Tool of the Trade: PDF Factory

pdf factoryWe don’t know about you, but for the past few years we’ve shared a printer with a group of people. We frequently prefer to read things on paper rather than online — especially if we’re marking something up or comparing documents — and so it’s annoying when we get to the printer to discover that someone has taken part of our printout, or we thought we printed seven or eight documents and can only find some of them. Did we forget to print the other docs? Did someone take them unwittingly? Who knows.  (Pictured:  hacked printer, originally uploaded to Flickr by jez.)

As a solution to these problems, we’ve been a fan of a program called PDF Factory for a while now. The idea is that instead of printing directly to the printer, we choose the option to “Print to PDF Factory” instead.  A new window opens, and you can see what’s in your budding PDF file.  You can move the pages around, and when you’re done you can save it to PDF or print all or some of what you’ve just created.

It doesn’t sound that useful, we know, but here are some examples of how we find it useful:

Printing Excel documents — we can see exactly what the page looks like and what’s cut off or too small to read, without running back and forth to the printer numerous times.  Ditto for printing web pages — you can see exactly what’s cut off and what’s wasting paper (such as a “Comment here” link and nothing else on the final page).

Making a “package” PDF file that’s useful for later — for example, an e-mail that comes with five or six hyperlinks in it.  You take the time to print the e-mail as well as open the web pages, and print them all — and it comes out to about 35 pages or so.  When you eventually print those pages, it will be a 35-page “job” — no one else’s papers will be stuck in between yours.  Depending on your printer, you can also have all 35 pages automatically stapled, or printed double-sided.  Furthermore, you can save all of those 35 pages as a single file, which is handy if you a) lose your package, b) want to refer to it again, or c) want to pass along to a superior for easy printing.

Printing personal documents. If we’re printing a personal document, we tend to stick it near the end of a PDF Factory print job; that way we can better guestimate when it will be shooting out (and make sure that no one else picks it up by accident).

The program offers a free “trial” version that does not expire — the only catch is that it prints “Printed by PDF Factory” on the footer of every page.  The paid version is only $50, though.

Do you use a product or tool that makes you more efficient, or makes your working life better?  Write to us at [email protected] to let us know.  To see previous “Tool of the Trade” posts, click here.



  1. There are a number of pdf products that are free and don’t leave a watermark on your documents (some free pdf programs will leave their logo). The best one I’ve used is doPdf.

  2. I’m with you on printing docs, but my eye dr said reading things on the screen whenever possible is best (for what that’s worth).

    • Really? That actually makes me feel better; I had always kind of had the feeling I was destroying my eyes by reading on the screen so much.

    • I read almost exclusively online now. The ability to increase the font size with just a few “control+” commands really helps my not-quite-ready-for-reading-glasses eyeballs.

  3. Or you could just use Adobe Professional. All you have to do is save whatever is on your screen as a PDF and you can add as many of your saved PDFs to one PDF file as you want.

  4. Is installing random free software OK with your firm’s policies? A lot of those things come with spyware, and I’m not sure how secure all the documents you make with them are … just a heads up. Adobe professional is definitely the way to go (although you have to go through like 6 hopes to get a licensed copy installed on your computer at my firm).

    • Installing any software is completely forbidden on our non-profit’s network. The risk of contaminating the entire national network is too great.

  5. pinkrobot :

    Incidentally, it is much more profitable, thus more common, to be a false mirror for professional product like Adobe than open source/free products. If you down load software from the internet, run checksum and make sure the hash keys match, or an equivalent.

  6. I work on the internal IT side of the lawfirm, so I might have a slightly different perspective than some of you on the ‘output’ side. While Adobe Professional is definitely a better program than PDF Factory, the cost for Adobe Pro is often prohibitive to law firms. If that is the case, then Factory is a decent program. However, for those of you who use case or document management systems (think WorldDox, Client Profiles, iManage, etc.) the integration between the management system and Factory might be a problem. There are some other options out there. NitroPDF Pro 6.0 is less expensive than Adobe Pro and does mostly the same things. It’s also compatible with more software than Adobe tends to be. pdfDocs Desktop 2.2 also has similar features and is less expensive than an Adobe Pro license. I believe you can try both programs for free.

    On the Excel issue, you can actually do the same thing by choosing ‘Print Preview.’ Excel has a number of layout options on the Print Preview screen, including things like “Squish all my information onto no more than 5 pages” or “reduce the total size by 50% so my document prints on one page.” You can play with these options in Print Preview until you get it to look the way you like.

  7. Cute PDF is good, too. I used it all the time at my former accounting firm.

  8. Commercial printers should have a private print option also…

  9. We are a paperless office (in theory, anyway). All the computers have Adobe Pro and each department has someone with a scanner. Most people still print, although there has been a bigger push this year to avoid it because our printing costs for 2009 were absurd. At home, I just use the save to PDF option in my print menu, I don’t know if PCs have that.

work fashion blog press mentions