Creating, reading and modifiying PDF files

In our series on sharing web utilities and computer tips with bloggers and other visitors, we bring you free programs to handle PDF related jobs. The utilities we recommend here are free.

Before coming to the tips, let's spend a para on PDF itself. PDF [=portable document format] files are a special category of files that are intended to be viewed across platforms in the same format in which these were created. So, this is a preferred file type when you want to share a final presentation, report etc with others. Though a PDF document is like a printed copy of the the document, and behaves like an image, its content can be extracted and a number of edits can be done on the document itself. More complex PDF documents are interactive [e.g. forms, buttons, links] in different ways. PDFs are superbly scalable and have very high fidelity, and so are used by designers and printers.


There are a number of programs that can read a PDF file. In many cases, the Adobe PDF Reader comes bundled with the computer / laptop but is quite resource heavy. This and many other such programs take a lot of  RAM and slow down the computer. After testing numerous such programs, we find that the free version of Foxit Reader (as of 2013 end) is one of the most handy and light-weight PDF opening program. In addition, it allows you to make some edits, highlight text, put markings and so on. 

We suggest that you configure your web-browser not to read a PDF file when you click on it. Instead, download the file and open it with Foxit or whichever program you like to use.


If you need to often put a bit of text [=annotation] on a PDF file or put some markings / highlights  etc on it, PDF Exchange Viewer is an excellent program, better than Foxit in some ways. But we'd rather prefer Foxit for just opening files because that is lighter on computer memory. 


Almost all PDF readers now have an option to extract text from PDF files [only if the text appearing on the PDF had been saved as text and not image]. A number of PDF-to-DOC converters are available on the web. But we found that Zamzaar's online PDF to DOC conversion gives you the best results [Btw, this website has facility for file conversion in many other formats]. 


New versions of major document processors including MS Office and OpenOffice come with the option to save document files in PDF format. There are a number of standalone PDF writers that use the print command to create a PDF file, and we find Primo PDF among the best. When you install it on your computer, it sits there as a printer. You can print any document or almost any other type of file into a PDF file by selecting Primo PDF from the print menu of any program.

ITB has no commercial dealings with the creators or distributors of the programs recommended here. We also advise that you do not download extra programs that sometimes come bundled with the main program, unless you are sure that you need them. There are a few free programs with greater functionalities, such as splitting and merging PDF files, OCR etc but we found them with malicious content or untested bundled programs and so are not recommending them.