How to create a PDF file from a Word
Article contributed by Dave Rado
To create a PDF, you should ideally buy a copy of Adobe
Acrobat, (not the Reader, which is free, but the
full product). Alternatively, you can install a PostScript driver and
use a third party product such as Ghostscript.
Adobe Acrobat 4.05 is a huge improvement on its
predecessors. When you install it, it installs a PDFMaker
add-in in the startup folders of your MS Office
applications. The add-in puts a Create
PDF button onto a toolbar, and onto the
Insert menu, of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Previous versions also installed a PDFMaker add-in, but
the new one is greatly superior.
Configuring Acrobat for optimum results
The PDFMaker macro prints the Word
document to a PostScript file, which it then sends to Acrobat
Distiller. Distiller is a separate
application, which creates a PDF file from the PostScript
file. Finally, the PDF file is opened in Acrobat,
so you can view it and make further changes.
When you run the PDFMaker macro, a dialog lets you
choose, among other things:
Which heading (or other) styles you want to be
converted into bookmarks in the
PDF. PDF Bookmarks can be used a bit like
the Document Map view in Word, but you have much
more control over the PDF bookmark pane for
example, you can control whether the main headings
are collapsed or expanded (or a mixture of both)
when someone opens your PDF document.
Whether the bookmark pane should be visible
when the user opens the document (for any long
document, I would strongly recommend you make it
visible it’s a huge aid to navigation).
Whether the table of contents, and/or other
hyperlinks should be converted into hyperlinks in
the PDF and even what effect, if any, there
should be when the user hovers over a
What view (whole page, page width, etc) the
document should open in, and what view it should
be displayed in when the user clicks on a bookmark
in the bookmark pane. (I recommend Fit
Window for the former and Fit Width for the
Which Distiller profile should be
used (coming to that shortly).
There are other options you can configure in the
dialog as well, but these are some of the key
ones. The dialog retains all the settings, so the
next time you print, you won’t need to set them again;
which means a IT administrator can configure users’
settings for them once, and non-technical users will
then be able to create perfect PDFs with minimal
training. Or better still, create an image and download it to new users.
The settings in the Distiller application are also
very important. Again, they are not user-friendly,
but do retain their settings, so only need to be
configured once per user.
In Distiller there are three Job Options. The only two I use are Print Optimised and Screen
Optimised. For web work, it’s generally better to use the latter; for
anything where print quality is important I would
strongly recommend the former. The differences
is in the print quality of the graphics; and in whether fonts get embedded or just
simulated (both of which affect the file
size of the resulting PDF). In both
cases, if you want the colours in the PDF to look
exactly the same on screen as they looked in Word, you will need
to make a change to the default settings (I warned you
it wasn’t user-friendly!). To do so:
Open Distiller and select the relevant job
On the Settings menu, select Job
On the Color tab, select Leave color
Having done this, you can then use the PDFMaker macro’s
dialog to choose which job
option you need to use for a particular PDF you’re
Another one-off configuration exercise you may need
to carry out (at least if you’re not based in the US!)
is to select Start + Settings + Printers. Right-click on the Acrobat Distiller icon and select
Properties. On the Paper tab, Letter will be
selected. If you don’t want your PDFs to be in US
Letter format change it (to A4 or whatever you are
Configuring the PDF, once created
Most of the configuration of the PDF can be done via
the PDF Maker macro but can also be done in
Acrobat. However, one thing that can only be
done in Acrobat is configuring the security options (for
instance, you may want the reader to be able to read and
print your document, but not be able to copy from it; or if security is
very important to you, you may not even want them to be able to print if
they can print it they can scan it; although of course, there’s nothing you can
do to stop them retyping it!).
To configure the security options, select File + Save As; change Security to
Standard; where it says Specify password to change
the Security option, type a password, and
configure the other options as you want them.
Unlike Word’s password protection,
extremely secure although the normal rules about passwords apply (don’t use a
real word, mix letter and numbers, mix upper and lower
case, and DON’T LOSE THE PASSWORD!)
Also, if you expand or collapse the headings in the
bookmarks pane, as required, before saving, they will
appear in the same state when anyone else subsequently
opens your document.
You can do many other things to the PDF in Acrobat,
such as annotating it, and much else; but this is a Word
FAQ site, not an Adobe one! If you need more help,
the comp.text.pdf newsgroup is
superb. You should find it on your ISP’s
Small lettering in WMF and EMF images can look terrible on screen when a Word
document is converted to PDF, although they print
perfectly most printers and look okay in Word.
One fix is to create your WMF or EMF files by
exporting the text as text (not as
curves). This means you have to install the fonts
used in the graphic if you don’t already have them installed; or use font substitution.
Unfortunately it also means that anyone who
needs to use the resulting graphic will also need to have
the font(s) installed (although recipients of a PDF won’t). This is fine
for a design studio, but not generally practical in a corporate environment
except when all the text in the graphic uses fonts which are supplied with Windows
or at least with MS Office, as standard (so it is not generally practical for
logos, for instance).
If converting an EPS to a WMF or EMF,
I would recommend Adobe Illustrator 9.0, as it has a good
WMF/EMF conversion filter (unlike all previous versions
of Illustrator, which couldn’t handle these formats at
all). Or if using CorelDraw, you’ll get best results with CorelDraw 9.0.
The alternative, and (unfortunately) for most people the most practical workaround
is to create a TIFF from the EPS rather than creating an EMF or WMF. If you do
so, you must scale the graphic in Illustrator such that the resulting TIFF is
exactly the right size when imported into Word, because unlike WMFs, you
TIFFs, especially TIFFs containing small text, without losing quality. Also, if you want the
colours in the TIFF and the PDF to look exactly the same on screen in your Word
and PDF files as they did in Illustrator, you must export the TIFF using the RGB colour
model, not CMYK (it’s an option on
Illustrator’s Export dialog).
As with WMF and EMF, Illustrator 9.0 is far better than previous
versions at exporting high quality TIFFs.
EPS graphics, although they print perfectly, generally look
awful on screen in Word very bitmappy; and there is no way around this
other than converting the EPS to a different format. MS Office applications
simply don’t seem to understand how to display
the EPS format. And unless the text in the EPS graphic is genuine text
rather than curves, they suffer from exactly the same jagged text on
screen problem as WMF and EMF files do, when the Word document is converted to a PDF
(at least under Windows, things may be better on the Mac).
Unless your documents stick to the most bog-standard fonts, such as Times New
Roman and Arial, you are likely to hit this one sooner or later! (So if you want
to keep the PDF file size low you need to stick to bog-standard
In the Job Options dialog of Distiller (see Configuring Acrobat,
above), on the Fonts tab, there is an option to embed all fonts, which is ticked
by default if you choose Print Optimised, and not ticked if you
choose Screen Optimised.
If you choose not to embed the fonts, many fonts (even such staples as
Arial Narrow) will look fuzzy in the PDF. On the other hand, if you do embed
them, the PDF file size will balloon; and more seriously, if the document
contains any fonts which are not licensed to be embedded, the PDFMaker macro
will fail and you’ll get the rather helpful error message: Acrobat Distiller failed to create the PDF
If you want to make Acrobat available to ordinary users, this one will really
floor them! But as long as your users are using proper templates; and as
long as none of the styles in those templates use fonts which aren’t licensed to
be embedded, you should be able to keep the risks of this happening to a minimum.
Sticky Print to File setting
PDFMaker prints your document to a PostScript file and in so doing, it ticks the
PrintToFile option in
the File + Print dialog. Unfortunately the macro doesn’t clean up after itself,
so the next time you print to an ordinary printer, you will be asked to name a
.prn file (unless you remember to turn the setting off yourself, but people
rarely do remember).
To fix this bug, you could write a macro of your own to call the PDFMaker macro and then
uncheck the checkbox; and you could assign your macro to the PDFMaker button:
“Clear PrintToFile setting without actually printing
“code courtesy of Ibby
Other methods of creating a PDF
There is a much easier way to create a PDF, which
bypasses all the above complexity which is to simply
print to the PDF Writer printer driver which is also
installed automatically when you install Acrobat instead of using
either Distiller or the PDFMaker macro. But what you’ll gain in simplicity
you’ll lose in quality. And you would then have to create all the bookmarks and
hyperlinks and views manually, which can be very time
consuming. As already mentioned, the PDFMaker macro
is very simple to use once
configured correctly; and Distiller creates much higher-quality results than PDF Writer does.
Alternatively, fellow MVP Jonathan
West has written a series of add-ins which among many
other things, can create high-quality PDFs much more
quickly than the PDFMaker add-in. They aren’t free,
but you can try before you buy.