PDF Writer Test: CutePDF, PDFCreator, PrimoPDF
Adobe Acrobat could be too advanced and costly for creating a simple PDF document. Some of the free with no watermarks and time limit alternatives are CutePDF, PDFCreator and PrimoPDF. The products offer basic PDF creation. Some might not be used for commercial purposes. The upgrade (paid) version of the products offer advanced functionality such as commenting, collaboration, etc.
The tests were performed on an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 2 GHz laptop with 1 GB of RAM running Windows XP Service Pack 3 with latest security updates and patches applied. The Word document used is Microsoft Open XML Markup Explained (4.6 MB). It is available from this link. The Word document was opened using Word 2003 Viewer with Word 2007 converter installed.
Products reviewed are compatible with Microsoft Windows from Windows 98 to Vista with 64 bit support on both Vista and XP. When installed, they act as a virtual printer driver. To create a PDF, print the document with the virtual printer driver. Then, a location to save this PDF document or customization options would appear. Once the printing process has finished, the PDF file is created.
During the installation, be aware that optional third party software might be included. On the products reviewed, the option to exclude the software can be easily identified.
CutePDF Writer 2.8
The included optional software for CutePDF Writer is Ask Toolbar. By declining the Terms and Conditions, the toolbar will not be installed. Additionally, PS2PDF (PostScript to PDF) converter is required. It is available as a separate download at the end of the installation.
Instead of the inclusion of toolbar and add-ons, PrimoPDF offers Internet Explorer 8. IE8 can be excluded from the installation by selecting “Do not install Windows Internet Explorer 8” option. At the end of the installation, there is a prompt to register which can be left blank. However, the registration website still appears at the end of the installation.
One requirement that is not mentioned is the installation of Microsoft .NET Framework Version 2. A warning appears to install .NET Framework before proceeding with the installation.
After pressing the print button, PrimoPDF pre-process the file in the background then it displays options to customize it. Some of the options are Document Properties (e.g. Title, Author, etc), Security (password to open the PDF), what to do after processing the PDF (e.g. email, open the PDF, etc). There are pre-sets and custom options on how the PDF would be produced: Screen (which produces the smallest file), Print, eBook and Prepress (largest file size). Despite producing 32% larger file in PrePress option, the time to process the PDF is similar with other options.
PDF Creator is an open source software. It has two installation options: Standard and Server installation. Part of the installation process is the ability to give the virtual printer a name for easy identification. Yahoo! Toolbar is the included software with option to set the Yahoo! search set as a default home page. In the Select Components screen, it is identified as PDFCreator Browser Add On for Internet Explorer and Firefox. There are also customization options just like PrimoPDF. Available options are Meta data of the PDF (e.g. document title, creation date, author), Ghostscript version etc.
All of the products reviewed here are equally good. They file size produced and processing time are not significantly different between them. The option to exclude third party software is clearly indicated on all products. CutePDF is a good for just creating PDF file. PDFCreator and PrimoPDF are good for advanced customization (e.g. author’s name, document title, etc.).