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How to Print to a PDF File on Windows Vista

I was printing off receipts from Newegg and other sites where I’ve purchased things from when the thought occurred to me: It would save a lot of paper if I could just print all of them to a PDF file instead, which I could then store in nicely organized folders instead of having paper copies everywhere. So how exactly do we print to a PDF in Vista?

The answer is a freeware utility called CutePDF Writer, and if you can stand rebooting your computer twice (painful) then you can get it installed without a lot of trouble. The great thing about this utility is that it even works in Vista 64-bit, while many of the other utilities do not. Update: You can also use the freeware doPDF writer for a less messy installation.

Installing CutePDF Writer

There are actually two pieces to the installation… you’ll need to first install Ghostscript (provided on the download site itself), which is the engine that actually will convert the printer output into a PDF. Installing it is simple enough…

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At the end you’ll get a dialog asking if the program installed correctly. Make sure to click “This program installed correctly”.

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The next step should be to install CutePDF itself, but unfortunately it cannot be installed while UAC is enabled. What we’ll have to do is disable UAC, reboot, install CutePDF, and then re-enable UAC and reboot once again.

Update

It looks like most people are able to install this application without any issues at all, so your best best is to run the installer, and hopefully it will work. If it doesn’t, then you can follow the instructions for disabling UAC.

Open up Control Panel, find User Accounts, and then click the link for “Turn User Account Control (UAC) on or off”

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Now uncheck the box, click OK, and then reboot your computer.

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Now start the CutePDF installation, which should only take a couple of clicks.

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Important: Go back in and re-enable UAC using the same mechanism as above, just make sure to check the box. At this point you should be all done.

Using CutePDF Writer

Creating a PDF is as simple as clicking the Print button in any application in Windows, and then choose CutePDF Writer as the printer.

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If you click on Properties, you can turn off color, which should reduce the size of the files by a ton as long as you don’t mind black & white.

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There are even more settings behind the Advanced button, like quality options, compression, or even the option to embed fonts in the PDF or not.

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You’ll be prompted to choose a filename, and then you can view your printed page as a PDF document:

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This really works well for printing receipts, or even for printing an article to PDF for later reading offline.

For extra credit, you can save any Office 2007 document as a PDF with a native plugin.

Update: Easier Install Method

Carlo noted in the comments that you could alternately use the also free doPDF software, which has a much simpler installation, but doesn’t have support for converting to black & white, or any of the really advanced features in CutePDF.

Using it works exactly the same, just choose it from the print dialog. You can adjust the scaling and resolution options as well from the properties screen.

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So you’ve got your choice of apps to pick from. I’m going to stick with CutePDF, but there’s nothing wrong with doPDF either. Enjoy!

Download doPDF free PDF Converter

or

Download CutePDF Writer from cutepdf.com

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/7/08

Comments (41)

  1. chabis

    Actually I dont understand, why you should install a PDF writer, for the purpose you mentioned (“It would save a lot of paper …”). Why dont you just use the installed Microsoft XPS Document Writer? For saving a “printer version” of a document only, this works very well …
    Have I mentioned, that I like less programs on my PC ;-)

  2. The Geek

    @chabis

    Sure, you could use the XPS writer, but then you can’t really send the documents to anybody and expect them to be readable. With PDF, you can be pretty confident that people will be able to open it and it will look the same, even if they are using Linux or a Mac.

  3. Carlo

    This is a unusually long way to install pdf support on a windows pc. Shame on you howtogeek… an easier way is to install doPDF. WAY faster.

    Just my 2c worth

  4. The Geek

    @Carlo

    That’s a good point. I’ll add that to the post.

  5. C

    I use XP and use Primo PDF which works beautifully.

    Digressing slightly,
    If I print something to PDF using primo PDF from Safari, the output is not very proper… the characters looks kinda hazy. Looks like the issue is with Safari and its rendering, as primoPDF works well with everything else as far as my usage goes.

  6. Alsiladka

    Who said you cannot install it with UAC enabled? You can easily do so..
    You must have faced some peculiar error, try it on any other of your computers.

  7. Danny

    Another good choice would be Bullzip PDF Printer. I don’t know CutePDF’s capabilities, but Bullzip is pretty feature-rich.

  8. Jorge Rosa

    I agree with Carlo, though I normally go with PrimoPDF. Maybe not so filled with options, but does the job (printing, i. e., converting to PDF) just right.

  9. mercury202

    Well, I installed CutePDF without disabling UAC without encountering any problems!

  10. abhishek

    both of these are really good…but i would dopdf is better than cutepdf writer

  11. chabis

    @geek
    This is absolutly correct! That’s why I said “for the purpose you mentioned …”, because only for saving a (web) document on my computer, I would definitly NOT install the program :-)

    By the way: If you use Vista and MS Office 2007 the easiest way is to install the free Microsoft “Save as PDF Add-On” and use this tool for creating PDF files. OpenOffice also allows to save as PDF, with or without Vista …

  12. The Geek

    I was completely unable to install with UAC enabled… in fact the software itself popped up with a message saying that UAC needs to be disabled in order to work.

    Perhaps that message only happens on 64-bit Vista? Going to test now…

  13. The Geek

    I’ve since tested on another machine, and was able to install without disabling UAC, which is odd at best. I’ve updated the article to reflect that, so my apologies for the overly long instructions.

  14. Visu

    I have been using PDF Creator (http://www.pdfforge.org/products/pdfcreator) for a long time now. It is Open Source and it does a great job. Now, I don’t know how it compares with CutePDF and doPDF.

  15. jcollin

    Hi,

    I am looking for a pdf-print utility as doPDF but also able to create Tagged PDF, for accessibility purpose.

    For the moment I use OpenOffice, but it is very heavy to open or copy/paste the content into openoffice then convert it to pdf.

    Does somebody knows about such a tool ?

    Thanks,
    J.

  16. JR

    CutePDF should install if the user right-clicks on the installation file, then selects Run As Administrator. You’ve already supplied permission, so it should proceed without further intervention.

  17. Jared Harley

    Just a note – doPDF does NOT embed fonts in the PDF files! I ran into an issue where I had printed an Excel spreadsheet done in the Calibri font and sent it to my friend on a Mac, and all he got was the colored lines of the spreadsheet.

    CutePDF, on the other hand, DOES embed fonts.

  18. John

    We use PDF 995 here at the office, and it is small and works great. I’ll have to compare it with some of the others mentioned here.

  19. Tom

    I second the mention of PDFCreator. I’ve done some side-by-side quality comparisons, and CutePDF’s quality is quite bad compared to PDFCreator. Fuzziness, weird issues with margins (especially when using CutePDF to print web pages to pdf), “white noise” and artifacts…

    Maybe it was an older version of CutePDF I was using, though. But PDFCreator has a much more polished and professional feel to it, and prints great quality.

    As to whether PDFCreator runs on Vista, I’m not sure (I use XP).

  20. Visu

    PDF Creator does run on Vista. The updated version was released in Dec 2007. The file size is slightly larger than the ones created by Adobe Acrobat Professional. But overall PDF Creator seems to be great.

  21. razumok

    You can do it that way… or you can just install Open Office, open your document, and save it as a PDF file; just as chabis said…

  22. Christopher

    Personally, I just save my receipts in a .mhtml file. Much easier than saving it in a .pdf file, in all honesty.

  23. Johnny Doe

    Doesn’t mhtml restrict your viewing audience just like XPS Document Writer? Does Safari support MHTML?

  24. Patrick

    http://Www.pdfforge.org Makes PDFCreator. I have used it for years on XP, and for over a year onVista. It is an easy install and has many features.

  25. blaszta

    +1 for PDF Creator.
    And you can also give password protection to the PDF file.

  26. Peter

    I use Foxit PDF Creator. Simple to use, quick, and lightweight.

  27. Brandon

    I use cutePDF extensively and love it however you can save a step in the install process, if you download just the cutepdf installer, it will ask then download the ghostscript program from within its own installer, saving you one extra step

  28. JORGE

    My Adobe Acrobat 8.0 software works fine when I want to read or download PDF files, but does not let me PRINT PDF files. (It refuses to acknowledge that the print spooler is running). Adobe Reader prints fine, but I cannot install Reader and Acrobat at the same time, and I need to use Acrobat to access files at certain sites. Can you recommend some program that will just read/print PDF files that are already created? I tried cutePDF and PDFReader but they try to re-convert a PDF file to PDF again and do not do a good job. I just need a reader/printer like Adobe Reader.

  29. Jeanette

    I love that you are helping people this way.

    I installed the doPDF and it is great unless I am trying to “print” from the internet. Vista overrides where I selected the pdf to be saved, and says that it is saving it instead in Temporary Internet Files. Not only is this inconvienent, but when I click to go to it, it isn’t there.

    Help?

    Thanks, Jeanette

  30. Paula

    Which one of the mentioned programs converts your docs on the program writer’s server? One of them at least does so, although I cannot remember which one. I want to avoid that.

  31. Kalyan

    I use extension to office 2007 called save as pdf. Simple. It saves as pdf format

  32. Melissa Clark

    What do you do when you open a PDF document from an e-mail sent to you; you open it and the document is greyed out, but I can print it, just can’t see it. Is there anything I can do in order to see the document?

    Thanks

  33. Michael

    Hello, I have a simple question. I want to print a map to pdf from a web site call with a PC: http://www.mapagigante.com

    Can anyone give me the exact instructions?. Thanks

  34. Rebecca

    Great post. However, I’m finding that Vista prints all pdfs sideways, in Landscape view, even when I choose NOT to do it. So all my pdfs come out sideways! I can always use my pdf reader to turn the document over sure, but I do share my pdfs with others who are not as savvy, and saving the pdf the correct way does not solve the problem. GRRRRR! CutePDF and doPDF can’t seem to fix this problem. I’m baffled!!

  35. moe

    how to Merge Join and Combine Multiple PDF Files using cutepdf?

  36. Stephenson V

    Change print settings to Multiple pages per sheet, custom – 1 by 2, horizontal and then the pages should print just fine…

  37. Rhino

    The problem is which is really sad not one program that i have been able to find can do is

    Why cant it print the entire html document like a printer. Instead they all just print what i see. I might as well just printscreen the stupid page

  38. dave

    excellent program!

  39. Robert

    This is great! I love it! im on Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit. I didn’t have to disable UAC. I just went through the normal installs and everything works!! It saves entire webpages as well! much better than trying to capture screenshots!

  40. E.

    You had me going with the Cutepdf and was ready to download it and all, but as I read the cooments below your article, I found myself confused and undecided — why ? Because you advertise the PDF Converter. Which creates and converts, and it’s also free. So why wouldn’t I just download that application instead of the Cutepdf ? Don’t mind me I’m a novice but always willing to learn.

    Until I get a convincing answer to my question I’m afraid I will hold off on downloading any of them, so till then look forward to hearing from you guys, so I can be able to make a more informed decision.

    Thanks.

  41. Tom Ridgeway

    I installed CutePDF on one computer and was able to set the resolution to 720dpi by selecting it from the drop down. I then installed CutePDF on another machine and was not able to set the resolution to 720dpi (it was not listed in the drop down). Why?

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