Saturday, January 3, 2009

Three Free Tools for Creating, Editing and Reading PDFs

Adobe's PDF format is ubiquitous in and out of the classroom, but for most of us they're like exhibits in a museum: look, but don't touch. Adobe Reader is free, but installing it means your computer will slow down and constantly bug you with requests to update it or install other Adobe programs. What's worse is the program's well known limitations: you can't create or edit PDFs, nor can you fill out a form and actually save a copy afterward.

Luckily, help is just a few clicks away. Here are three free tools to help you become master of the PDF domain:
  1. Foxit Reader 3.0 for Windows is a free, better functioning replacement for Adobe Reader. It works quickly and won't slow down your computer, and best of all you save copies of your filled out PDF forms. I found this resource in PC World magazine, which regularly features lists of free resources to make you more productive and your computer run better. It's recommended reading for any teacher, regardless of subject or grade level (you can find it in your school library, local library, or online). Download Foxit Reader 3.0 for Windows here.

  2. Lifehacker included a free PDF to Word converter in its Most Popular Free Windows Downloads of 2008 recap. It's the quick and dirty way to make a PDF into a fully editable Word document, but soon you won't even need software: tech news website CNET reported about Zamzar, an entirely web-based option, back in May 2008. Download Free PDF to Word Doc Converter here.

  3. Finally, make anything you can print into a PDF file using CutePDF Writer. This isn't really a program but a printer driver, which means when you click "Print" in any program, you'll see it listed as a printer along side your actual machines. When you use it, whatever you were printing--a receipt from an online order, for example, or an online news article you needed for class--will be saved in PDF format. Besides allowing you to save web pages for offline use, it also means you can save to print at your convenience, instead of right away. For those of us who have to print to a printer down the hall, it's a big deal to be able to print things when we can actually go get them (before they get misplaced or recycled)! Download CutePDF Writer for Windows here.
Please share any other free, easy to use PDF tools that you've used in the comments. Thanks!