Working With PDFs

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

It seems that more and more I find myself wanting to manipulate/work with PDFs. I generally only accept work from students that is in PDF or RTF form, many of the articles I download are formatted as PDFs, even many users manuals are PDFs. So here are some tips/tools for managing PDFs:

Organizing PDFs: This one is easy. Any journal article etc. that I download as a PDF for future use I send straight to Devon Think. There are of course other choices, like Yojimbo and Yep. (Yep seems to be a good alternative to the brain in a box programs like Devon and Yojimbo, as it is simply meant to organize documents—worth a try if you are not already using one of the other applications.) (Sorry these are Mac only)

Manipulating PDFs: Many times I get a PDF that I want to split, or the reverse two separate ones that I want to combine into one. You can also use this to chop up a longer pdf and just save the small part that you want (like just one journal article as opposed to the whole thing.) My program of choice for this is PDFLab. PDFLab can be buggy, I have had it crash while I was working with it, but it is more powerful than a few of the other similar programs (I have never had it loose or “eat” a file, just had to restart the program.) If you don’t like PDFLab you can always give Combine PDFs. These are both Mac only applications, but if you need a PC version try PDF Split and Merge. Also you can use Foxit Page Organizer this is a more advanced version of their free Windows software program—Foxit Reader.

Converting to PDF: If you have a file you need to convert from another format to a PDF this can also be done relatively easy (say you have a Word document you need to be a PDF). If you have a Mac all you need to do is open the file and select Print. Now rather than hitting return to print the document select the button in the bottom left of the pop-up window called “PDF” and select “Save as PDF.” But what if you have a PC or a file your Mac cannot open and want to convert it to a pdf. No worries there are online tools which will convert most file formats into a pdf. I have use PDF Online although there are several others (as a side note this is also a good way to handle a microsoft windows document which you cannot open (say you don’t own microsoft, or have an olde version and someone sends you a new file). This is a good resource to show students so they can always send you their assignments in the proper format.