etc.
  • OpenOffice: With the release of version 1.1 Open Office included a export to PDF option. While this isn’t a stand alone PDF creation tool, OpenOffice does allow you to open and print it’s native files as well as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents and some image formats.
  • ps2pdf: If you are comfortable working with the command line then you might like to check out this option. ps2pdf uses Ghostscript to convert postscript files to PDF. Most Linux operating systems support the creation of postscript files natively.

As you can see, the number of Linux PDF creators is quite limited at the moment, but last year at the Linux Desktop Printing Summit, it was agreed that PDF would replace PostScript as the standard print job transfer and processing format for Linux, so hopefully this will mean a number of high quality PDF printer drivers become available for Linux in the not-to-distant future. Read more here.
Don’t forget, if you don’t want to install any applications on your machine, you can use one of these free online PDF converters to create your PDF documents, they are completely platform-independent.

Lastly, it’s important to note that a number of applications, such as OpenOffice and Scribus, support exporting to PDF natively, so if you only need to create PDFs from certain applications, you may not need a stand alone PDF creator.

P.S. If I have missed any PDF printer drivers for the Linux platform then please add a comment and I will update the post. Specifically I’m looking for PDF printer drivers similar to Primo PDF or PDF Creator. Cheers.

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