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January 30, 2006

If You're Not Using PDF With OpenOffice.org....It Will Make You Happier Than You Thought Possible


Note: This blog has two related posts, on PDF and links and on PDF and Impress presentations.

If you're not using PDF with OpenOffice.org now, or if you don't use PDF period, please read this. It's going to make your life so much easier.

PDF Is the International Document Language

Everyone doesn't have the same software. Some people are on Microsoft Office 95. Some people are on WordPerfect. Some are on Microsoft Office 2003. Some are on OpenOffice.org. Some are on NeoOffice, AbiWord, LaTeX, etc. Some people use Framemaker. Some use Quark, Publisher, InDesign,and other page layout programs. And don't even get me started on the different platforms.

What about printing companies? Does Kinko's or Colt Reproduction or your friendly neighborhood printer have your exact software, platform, and version? Probably not.

So when you have to send your annual report, or your resume, or your new novel, or the forms everyone in the city needs to fill out, to someone else to read or print.....sending it to them in the format of your own office suite, however common it might be, probably isn't a good idea. And the more people who have to download or receive your document, the less likely they'll all have the right software to read your document, if you send it to them in the format of the software you used to write it.

That's what Adobe thought when they came out with the Adobe Reader and the document format called PDF. Portable Document Format. When you have the Adobe Reader program on your computer, you can read any document in the Adobe PDF format. It's like the Esperanto of document formats, but good. Everyone uses it. Every computer in the universe, with the exception of maybe five or six, has the Adobe Reader software, so everyone can read any document in the Adobe PDF format. The Adobe Reader program is absolutely free, too. If you happen to not have it, you can go to www.adobe.com/reader and download it.

Making a PDF Version Of Your Document

OK, but how do you make a PDF? You've got your meetingminutes.odt or annualreport.doc file. How do you make it all PDF-y so that everyone can read it in this Adobe PDF format?

Pdficon_1Well, in OpenOffice.org you just click the PDF icon on your toolbar. Name the new PDF copy in the window that comes up and save it. That's all. Click, type, click. You can now send your document to anyone in the world with a computer and they can read it.  Here's a document in OpenOffice.org (right-click on the link and choose Save Target As) Writer and the version I made in PDF.

You can also choose File > Export as PDF. That way you get more control as in Distiller.

How You'd Have to Create PDF in Other Applications
If you're using another office suite or layout application, it's more involved to create a PDF. You can buy the Distiller program from Adobe for several hundred dollars if you want a really advanced program for creating PDFs. If you're using Microsoft Word, or anything else from Microsoft, you don't have the built-in capability to just click and make a PDF.

PDF Is Important. OpenOffice.org Has It: Free and Built-In

OpenOffice.org has something that's very important for working with other people. Microsoft (and most other applications) doesn't. What's up with that?

Well, that's for the industry-watching bloggers to answer. My point here is:

  • PDF is important and a huge timesaver if you ever have to give your documents to other people.

  • Making PDF is built into OpenOffice.org, and it's incredibly easy.

  • Working with a professional printer is so much better with PDF. Sometimes it's the only way. If you need to print 200 copies of your report, spreadsheet, presentation, or any other document, it's much easier to make a PDF of it and upload it to www.kinkos.com, than to take a hardcopy down there. If you're writing a novel and want to self-publish it, it's easy to make a PDF and any printer can crank out copies.

Here's a note. The PDF document you create is not editable. If you need to send your report.ods to someone else who will make final changes to it, you'll need to send the file format they use. Choose File > Save As and pick a format in the type list. But you know what? Even people who ask for a .doc format all the frickin' time don't really need to edit the document you're sending them. They just don't know about PDF. PDF rocks.

That's why PDF is important, and how to do it.

  • If you want to read about links and PDF, which takes the whole PDF/document distribution thing to an even higher level in OpenOffice.org, see this blog.
  • To read some tips on using Adobe PDF format and presentations, see this blog.

Think PDF!



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I am running OpenOffice.org 2.0.2 and when I select File --> Export as PDF I get only the same save dialogue as with the icon. I do not get the options. Is there a bug/configuration problem which I should sort?

Thanks, Michael

Hi Michael,

The dialog lets you name the file; once you do and click OK then you'll get the options.


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