If you’ve ever sent a file to a printing company and been asked to give them a PDF instead, you may have wondered why.
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. Basically, it creates a snapshot of your document that locks it. A document’s formatting will often change when opened on a different computer. Say, for example, you create a flyer and use a fancy font you purchased. When you send that document to someone and they don’t have the fancy font, another font will be used, often Times Roman. The person opening the file will have no idea it’s happened.
Imagine you sent the file to a printing company and asked for several hundred copies and they printed it without knowing the font had changed. Neither you nor the printing company wants to be in that position. So, send a PDF.
How to create a PDF? There’s freeware available. Go to www.cutepdf.com and download Cute PDF Writer (Freeware). It’s easy and takes just a few minutes. Once you have it installed, open the document you want to convert to a PDF, click your print menu and, if installed correctly, you should see “Cute pdf” as one of your printers. Click it and your document converts to a PDF. I’m told other software may imprint their information on your PDF; this one does not. So, be wary if you go with another option.
PDFs are great tools for creating documents you don’t want others to modify. Think about e-mailing an invoice to a client. Send a non-PDF and amounts due can be changed. You spend hours creating a manual for your child’s baseball team. You tweak it until it’s perfect and the text fits on each page just right. If you send that document to another parent and it’s not a PDF, it’s likely the text will reflow based on the margins that person typically uses. All your hard work goes out the window. Send a PDF and your masterpiece remains intact.
You may have heard the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out.” That’s true for PDFs as well. If you use poor quality photos or graphics meant for online only, no PDF is going to improve that and make your document look great and print clearly. PDF or not, the rules of printing are simple: use high-resolution photos and graphics (at least 300 dpi); nothing copied from a website. Printing and viewing something on your computer screen require different files and formats. So, even if it looks great on your monitor, that’s no indication or guaranty it’s going to print clearly.
If in doubt, ask for assistance or have a sample printed digitally.