If Hell exists, I will spend eternity being forced to read PDFs on my phone. I'll be pinching and zooming some D&D playbook or work document, struggling to fit the whole page on the screen while making the text big enough to read, then doing the whole thing again on the next page. And I won't have GoodReader, the powerful and customisable iPhone app that makes PDFs less painful, for a reasonable $8.
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Apple has always packed a lot of decent software into OS X, but long time users may remember when the built-in options sucked so much that you had to install basic alternatives, like a PDF reader or image viewer, just to get something that worked well. Times have changed, and if you haven't looked lately, it's time to try a few of those built-in productivity tools again.
WhatsApp is still one of the most popular alternative messaging apps, and now it's getting a little better. The company is rolling out a feature that allows document sharing, starting with PDFs.
The built-in viewers in the Chrome web browser and Mozilla Firefox are convenient because you don't need to install another program to view PDFs. However, if you prefer using an external reader, you can disable the browser viewers.
The Google Operating System blog provides a few blocks of code that anyone can insert into their Google Docs word processing files to add dynamic page numbers to page headers and footers, but which show up only in the online office suite's PDF-powered printing mode. The trick involves added a chunk of code to the top or bottom of a document using the "Edit HTML" toggle at the top of the editing page. Head to GOS for the code, as well as links to ways you can further customise both code blocks. Adding Page Numbers to Google Documents
Want to read a printed copy of a PDF that's portable and staple-free? BookletCreator is a free PDF conversion webapp that creates documents that can be printed and folded into an easy-to-read booklet. Assuming your PDF is oriented to "portrait" layout and is less than eight pages, you can get what appear to be pretty decent-looking booklets from your document. Got more than eight pages? Tell BookletCreator to split the file into so many pages per booklet, and spread your words and images across multiple copies. BookletCreator is free to use and doesn't require a sign-up. BookletCreator
Free Windows utility PDFCreator is a great all-in-one PDF wrangler and paper-saving print option. If you've got more than one computer at home doing some regular printing, PDFCreator can also be deployed on a simple Windows home server box (like the kind you might built a home FTP server on) to help everyone in your household save paper. The Confessions of a Freeware Junkie blog has the lowdown on getting PDFCreator set up for creating and sharing PDFs, or securely locking away each users' printouts, if that's more your speed. Whether single-user or network-installed, PDFCreator is a free download for Windows systems only. Create a shared PDF Printer using PDFCreator
Previously mentioned document sharing application Scribd has updated its embeddable document reader to iPaper, a fast, efficient tool for embedding any document, from PDFs to PowerPoint to Word documents. We're seeing more and more web-based PDF viewers, like the recently posted PdfMeNot, which is a great thing for anyone who's sick of wrangling with offline PDF viewers when all they want is a quick look at a document. iPaper offers a much more functional experience than PdfMeNot, so hit the jump for a look.
Webapp PDFMeNot bypasses the need to wrangle with a separate PDF reader application—instead, it opens PDFs right inside your browser. Billed as "a nicer way of linking to PDFs," plug in the URL of a PDF and PDFMeNot will webify the document and make it viewable in-browser, as well as offer embed code to include the PDF into any web page. To see it in action, check out the Quicksilver manual PDF as rendered by PDFMeNot. After the jump, check out the embedded version.
PDFs tend to be the preferred format of HR managers and others who you have to fill out forms for, leaving you to print, write out, and mail or fax the paper document back to them. Skip all that unnecessary writing and printing with PDFescape, a free web app that lets you fill in PDF forms, add custom text and re-save them to your own computer. The site makes it clear that PDFescape isn't intended as a full-fledged PDF editor, but it does provide a pretty extensive toolkit for modifying other people's documents. In addition to text, you can throw in custom images, shapes, and links, and you can store the finished product on your own computer or keep it on PDFescape's server. Those basic features are free, but it seems as though PDFescape adds a logo mark to any documents you export from the site, which can be removed by purchasing "premium credits." Either way, it's significantly less expensive than buying a $300 Adobe suite. PDFescape
The Digital Inspiration blog offers up five email addresses that offer free file conversion for Word docs, PDFs, and even MP3s with no fuss, no muss—just attach a file, send it, and wait for the reply with the converted file attached. For mobile device users who can't read or open certain formats or desktop users who need a little audio formatting without downloading software. The full list of addresses, after the jump.
To help prioritise his projects and next actions, blogger Ian McKenzie put together a free Priority Planning Worksheet available as a PDF download. The worksheet uses a simple calculus for determining the best order of tackling your next actions by assigning importance and urgency factors to each item. Once you've ordered your actions, the worksheet asks you to list and describe each item and the steps required to complete them. If your personal productivity benefits from structured systems, McKenzie's worksheet might be just the ticket for you. Priority Planning Model and Worksheet
Web site Issuu turns any PDF into a web-friendly, embeddable Flash eBook. Just upload the PDF to Issuu and it takes care of all the heavy lifting. When it's done, the result is a flippable page-turner like what you see above. Some PDFs will work better than others for this sort of embedding, and for those pages with text that's too small to read, clicking on the page will zoom in. It's not the first online PDF viewer, but it may be the best looking—perfect for online zines or just sharing documents without sending big attachments. Issuu
We've previously pointed out ways to grab just the text from a PDF by emailing Adobe and using desktop apps, but having a web-based solution bookmarked could be pretty helpful as well. PDFTextOnline is a free, no-registration web app that quickly accepts files and pushes them to plain text, available for copying or saving as a .txt file. The added bonus is being able to change both the font and layout style of the exported text, along with access the bookmarks and properties from the original PDF. The web app claims to handle a number of foreign languages and fonts, so it might make for a good go-to-go solution if your PDF just won't open anywhere else.
The Confessions of a Freeware Junkie blog points out a second-hand hack that can save document scanners quite a bit of space next time they find themselves with gigantic PDF files. The author, having been handed a gigantic colour PDF file to send along and failing to get much out of a compression utility, simply "printed" the PDF to, well, PDF again using Lifehacker commenter favourite PDFCreator, and, viola—a 13 MB file became 3 MB. A bit of colour definition was lost, but the document was still highly legible. Have any of your own tricks for preventing PDFs that take up entire thumb drives? Feel free to share 'em in the comments.
Windows only: There are many, many tools to convert Microsoft Word files into PDF documents, including those built into the latest office suites, but what about the other way around? Free PDF to Word Doc Converter is a small program that solves a big headache for some office and document workers. Load up a PDF, choose how you want to export the file—including images, shapes and text layout functions—and hit the convert button. My own tests found, like others, that some pretty big Word files can come out, especially if you've got images and graphs embedded, but for your standard text-only document, the free tool gets most of the text and layout right. Free PDF to Word Converter is a free download for all versions of Windows.
Free PDF to Word Converter