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…
At the end you’ll get a dialog asking if the program installed correctly. Make sure to click “This program installed correctly”.
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.
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”
Now uncheck the box, click OK, and then reboot your computer.
Now start the CutePDF installation, which should only take a couple of clicks.
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.
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.
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.
You’ll be prompted to choose a filename, and then you can view your printed page as a PDF document:
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.
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!