Keep the PDFs, Lose the AcroCrap
Goal: Provide a list of FREE applications that will allow you to do everything you want with PDFs while avoiding the annoying, expensive problems of Adobe Acrobat.
The Portable Document Format (PDF) is great for a number of reasons however; Adobe Acrobat (the de facto standard application) is a horrendous piece of garbage. The Acrobat Reader (Free) is painfully slow to open, has more bugs than a porch light, and love to crash browsers. The Acrobat Writer (Standard $299 or Professional $449) applications are ridiculously expensive.
Here is a list of applications that will let you get the most out of the PDF format with none of the issues:
You can use this combination of free applications to do just about everything that you would ever want from Adobe Acrobat.
- Open and Read PDF files
- Create PDF files from any document or application on your computer
- Edit PDFs by converting them into Microsoft Word documents
- Merge Multiple PFDs into a single file
- Stop PDFs from crashing your browser
- Not spend hundreds of dollars
Open and Read PDFs without the Agonizing Load Times
Are you tired of waiting 15 seconds for a 2 page train schedule to open? Get Foxit PDF Reader and never wait again. Foxit is a free, light weight, speedy Acrobat Reader replacement.
Download it here.
After you install Foxit, you can make it your default PDF reader.
Start by opening Windows Explorer.
Click Tools> Folder Options from the menu.
This will open the Folder Options window.
Select the File Types tab to view all of the file types on your system.
Scroll down the Registered file types list until you find PDF.
The Details for “PDF” extension section lists the application that opens PDFs by default.
Click the Change button.
Select Foxit Reader from the Programs list. If it is not there, then click the Browse button and browse for the Foxit.exe file on your computer.
This will be located in the C:Program FilesFoxit SoftwareFoxit Reader folder.
Click OK on the Open With window and the Folder Options window and you’re all set. No more slow Acrobat Reader.
Creating PDF Files from Other Documents
Would you like to create PDF files from any application or file on your computer? You could just pony up $299 and use Adobe Acrobat Standard. If you’re a sucker, that is.
cheap smart like me, you’ll use Cute PDF Writer to create PDF files from any application on your computer. This includes all Microsoft Office apps, Web pages, and any other application that has a print button.
When you install Cute PDF Writer, it shows up as a printer on your computer. Then, when you have any application open, click the Print button and select CutePDF from the list of printers.
After you click the Print button, you can name and save the file as a PDF file. (Nothing actually gets printed.)
View the Step-By-Step Video
Click To Play
Converting PDFs to Word Documents
Now that you can convert any documents into PDFs, you’re probably wondering how to convert PDF files into an editable format to work with them. This is where Free PDF to Word Converter comes in.
Once you install Free PDF 2 Word Converter, you can open any PDF file and convert it to a fully editable Microsoft Word document.
Open the Free PDF to Word Doc Converter application.
Follow these three steps to convert your PDFs:
- Select the PDF file that you want to convert
- Select the Location and Name of the Output file (Word document)
- Click the Convert to Word Document button
Shazam! Now you have a fully editable Word document.
If you just wanted to modify the PDF, you can use this process to convert the original PDF to Word, make your edits, then use CutePDF to convert it back to a PDF and replace the original. That’s how you build on some newly learned skills.
View the Video with Step-By-Step Instructions
Combining Multiple PDFs into One File
Did you ever have a bunch of files to print or email? It’s a real pain to work with all of those files. PDFFill has two separate applications, PDFFill Editor ($20) and PDFFill Tools which is free. The PDFFill Editor lets you directly edit PDFs without all of the conversion steps in mentioned before. The second one PDFFill Tools, allows you to combine multiple PDF files into a single file. This is great for things like printing, emailing, posting on the web, etc.
One you install PDFFill, open PDFFill Tools.
There are many functions that you can perform; you can combine multiple PDFs using the following steps:
- Click the Merge PDF Files button
- A separate window will open
- Click the Add a PDF File button
- Browse and Select all of your PDF files
- Use the Move Up and Move Down buttons to order the files
- Click the Save As button
Now you will have your original PDF files, plus a new one that combines them into one.
View the Video with Step-By-Step Instructions
Printable Instructions on Adobe Acrobat Alternatives
Stop PDFs from Crashing Your Browser
Sometimes when you are on the internet and click a link, it opens a PDF in the browser. This is a pain for a lot of reasons. The biggest is that it frequently crashes your browser.
If you are using FireFox (and you should be) and install the PDFDownload extension, it forces PDFs to open in your PDF Reader application and not in the browser. This is very convenient. If you want to save, print, or close the file, it’s easy and it doesn’t mess with your web surfing.
Get it here.
When it Pays to Buy Adobe Acrobat
While I’m all for the free solutions provided here, there are a few nice things that Adobe Acrobat (Standard and Professional) do. At my day job, I do quite a lot of documentation for training courses. You can use Acrobat to combine multiple documents of different file types into one new PDF file. Let’s say I want to send the training material for a course to the printer. I can create a new PDF file and insert a Jpeg image for the cover, PowerPoint slides for the presentation, A few Word documents for the instructions, and for the appendix, I can pull in some Visio diagrams, Excel spreadsheets, and other PDF files. This creates a single continuous PDF file that can be printed in one shot. Pretty handy! However, I’m using this at work and my company paid, so it’s not really a big deal. For most people without these very specific needs, just stick with the free stuff.
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