On the road and no printer? Make a PDF

July 1, 2005

Sometimes it is handy to email the PDF of a Web page to someone, rather than directing them to a Web site

I don't want to lug a bundle of loose printouts with me, detailing the places I'll go and the things that I'll do and see.

I've found that (at least on my Mac) whenever I order a document to be printed, I am offered the option in the print dialog box of making a PDF (Adobe "portable document format") instead.

Time-saver While I am traveling and don't have a printer handy, I can "print" important emails and incoming documents to PDFs (so that I can review them while traveling) and can always print the PDFs on the laser printer if I want a paper copy when I get home.

Sometimes it is handy to email the PDF of a Web page to someone, rather than directing them to a Web site where (depending on passwords) they might not have access to the material I want them to see.

Other uses There are several other uses for printing to PDF instead of printing to paper.

On occasion I want to send a copy of a PowerPoint presentation over a low-bandwidth connection (for example, a dial-up connection from a hotel room). PowerPoint presentations can easily be several megabytes in size. When a PowerPoint presentation is converted to a PDF, the file size can easily be cut in half. If I choose six-on-a-page in the print dialog box, the file size can be cut to less than 1/3 of the original PowerPoint. I have the full version of PowerPoint, so when I open the PDF and select "reduce file size" under the file menu, I can cut the PDF down to as little as 5 percent of the original PowerPoint presentation. (PowerPoint files with a lot of text compress to a greater degree than files which contain a lot of photos.)

Security Another advantage of converting PowerPoint files to PDFs is that the recipient can review the presentation and benefit from the information content, but it will be difficult or impossible for the recipient to convert the PDF back into a high-quality PowerPoint presentation–so all my hard work and intellectual property are somewhat protected by disseminating my PowerPoint presentations as six-on-a-page PDFs.

Kevin C. Smith, M.D., is a dermatologist in Niagra Falls, Ontario. He may be reached at ksmithderm@aol.com