Adobe Acrobat is expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to live a life without portable documents. What many people don’t realize is that PDF is a Federal Information Processing Standard, which means the specifications behind the format are widely published. Numerous developers take advantage of this fact and create programs that offer effective alternatives to Acrobat. Check out our list of these programs and take advantage of these tools that are full of some of the best PDF features and functions.
Downloadable/Online PDF Creators
These simply and emminently usable programs will allow you to quickly create your own PDFs.
- CutePDF: Create a PDF file from almost any printable document. CutePDF has an open SDK and doesn’t bog down their software with popups or watermarks.
- Adobe Online PDF Creator: The online version of the popular Adobe Acrobat.
- PDF reDirect: The freeware PDF reDirect offers loads of robust features, including PDF creation, previews, encryption, and more, that go a long way to replacing Adobe.
- CC (Free) PDF Converter: This printer driver can be used to create a PDF file from any printable Windows application.
- PDFCreator: Use PDFCreator to create PDFs from any printable program, as well as encrypt and autosave files based on predefined terms.
- Open Office: Open Office has a PDF export feature that allows you to define compression levels as well as handle thumbnails and hyperlinks.
- Scribus: Use this desktop publishing program to create interactive PDF presentations and forms.
- HylaFAX: HylaFAX is an open source fax server that can be configured to deliver in PDF.
Online and Desktop PDF Editors
PDF manipulation is easy and free with these tools.
- PDFedit: Use this editor to manipulate PDF documents, with an option to do your own scripting and plugins.
- Multivalent browser: Although not a pure editor, this browser allows for minimal editing in the form of creating annotations. In addition, it includes several command-line PDF specific tools which allow for things like merging, compression, and extraction.
- PDF to Excel: This Windows app allows you to quickly and easily convert PDF files to Excel. It comes with a free trial and also supports scanned PDF files.
If you need a simple way to open and read PDFs, look no further than these lightweight viewers.
- Sumatra PDF: This Windows PDF viewer is light and minimalistic. It’s even designed for portable use, so you can run it from a USB drive.
- FoxIt Reader: The Foxit PDF viewer is an all time favorite (especially of Digg users). And has a strong set of features (with a very competitive price )
- PalmPDF: Use this PDF viewer for Palm OS devices.
- Evince: Gnome users can take advantage of Evince, a document viewer that supports both PDF and PostScript documents.
- Preview: Mac OS X comes with Preview, an application that displays images and PDFs.
- ePDFView: This lightweight PDF viewer uses the GTK+ and Poppler libraries.
- Okular: This document viewer for KDE 4 supports PDF, PostScript, and lots more.
- Xpdf: Xpdf, available for nearly any Unix OS, is a PDF viewer that allows you to read encrypted PDFs, extract images, and more.
Make the PDF format compatible with HTML, XML, non-proprietary formats, and more using these tools.
- PythonPoint: Use this tool to create presentations that can be opened with any PDF viewer.
- AxPoint: Create PDF slideshows from XML using AxPoint.
- DocBook XSL Stylesheets: Create and store documents in a presentation-neutral form that can be published in HTML, PDF, and more.
- Unipage: Unipage turns any page, online or local, into an HTML file that can function as a portable document. Although Unipage is currently only available on Windows, additional OS and browser support is coming soon.
- KWord: KWord is a word processor for KOffice, and it offers a PDF import function.
- PDFlib: The PDFlib development tool offers a way for developers to PDF-enable software and create PDFs on their own server.
- Ghostscript: The Ghostscript software can interpret PostScript language and PDFs interchangeably and convert them to faster formats.
- Mozilla Archive Format: This extension can save pages in MHTML format, which creates a portable document of the page.
- Pstoedit: This program converts PostScript or PDF files to other output formats such as WOMF/EMF, PDF, DXF, CGM, and HTML.
Command Line Manipulation and Editing
These editors won’t be used on your desktop as you would use Acrobat or any other PDF application. Rather, you can use these offerings to build into your own apps so that you can automate the PDF creation and manipulation process.
- PJ: Etymon’s PJ, the parent of PJX, is one of the earliest open source attempts to make PDF’s more accessible. PJ is a class library in Java that allows parsing, manipulation, and generation of PDF files.
- PDFlib: The PDFlib development tool offers a way for developers to PDF-enable software and create PDFs on their own server.
- mbtPdfAsm: The mbtPdfAsm application is an in line tool for assembling and merging PDF files, extracting information from them, and updating PDF metadata.
- PDF::API2: PDF::API2 offers a “next generation” tool for creating and manipulating PDF files.
- PDF Clown: The PDF Clown is an open source library which includes capabilities such as document splitting, merging, and more.
- iText: iText is an ideal library for developers seeking to automate PDF creation and manipulation.
- FreeDist: This freeware distiller can convert files into PDF as well as compose multiple files to one PDF in a specific order.
- Pdftk: This toolkit offers command-line functionality for lots of features, like merging, form filling, and encryption.
PDF Creation Libraries, Scripts and Systems
If you’re a developer and you want to move beyond the capabilities of a desktop PDF creator, these libraries, scripts, and systems will help you incorporate PDF creation into your own applications.
- CUPS: The Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) is primarily a system for enabling a computer to act as a print server, but which has a robust feature that allows PDF exporting.
- Lout: This document formatting system, the implementation of which is referred to as Basser Lout, can be outputted in PDF, plain text, and more.
- Indexed PDF Creator: This tool automatically generates a keyword index for PDF documents which allows readers to quickly locate specific words and phrases in a document.
- Cairo: Cairo, a vector drawing library, allows creation of PDF documents.
- LyX: This document processor which is particularly popular amongst the scientific community offers PDF exporting.
- Fly2PDF: You can create PDF documents directly using this ActiveX library.
- PDF Creator Pilot: Use this library to create PDF files from popular programming languages like Visual Basic and ASP.
- XeTex: XeTex is a typesetting program that offers PDF creation.
- FPDF: Use FPDF to create PDF files with PHP. You don’t need PDFlib to use it.
- Inkscape: Inkscape is an open source vector drawing program that offers support for PDF exports.
- PdfTeX: This typesetting program can output PDF files and allows a number of features like links and tables of contents.
- ReportLab: This library offers a PDF generation solution specifically suited for web publishers, developers, and creative designers who are looking for a high-speed automated PDF generation.
- Tiny RML2PDF: You can create a PDF document from RML with this tool, giving it the appearance of a printed document.
- HTML_ToPDF: This PHP class allows users to convert HTML to PDF files quickly and easily.
Get even more function from your PDFs using these tools.
- Skim: For OS X, Skim is a PDF reader with features that allow you to take notes and highlight on any PDF file.
- Notepad Generator: This tool makes it easy to create a PDF notepad, and it’s fully customizable.
- PDFmap: PDFmap offers automated generation of interactive PDF maps.
With these tools, you should be able to go way beyond Adobe. Even better, you can do it for free and have the option to customize your experience using their open source status.
Freelancer’s Hyper-Drive: 131 Productivity Boosters for Email, Instant Messaging, Word, Excel, and More
Freelancers often have to wear many hats: accountant, boss, quality control, marketing department, and beyond, which can leave you feeling like there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything you’d like. Fortunately, there are a number of tools designed to help you speed up the process of working. Check out these productivity boosters for documents, communications, and more.
Email itself is a productivity tool, but it often turns into a monster task that must be tackled. These tools will help you tame your inbox.
- ClearContext: If you have a hard time getting through email you’d rather ignore to get to the good stuff, ClearContext is about to make your life a lot easier. This information management system prioritizes your email, organizing it and assigning color codes. You’ll be able to identify your most important senders and let newsletters or less important senders get pushed down below your VIPs.
- Mail Templates: If you often reply to a number of emails on on the same few subjects, consider creating template responses for each one. You’ll save time and be consistent.
- copy2calendar: Appointment setting doesn’t have to be a time consuming process. With copy2calendar, you can automatically convert text containing appointment information into calendar entries.
- Actioneer: Use actioneer to speed up your Outlook actions like appointments, tasks, contacts, and mail messages.
- TimeToMeet: Arrange meetings quickly in Google, iCal, or Outlook using this easy program.
- Conversation Preview: Gmail users can view the first few lines of an email with Conversation Preview, even while they’re still in the message list view.
- iGTD: Mac users can take advantage of iGTD, a tool that organizes tasks straight out of your inbox and saves a link to the original email.
- CSV Exporter: Use CSV Exporter to import your address book contacts into Gmail.
- FlipMail: For email on the go, sign up with Teleflip’s FlipMail, a service that forwards email as a text message to your phone.
- Chilibase: Don’t spend 20 minutes trying to find that email Bob sent a month ago. Use Chilibase to see complete conversations from your contacts with a single click.
- l8r: If you’re working at 2AM but prefer that your client thinks you keep normal hours, you can use l8r to delay sending messages until a specified time. You can also use it to schedule emails that you know you’ll send, like reminders.
- SpamSieve: No one likes spam, especially when you have to wade through it to get to important emails. Combat this junk mail with SpamSieve, a program that zaps spam out of your inbox.
- Copernic Summarizer: If you find yourself wishing that your email correspondents would just get to the point, Copernic can lend you a helping hand. This tool summarizes mail messages and other documents, highlighting key concepts and sentences.
- Saved Searches: Check out this user script that allows you to save searches you’ll need to access frequently.
- Gmail Loader: If you’ve switched to Gmail, but still need to access your archives without going back and forth to your old email provider, check out Gmail Loader. It imports existing emails to your Gmail inbox so you’ll have easy access.
- Office Outlook Forum: Get quick answers to your pressing Outlook questions on this forum.
- emailStripper: To quickly get rid of email clutter that accumulates in long back-and-forth conversations, use emailStripper. Just paste your email into the tool, and it will clean up all extraneous characters.
- MailTags 2.0: This plugin for Mail.app allows you to add keywords and notes to your messages for quick retrieval.
- GmailThis: Send web pages quickly to anyone using GmailThis. The tool makes it easy to instantly send a message with a URL attached through Gmail.
- Getting Things Done Add-in: Productivity Leader David Allen has created an add-in that allows you to better accomplish his recommended workflow methodology.
- Microsoft Office Outlook Team Blog: Find out how to improve formatting, get rid of junk mail, organize, and more by reading the MSDN Outlook blog.
- Gmail Manager Add-on: Firefox users can take advantage of this Gmail add-on that displays email data at the bottom of your browser. This tool can show information from multiple Gmail accounts and is easy to customize.
- 10 Minute Mail: Save your real email for clients and other important people with 10 Minute Mail. This service allows you to sign up for a temporary email address that’s great for forums and other sign up forms that you think might sell your address to spammers.
- AmikaFreedom: Receiving email on your mobile device is convenient, but sometimes, you’re hit with an information overload. Use AmikaFreedom to trigger emails to forward to your wireless device when specified key words and phrases are used.
- Destroy beacons: Beacons are small images embedded in spam emails that, when downloaded by your email client, let spammers know they’ve got a hit. Avoid advertising your email in this way by blocking images from anyone not in your address book.
- Take Back Your Life Add-in: Get organized with templates, appointment prompts, and more functionality tools from Sally McGhee.
- Fuser: Use Fuser to consolidate your email accounts into one central place.
- ActiveWords: If you hate switching back and forth from Word to Outlook just to look up a contact, you’ll love ActiveWords. This tool makes Outlook “hot” in any Windows application, which allows you to look up contacts from a number of different programs.
IMs are a convenient communication tool, and there are a number of ways to improve their functionality. Read on to find out how you can share documents, schedule meetings, and send SMS messages using IMs.
- Acronyms: Use texting and chatroom acronyms to get your point across in fewer keystrokes. Of course, remember your audience: if you’re speaking to a client, you’ll need to tone down on the netspeak.
- Meebo: Share files with your contacts using Meebo’s IM.
- IMified: Access lots of web apps from one place using IMified.
- TodoBot: By setting up your own TodoBot, you can IM to do list items to yourself.
- Gaim: Use Gaim to chat on a number of instant messaging platforms at the same time.
- MyCyberTwin: Let a chatbot answer your IMs while you’re away.
- gTalk Sidebar: Firefox users can add on Google Talk as a sidebar, so you can chat while surfing web pages.
- AOL Mobile: With AOL Mobile, you can send a text message to SMS-enabled phones using the AOL Instant Messenger.
- Merge IM Contacts: Check out Lifehacker’s lowdown on how to get your AIM, MSN, Yahoo! and other contacts on Google Talk.
For most users, Word is a fairly simple tool to use, but when you’re drowning in lots of documents, revisions, and lots of editing, it can be a mess. Clean it up with these Word boosters.
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The CC PDF Converter is a free (open source) application that enables you to create PDF documents from almost any application (Word, Excel, Internet Explorer and more). The CC PDF Converter also allows you to easily embed a creative commons license in your PDF file.
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