How to save a PDF from Office

There are plenty of ways to make an Adobe Acrobat PDF files from Microsoft Office programs. Here’s a quick guide to some of the options including free downloads.

There are plenty of ways to make an Adobe Acrobat PDF files from Microsoft Office programs. PDF files retain most of the look in your original document and a small file size. Free viewers are available for most computers and devices. Little wonder PDF creation is a common question to the Office Watch massed mind.

In this article we’ll look at some of the options – mostly free – to turn an Office document into a PDF file. Most of these options are software ‘printers’ which convert the print output from any program into a PDF; this is a simple option to install but has some limitations as we’ve detailed in our feature Making a PDF file – Save or Print?

Office 2007

Office 2007 has the easiest plug-ins and the best price.

Microsoft supplies a free add-in to convert Office 2007 documents to PDF files. In 2009, Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will bundle this extra into the full product.

Office 2003 and previous

For earlier versions of Microsoft Office you’re spoiled for choice.

Adobe has a range of products to make PDF files with many options. The cheapest is their ‘Create Adobe PDF Online’ service for US$9.99 a month. The software options start at US$299 for Acrobat 9 Standard edition – there are other bundles available but the Standard edition is probably sufficient for most people. Adobe Acrobat has the usual ‘Print to PDF’ feature as well as Export features available from Office program menus.

At those high prices, most people look beyond Adobe for some cheaper options. There are many free or low-cost PDF ‘printer’ utilities for Windows among the well regarded ones are:

The Office Watch ‘print to PDF’ converter of choice is pdfFactory for one reason – the ability to save multiple documents to a single PDF. Most PDF printers make a separate PDF file for each document you print – pdfFactory starts a new PDF and adds additional pages as you use the print command until you save the entire file. The extra pages can come from any program so you can compile a single PDF from many sources eg Word, Excel, Outlook and a web browser. We often use this powerful feature to quickly compile a single PDF of information on a topic and is especially handy for collecting various web pages into a single offline accessible and shareable form.

Macintosh OS X has powerful PDF in-built features including ‘Print to PDF. OS X Leopard has PDF annotation, merge and page re-arrangement options too.

OpenOffice – the free alternative to Microsoft Office will save to PDF format. You could open an ‘old format’ MS Office document (.doc .xls etc) and save it to PDF. OpenOffice v2 doesn’t support the new MS Office 2007/ OOXML formats but that will change with OpenOffice v3 due soon.

Similarly, Google’s developing and free online suite will make PDF files. Upload your document to your Google Docs account, open it and choose File | Download file as | PDF.

Online Converters are an option for occasional use. You upload your document to a web site, the conversion is done on the server and returned to you as a download or email. Sharing your document in this way raises privacy concerns that are worth keeping in mind.

This isn’t a full list by any means but some options we’ve tried and worth considering.