Create PDF files for free, part 2

Brenden Schaaf / April 28, 2009

After writing my previous post promoting PrimoPDF, I upgraded to the latest version so that I could provide a current screenshot.  I then realized that the PDF files created with version 4.1 (even when choosing eBook or tweaking other settings that should make the file size smaller) were quite a bit larger than those created by other software.  So I decided to do some testing…

I used my class syllabus from spring semester (a file created in Word 2007) for this test.  It is a fairly simple file in that it has no images, but one page (of 8 pages total) is an embedded Excel file.  Here are the resulting file sizes of PDFs created using various means:

  • 58kb = Bullzip (Quality setting = Default)

    Bullzip dialog box isn't as pretty as PrimoPDF
    Bullzip dialog box isn't as pretty as PrimoPDF
  • 59kb = Ghostscript 8.63/Redmon
  • 60kb = Adobe Acrobat
  • 91kb = Bullzip (Quality setting = Printer)
  • 175kb = Word 2007 (using Save As PDF)
  • 189kb = PrimoPDF 4.1 (Quality setting = Printer)
  • 189kb = PrimoPDF 3.1 (Quality setting = Printer)
  • 190kb = PrimoPDF 3.2 (Quality setting = Printer)

Not wanting to make any judgements using only one file as a source (but happy to pass judgement upon using two files!), I then chose a large PowerPoint file and created handouts as PDFs from it using various methods.  Here are the results:

  • 733kb = PowerPoint 2007 (using Save As PDF)  this one looked better than the others
  • 1,182kb = Bullzip (Quality setting = Default)
  • 1,189kb = PrimoPDF 4.1 (Quality setting = Screen)
  • 1,212kb = Ghostscript 8.63/Redmon
  • 1,284kb = PrimoPDF 4.1 (Quality setting = eBook)
  • 1,292kb = Bullzip (Quality setting = Printer) this one screwed up the orientation
  • 1,351kb = PrimoPDF 4.1 (Quality setting = Printer) this one screwed up the orientation too
  • 2,192kb = PrimoPDF 4.1 (after screwing with the settings to make the file size smaller…oops!)

So if the file size is important, I guess you’ll need to experiment to see what works for your needs.  Microsoft Office 2007 has built-in PDF conversion (well, not quite built-in since you do need to download and install a small bit of software) so maybe that is all you need.  For my PowerPoint handouts this method created by far the most readable slides, at least on the screen.  I suppose to truly test things I should actually print each of these out since presumably the larger file size of some of these might result in better looking printouts (that’s a reasonable assumption, eh?), but since each application is unique even those results would only apply to one particular situation.

Bullzip Output Formats
Bullzip Output Formats

In my opinion, PrimoPDF still seems to me like the easiest to install/use if all you need is a way to print to PDF format, but Bullzip is free for personal use and has the added benefit of some additional features, such as watermarking.  Bullzip also allows you to output to other file formats such as PNG, TIFF, or JPEG and that can be handy at times.

Plus the file size of the resulting PDFs from Bullzip seems smaller in my limited testing than those created by PrimoPDF.

I’ll probably stick with my Ghostscript/Redmon printer that I configured manually because it has worked for me for so long and there aren’t any settings to screw with so I can’t accidentally create really large PDF files.  I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these options especially when you consider that this is one case where you actually do get MORE than what you pay for.

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