Best Free PDF Writer Software

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Introduction

PDF file imageAll of the PDF writers in this review are programs that function by creating a pseudo printer on your system. When you want to create a PDF document from pretty much any application, you just choose to print it to the PDF printer and it creates a PDF document. The thing that distinguishes one product from another is the number of available options.

One problem with this approach is that you need to have a program that is able to open the file on your system. If someone sends you a file created with a program you do not have, then you won't be able to open that file; therefore, you will not be able to print it. Since you can't print, you can't convert it to a PDF using a pseudo printer technique either.

I've selected the best free products in this review by eliminating those PDF writers, suggested by readers, that were either not free or were limited time trials and basically adware (the product was free but forced the user to endure various ads as a punishment for using it).

Which one of these is the best? Well, that really depends on the options you need.

The most commonly asked question by readers has been about the size of the output file. Please refer to the table shown below:

PDF writer Output from small test file
(without graphics)
Output from large test file
(including graphics) (600 dpi)
Bullzip   48 KB    34 MB
PDF24   83 KB    39 MB
PDFCreator   25 KB     N/A*
doPDF   35 KB    53 MB

 

Rated Products

Bullzip PDF Printer  

A very solid program that has proven to be a top performer


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free (Donationware)
Complete set of options and very stable.
PDF file created may not be searchable, requires Ghostscript 9.10 or later.
Read full review...

PDF24 PDF Creator  

A unique pdf virtual printer with added editing features


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Supports document merge, allows scanner input, drop and drag interface, digital signing, selectable quality settings
Limited editing
Read full review...

Foxit PDF  

A free very powerful solution for pdf file management


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
Microsoft Word office programs plugins, PDF signature support, Microsoft SharePoint and Active Directory Rights Management Service Integration, multimedia Support, touch screen support.
Bloatware included, some features are paid only.
Read full review...

PDFCreator  

A pdf printer with both a standalone and a server installer


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Standalone install and a server install, digital signing and encryption, smart file naming
All versions bundled with OpenCandy installer. Limited watermark abilities
Read full review...

doPDF  

It is minimal yet allows different levels of output


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Simple, different PDF qualities
Basic PDF writing
Read full review...

FreePDF  

Fast and effective PDF Writer.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Fast and produces PDF with small file size, different profiles for the quality of the document, supports merging different files into a single PDF, password protection support.
No watermarks and/or digital signatures support, requires Ghostscript.
Read full review...

CutePDF Writer  

A simple yet effective solid option


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Lightweight, very easy to use, 32 & 64-bit OS support, ghostscript not included while downloading.
Bloatware included.
Read full review...

Other PDF Writers

These are a number of other free PDF writers which were brought up in comments here or noted from other sources. As they are not rated in this review, I am listing them here with brief descriptions and links to their sites for ease of reference.

  • PrimoPDF, a lag of several seconds from the time I selected the printer until the screen with the Primo interface opened. On my fast computer it worked reasonably well but is still much slower than all other products.
  • NitroPDF Printer has both writer and reader capabilities, supports annotation, text extraction, but full feature set only found in the paid version.
  • PDF Redirect has both writer and reader capabilities, can merge PDFs, offers encryption, multi-language support, no adware, but a full feature set is only available in the paid version.
  • PDFill PDF and Image Writer, many options and stable. Warning: Downloads from Cnet (Download.com) now require the use of a proprietary installer. This can install additional components you might not want.
  • PDF XChange comes with a tabbed interface and zoom-in feature, supports notes, annotations and export options. It has several restrictions, ads supported and installs the ASK toolbar unless you opt-out during setup.

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor Moltke. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

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Comments

An aspect worth commenting on is the UnInstall process should you decide this is not the piece of software for you. On this aspect, do NOT try doPDF - it installs services and registry entries that are NOT removed when you uninstall the product. It basically leaves all of its files, registry entries as well as the novaPDF Service on your PC. which you will need to manually try to find and delete if you want the software removed from your PC.

Hi @theEmperor 

Thanks for your comment. I don't remember having this problem when I tried doPDF, however, since you mentioned it, I'll try it again, see how it goes and will update the review.

Don't most people have Revo Free, or any other similar uninstaller to deal with this kind of thing???

I have tried many PDF printers. The best image quality and small PDF size offers Foxit PDF, you can choose JPEG2000 image format in options!

Hi ffsedd! Thanks for your comment! Foxit PDF is the one I use, and I think is the perfect choice for working with PDF files whether is reading, creating or simply printing any document. 

BullZip PDF Printer has been updated to version 10.25.0.2552. The changelog includes:

Shows an error if you are trying to use the program as a PDF reader.
Shows license type on about page.
Shows printer window in task bar.
Defaults to 300 DPI instead of 600 DPI for smaller output files.
New Merge function in API that supports font embedding.
Updated translations.*

As I have not yet upgraded to the current version, it is unknown to me whether selecting the higher DPI (600) also applies some sort of watermark.

Hi AJNorth! Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment. BullZip PDF review has been updated to the new version as well as some of the new features. 

I am curious, after all the comments above, why CutePDF has not even been added to the list of "non-reviewed" programs? Further, why are there more non-reviewed programs than reviewed programs? Before someone rates a program as "best of the bunch," wouldn't it be smart to test them all or explain why those not tested were excluded?

Hi NotSoSure! Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment. CutePdf will be soon added to the list as well as others. 

To be perfectly honest, I tried to update to CutePDF v3.1 in the last few days and was not happy. They are now trying to push potentially unwanted programs (PUP) with the latest version. While I finally managed to avoid that happening, it was not an easy process to figure out. I know this "new feature" will not make most users too happy.

Thanks for your comment. Yes, you're right, but avoiding that it's actually not that difficult; when prompted to accept the search bar tool installation click next, it'll insist, just click next again. In the next offer click decline and proceed with the cutePDF installation process. Hope this helps.

I am surprised to find that CutePDF is missing from the list
I have used it for many years and find it to be excellent - I do PDFs of all MS-Office packages, AutoCAD, etc and it has worked flawlessly no matter the file size

Hi RMG1999! Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment. CutePDF will be soon added to the list as well as others.

I've used Cute PDF writer for years and have never had a problem with it.

Hi tarstarkas27! Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment. CutePDF will be soon added to the list as well as others.

BullZip is listed as "Unrestricted freeware" when in fact it is "FREEWARE with limitations"

Thanks hobbzilla. This has now been updated in the database.

I would like to draw attention to minor flaw in doPDF description. Their download measures 49MB on softpedia or 51MB on homepage. Anyway ten times the size posted here in description.

Now updated.

PDF-XChange Viewer, now always free (because it has been superceded by PDF-XChange Editor.

Viewer is not available as virtual printer (PDF writer) in ... Internet Explorer, nor Palemoon nor Firefox

If you are looking for printer - you can use PDF-XChange Lite /or Standard. Viewer (and Editor) is not printer

@ garydavid711
Bullzip virtual/prints most of the time, granted ... but I have tested (free) CutePDF twice and it was a disaster.
- (free) cutePDF print/write performance was identical to (free) Bullzip

Unless "Acro Software" have changed their policy in the last 4 months this has been my experience with cutePDF ...

4-Mar-2014
- required a third party program "PS2PDF" to work
23-Feb-2015
- bundled with ASK toolbar + 2 others (according to VirusTotal)
( install offered 2 opt outs but when I declined installed anyway
+ installation was clean fortunately except ...
- no custom install, installer dumps installation where "it" choses
- requires 3rd party "GhostScript" to work.
( most recent GhostScript was 9.14, CutePDF installed ancient 8.15
- uninstall instructions at < link disallowed > were wrong.
- there is no uninstaller, AcroSoftware only provide uninstaller with PRO version
( confirmed by developer AcroSoftware
GhostScript was auto installed without ANY notification AFTER cutePDF install was completed

Had to manually uninstall with (free) Revouninstaller, (free) CCleaner failed to find any registry entries
- I found 29 entries (searched for "cutePDF" and "cutepdfw", and "Acro Software"
( manual cleaning of the registry is not for the feint hearted NOR should it be done with registry cleaners
- (free) Everything.exe found 3 driver-files in C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\w32x86\
CONCLUSION:
- for (writing) virtual printing to PDF I use a number of free PDF programs, they all have their quirks ... a case of suck-it-and see with each virtual print job.
- use a virtual drive or a sandbox to test any program and if there are problems, its easy to dump the crap.

** This Gizmo article is about PDF writer/virtual-printers only (it is not about PDF viewers)

You missed it on this one-CutePdf Writer by far best
You can do it all--there are times Bullzip just won't write.

[moderator's note: commercial software mention removed. Please post about freeware only]

Just a word of warning: doPDF installs some novaPDF softare which apparently is based on. I was not content with the way doPDF works (or it was not working properly, I don't really remember) and when I tried to uninstall it, the unsintaller tired to uninstall novaPDF and failed every time. I had to deleted manually then use a registry cleaner.

I've used [edited] for many years and what I liked about it was the open window into which individual files could be added, re-ordered or deleted before creating the PDF. I have now tried Bullzip and PDF24. Both work OK on my 64-bit Win7 system. However I must recommend PDF24 since it has a similar ease of use to my trusty [edited]. You can pop individual pages and/or docs into the window and merge the lot with ease.

[Moderator's note: mention of commercial software edited out]

Hello everyone.
I am amazed with Bullzip !!! It worked fist time every time converting to PDF. I converted from NoteMaid and MS Word. Both converted to PDF and Adobe opened exactly as the instructions say.
FYI….I am just a typical guy with average computer know how. I am using the Bullzip to convert MS Word for my resume’ / job hunt applications. It works perfect exactly as you guys have stated. I appreciate very much this forum and will recommend Gizmo's to all my friends.
Also reading through this forum some have mentioned uninstall programs I never knew existed. Only uninstal Ive know are CCcleaner and the program that comes with Windows XP Much appreciated also is pointing out other download sites that cater to the companies that want "add on" included with "free" downloads. I will use Gismo's mow for all my download needs.
The dialogue you guys use is very understandable. For a person like myself without much computer savvy talk I understand most everything with a very few exceptions.
Thank you very much for a great website and forum
Calias69

I am using both Bullzip and PDFCreator for testing.. They both return *identical* results of this Gizmos web-page.
None of the web-links in the authors introduction are recreated as links by Bullzip or PDFCreator -- but -- links in each "product" outline do translate into web links.

Bullzip is faster than PDFCreator -- I found the long lag after using PDFCreator confusing. It left me wondering if I had to find the PDF file in a folder or was I going to be offered the SaveAs dialog. Bullzip is the simplest process where as PDFCreator offers more "features" but they require PDFArchitect.

For several weeks I have been testing every virtual printer I can find.
Unfortunately none so far will print forms and they all "miss" some web-page components.
My solution so far is to use free DuckLinkCapture in Scrolling-Window mode but obviously the PNG result does not capture any web-links.

I've been using BullZIP for less than a month, and it was working OK.
But then, after a while, my network actual printer stopped being seen. Furthermore I could not install it again, in fact not any printer, it gave a message saying that the local spooler wasn't running. But there was no way to make it function. I've tried do restore a checkpoint and even that failed. I began uninstalling recent software tryng to solve that. I used Revo Uninstaller to uninstall some recent softwares to no avail. BullZIP did not appear in the list of installed softwares. It was only when I used the Windows uninstall that it did appear. I uninstalled it and voilà everything went well after that.
I am telling this to help somebody who could have the same problem, probably not common, but it was making me mad seeking a solution.

An update on PDFCreator.
The latest is version 2.0 which does support Windows 8.
It no longer supports Windows 98/2000.
The download is 26.5 MB (it includes Ghostscript).
It only supports 'saving' to PDF/JPEG/PNG/TIFF. Previously it save to 13 different formats - including PS/EPS.

I used to use PdfCreator long ago, because it was open source from Sourceforge. But, in the later years, it started to be bundled with adware, and that too weird one, which used to contact home, and the program took sometime to respond. So I moved on to Bullzip, which I like. Does PdfCreator still comes with bundled adware?

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