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Overview

One of MacOS X's biggest selling points is that you can print from any program and generate a PDF file. There's no reason we shouldn't be allowed to do this in Windows!

Installation

First, get Adobe's generic PostScript printer driver for Windows at http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/pdrvwin.htm.

Install it on the FILE: port.

Second, download and install GhostScript 7.00 from http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/doc/AFPL/get700.htm.

If you installed it into C:\gs, add C:\gs\gs7.00\bin and C:\gs\gs7.00\lib to your PATH. In Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, edit your C:\autoexec.bat and look for a line that looks like SET PATH=blah;blah;blah. Change it to SET PATH=C:\gs\gs7.00\bin;C:\gs\gs7.00\lib;blah;blah;blah. If the line doesn't exist, simply add SET PATH=C:\gs\gs7.00\bin;C:\gs\gs7.00\lib to the top of the file. In Windows NT, 2000, or XP, look in the Advanced tab of your system control panel, and click on Environmental Variables. In the System Variables box, there should be a PATH variable. Select it, click Edit, and add the previously-mentioned directories to the front.

Usage

Now that everything is installed and (hopefully!) working correctly, try to print a test document from a program of your choice. If you choose the Generic PostScript Printer, a little dialog box will appear on your screen asking you to type the output filename. Type "C:\output.ps". To convert that file to PDF, open a command prompt (in NT/2000/XP, click Start, Run, and type "cmd". In 95/98/ME, type "command") and enter the following commands:

C:
cd \
ps2pdf output.ps

You should now have a PDF file in the root directory of your C drive. Now rename the file to something more descriptive, and do whatever you like with it!


xerces informed me of a free, as in beer, printer driver for Windows called Win2PDF (google it) that generates PDF files directly.

The best, and most expensive, way to produce PDF files is using Adobe Acrobat, which comes with two utilities to generate PDF files from other programs - Distiller and PDFMaker.

The next best thing is PrimoPDF(1) which provides a foolproof GUI for the GhostScript PDF utilities. The GPL-licensed PDFCreator(2) does the same thing, but doesn't work so well in my experience.

Win2PDF(3) is just as easy to use, but be aware that it is not really free, to use it requires a US$35 registration fee. Unless, of course, you're the "You are on day 1330 of your 30 day evaluation period" type.

The above writeup's GhostScript method is free, but only recommended for advanced users - and even then, I would suggest PrimoPDF as a better option. If you must use it, be careful with ISO paper sizes (A4, etc). When 'printing' the document, you have to ensure that the printer driver paper size is set correctly. (The default is US letter size.) To do this, from the print dialog, click 'properties' then 'advanced', then choose the appropriate paper size. If this step is missed then the generated documents will appear roughly 10% smaller on printouts.

(1) http://www.primopdf.com/
(2) http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/ - cheers to generic-man
(3) www.win2pdf.com

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