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

My comments refer to PDF Creator v2.1.2 (standalone installer), which I downloaded from the maker's site (www.pdfforge.org) on 6-13-2015. Previous versions were always downloaded from sourceforge.net, but the app has now been moved to the maker's own site and the download links at sourceforge actually go there now. At the end of the included license agreement, it is identified as pdfforge Freeware License Version 1.1.

In this version, there is NO MENTION in the license of OpenCandy or any third-party/additional applications/features that might be installed during the installation process.

I selected "Expert Settings" for the installation process, thinking it would give me total control over, and ability to disallow, the installation of any extra apps/features.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Home Premium advised "Non-Malware Detected": PUP.Optional.Monetizer and PUP.Optional.CheckOffer, with the option to allow or quarantine. I chose Quarantine (which allows me to then delete them via MAM).

You are given the option to install a desktop shortcut, Start Menu entry and Windows context menu (right-click) entries for PDF Creator. I said no to the desktop shortcut and allowed the other two. The included installation of PDF Architect 3 informs you it is adding a desktop shortcut without giving you the option to decline it. However, after the installation process finished, there was no shortcut for PDF Architect on my desktop and it does not appear in the Installed Programs list or under the PDF Creator folder entry on the Windows Start menu. When I save anything as a PDF using the PDF Creator printer option, it saves quickly and opens in Adobe Reader, but PDF Architect does not run as it always did in installations of previous versions of PDF Creator. Since the program does not run and I cannot find any trace of it, I do not believe it was actually installed even though there was a section of the PDF Creator installation process devoted specifically to installing PDF Architect that went on for a couple of minutes.

In previous versions of PDF Creator, there was always a dialogue box where you could uncheck the option to intall pdfforge Toolbar. I hate all of these programs that want to install various toolbars and so I kept waiting for this dialogue box so that I could uncheck it, but it never appeared. It just informed me that the program was installing pdfforge Toolbar without giving you the option to decline it. This made me mad, and I wanted to uninstall the whole thing. PDF Creator uninstalled with no problem using CCleaner. I then made the unpleasant discovery that pdfforge Toolbar cannot be uninstalled; I attempted to do so using Windows' Control Panel\Programs and Features, and also using CCleaner. Both times I got the following error:

"The feature you are trying to remove is on a network resource that is unavailable. Click OK to try again, or enter an alternate path to a folder containing the installation package 'pdfforgeToolbar.msi' in the box below." (Below that was a Browse box to navigate to the folder containing the file 'pdfforgeToolbar.msi' which is useless because no file by this name existed.)

Next, a Windows Installer box comes up that says "The path 'C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Local\Temp\{verylongtempinstallfoldername}\pdfforgeToolbar.msi' cannot be found. Verify that you have access to this location and try again, or try to find the installation package 'pdfforgeToolbar.msi' in a folder from which you can install the product pdfforge Toolbar."

A search of the entire hard drive turns up no file called 'pdfforgeToolbar.msi' (and I do have mine set to show hidden files and folders). I have searched online, and I am unable to find any way to uninstall this toolbar unless the unstaller can find the pdfforgeToolbar.msi file.

I tried to follow the instructions at http://www.pcthreat.com/parasitebyid-39721en.html for "How to manually remove PDF Forge Toolbar" but the Windows 7 start button's Search feature found NONE of the listed files associated with the toolbar.

When I tried to delete the pdfforge Toolbar entry from the programs list in CCleaner, I got "Cannot delete MSI Installer." and I could not delete the toolbar from the list.

Thinking that whatever files are needed to uninstall the toolbar were lost when I uninstalled PDF Creator, I reinstalled PDF Creator so that all of the files would be present and I could uninstall the pdfforge Toolbar first, then uninstall PDF Creator again. That didn't work, as I still got the same error messages about being unable to find pdfforgeToolbar.msi. In complete frustration, I then did a Windows 7 System Restore to a point before the installation of PDF Creator. Although the programs in this installation (PDF Creator, Images2PDF, PDF Architect and pdfforge Toolbar) all seem to be gone, pdfforge Toolbar still appears in the Installed Programs list in both Control Panel and CCleaner and I get the same error message as before when trying to remove it from the list.

So now I have reinstalled PDF Creator because I like the functionality of the app and don't seem to be able to get rid of the toolbar anyway. The only thing I am able to do about the toolbar is disable it. Although the PDF Creator app works as well as it always has in the past, I have gone from being a fan to being really irritated by the unwanted installation of, and inability to uninstall, the pdfforge Toolbar.

The entire installation process turned out to be a mess with the PUPs, pdfforge Toolbar and phantom PDF Architect. These need to be fixed before I will ever recommend this program to anyone again.

Anupam, I just scanned PDFCreator 2.0.0.695 with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Avast Antivirus (I have Avast set to maximum, including PUPs) and both found nothing. The latest version is 2.1.0.807 and the file size is the same at 26.5 MB. That means nothing extra has been bundled.

Did you install the software yet? I downloaded and installed the software in Sandboxie. Like other software which are installed with OpenCandy, PdfCreator too, during the installation showed a screen for installing extra software. Checkboxes are available by unchecking which the extra software can be avoided. Also, during the first installation screen, there is the checkbox for "Expert settings", which is the same as custom installation. You have to check that box, to avoid the extra bundled software, otherwise I don't think there will be any screen shown to avoid the extra software. Also during the installation, I noticed checkboxes for Image2Pdf and PdfArchitect (costing space around 65MB), which are not necessary for the function of the software from what I guess. All in all, I will continue to avoid PdfCreator, and keep using Bullzip Pdf Printer.

I installed PDFCreator on 8 December 2014, and don't remember everything about the install. But, no OpenCandy installed. I always use "Expert Settings". That allows you to not install the extra language files, Image2PDF and PDF Architect. The later is not included in the setup file. I am NOT connected to the internet when installing programs, therefor it didn't install. Image2PDF is less than 1 MB. It allows you to create a PDF of multiple images. The complete install is 30 MB.

What I like about PDFCreator is the "merge documents" feature. You can open a document in Word, a spreadsheet in Excel, a presentation in PowerPoint, etc. and save the lot as a PDF.

Also, it allows you to send the 'print job' to a second printer, or to your email client as an attachment, or both. In a nutshell, you can set PDFCreator to auto-save the document in a pre-selected location without opening it in a PDF reader, print it with your actual printer, and open it as an attachment in your email client. It doesn't get much better than that.

TIP. Do not install a program while connected to the internet. Read everything in every window. Choose advanced/custom install. That's how I avoid the junk.

You were not connected to the internet while installing and that's why you did not get the screen where they offer extra software. Still, that thing is there, and therefore, PdfCreator remains bundleware, and so will advise people to be careful during installation. I did not say it was bundled with OpenCandy, but something similar.. which shows software recommendation during install.

"and so will advise people to be careful during installation."
Agreed. That's part of what I like about Gizmo's Freeware and MajorGeeks. Not everyone is an experienced PC user. Unfortunately, more and more freeware are becoming bundleware. I will continue to use programs like PDFCreator and IZArc, but even I no longer go click-click!

You should give PDFCreator a try and experience the features as per my last post. And, advise users to disconnect from the internet prior to installing a program.

Free PDF-XChange Editor (and Viewer)
- do not come with adware, in my recent 2013 and 2014 experience.

PDF24:-
- I just tried to create a PDF from a DOC file, PDF24 could not find the app
- I only have MS-Word Reader installed, and use other 3rd party word-processors as default DOC reader/editor.

I came across a requirement where-in my client wants to send print command to physical printer and they want a pdf file as well created. So instead of issuing print command twice, they want it done in single print command to send print command to two printers.

I am a developer but the software being used for this printing is developed by some other company and they are not responding this requirement. If it was through coding, I would have sent print command to two printers when print is clicked.

I just wanted to know if there is any facility or utility be used to create pdf as well as send print command to printer in a single print command. There is one its commercial. I am searching freeware or opensource.

You can do that with PDFCreator. I just did a test - saved a document as a PDF and printed the document. Have a look at Profile Settings > Actions.

Hi -- I downloaded Bullzip today on recommendations from this page. I did see that the ASK toolbar would be installed. So I searched their web page and they state that they removed the toolbar. Here's the verbiage and the link:

2014-01-09 (10.2.0.2141)

Toolbar removed from free version.

http://www.bullzip.com/products/pdf/info.php

I have just downloaded and so have not had time to evaluate whether any adware was able to sneak on my machine. Hopefully not!

Does anyone have a recommendation for bulk jpg to individual pdfs? I use PEF creator and its great but have to open one file at a time. With more than 300 files at hand, that is not an option. Plus, I am looking for 1:1 conversion instead of many to 1 pdf file. Any suggestion?
Thanks in advance.

Try free program "FastStone Image Viewer." It is actually a viewer AND converter/editor.

You can Save (Ctrl-S) to various formats including PDF. There is also a bulk processing option (Batch Convert). I use this all the time. Works great.

This is also excellent for many editing functions.

I use doPDF but it always produces an extra blank page as the last page. If I command for 1 page it gives me the page No. 2 as a blank page. If I command for all pages in my file, it will produce an extra page! Why? Is there any setting to fix it? Please help.

At my end, I get exactly the same number of pages in PDF created with doPDF as in the source file. Can you try other source files if the issue persists Debasish Ghosh?
I was using DoPdf till now, and it worked great. But, with the recent release of version 8, I don't think I will be using it anymore. Although the installer is of a smaller size now, but when you start to install, despite my unchecking the option to download novapdf add-in for MS Office, it still downloaded, and after the install, the total size of DoPdf was 160 MB. Too much for a pdf writer. I will have to look for another pdf writer now.

Hi Anumpam, I tried DoPdf v8 today as well, and on first install I found the same as you with the Office add-on being installed. On second try though I looked a bit closer and found that the tick-box for that is actually a very pale grey tick on a white background which is extremely difficult to see. Having made sure that was deselected, DoPdf did install without the add-on.

After all that I didn't like it much anyway, it seems extremely slow and resource-intensive so I tried a few others and wasn't much impressed with any of them, they all seem to take forever and most of the ghostscript ones crash at about 99% as well for some reason. I used to use DoPdf and Bullzip quite a lot, I don't remember having such problems before.

The only one I might keep is PdfCreator which seems to work ok and produce good results without topping out my CPU for ages, although this one does use ghostscript too. As far as I could tell there's nothing bundled with the installer (I got v1.7.3 from the website) except for two other programs by the same vendor ... Pdf Architect which is a payware trial version, and Images2Pdf which is freeware. Both of these can be deselected in the "Components" stage of the installation.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Generally, I am quite good with spotting the bundled software, and opt-out choices. However, I might have missed this one, as you point out. I will try downloading and installing once again. However, I am not interested in the software anymore. I downloaded and installed Bullzip and it seems to work well, with a test file that I printed. I used to keep PdfCreator in my toolbox as it was open source, but since they began bundling software with it, which made the installation process too slow a few times, I gave up long ago on it. With much lighter options like Bullzip, I don't think I will try it again.

Good recommendations,
Note
Adobe in not in favor of password protection files. Say they are too easily hacked.

I just did some testing.

BullZip - Free version now limits graphics in PDFs to 150dpi. Did not install.
PDFCreator - Works, but be careful when installing. Bundled installer will try to get you to install junkware, but you can 'Cancel' out of it and return to regular installer.
PDF24 - Also works, but output was identical in size and appearance to PDFCreator. Looks like the same PDF engine is used.
doPDF 7.3 - small installer. In my tests generating a PDF with no graphics, produced a file 1/4th the size of the above two programs. I'm sticking with doPDF.

Bullzip PDF Printer has introduced in its last version 10.2.0.2141 some limitations of the free edition, mainly that when printing with more than 150 dpi it adds demo watermark.
Previous version (10.1.0.1871) is without such limitation.

I don't know why/how anyone can recommend Bullzip. The version I got (from Cnet) came with it's own virus. On top of that, it downloaded programs I did not want or agree to. Finally, and worst of all, it just didn't work. Every time I tried to print, it would crash the program I was working in. Absolute junk as far as I'm concerned.

please do yourself a favor and never again download installers from cnet they are filthy as in very dark sided and all their installers are customized to their taste to deliver us extra "goodies" as evidenced by the way icon of the downloaded program displays which is not the icon of the original installer. hope nobody else falls in this trap. order of sourcing for programs should be: author site and just a few handful of other that reviews them for us. this site here is one of them and cnet never was never will. PS also do yourself a favor and check all you download and is under 64 MB size at virustotal_dot_com. sorry editors for taking this liberty to refer to said site if inappropriate please delete.

Why is PDF writer under the System Software category?
Wouldn't it fit better elsewhere, like Home & Office?

Hello,
Question for Freddyflint10.
After searching for a while for a “safe” PDF printer, I choose CutePDF and installed it on all of my systems. I have not seen any unusual traffic or redirects.
How can I tell if it overrode my proxy settings as you suggested above?
Thank you in advance.

CutePDF v3.0 now comes with ASK.Com installer. Be Warned - It *WILL* override your internet proxy settings, regardless of deselecting the ASK.com installer and I don't know why. A support query has been submitted, will advise when and if I get a response.
For the time-being don't install this product.

Yee-Be-Warned
Fred

Thanks for letting us know. I've now added a note to the product description. MC - Site Manager.

FREE CutePDF does not come with uninstall.exe

Took me about 2 hours to tidy up leftovers after uninstalling with Revouninstaller.
CCleaner did not find any Registry but I did by searching/trawling thru registry.

Found left over files with free "Everything.exe"

On their page for CutePDF Writer, Softpedia's Editor gives it five stars, with the following caveat heading the review (dated 2013.06.27):

Note to Softpedia users: We are well aware that Acro Software released a newer build (version 3) of CutePDF Writer. We do NOT intend to update our listing to this version, as it installs ASK Toolbar WITHOUT offering users the option to uncheck it.

(http://www.softpedia.com/get/Office-tools/PDF/CuteWriter.shtml)

CutePDF now offers option NOT to install Ask Toolbar.

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