Which method should you use to create a PDF in Word? Print to PDF, Save As PDF, Export to PDF/XPS, or PDFMaker? What is the difference between Adobe PDF and PDF?
Adobe PDF and PDF (Portable Document Format) refer to the same file format, but there are differences.
PDF is a file format developed by Adobe Systems in the early 1990s, initially originating with PostScript. It was designed to allow documents to be displayed and printed consistently across different devices and operating systems. PDF files preserve the formatting, fonts, images, and layout of a document, regardless of the software, hardware, or operating system used to view or print them. PDF has become a widely adopted standard for sharing documents electronically.
Adobe PDF refers specifically to PDF files created or processed using Adobe software, particularly Adobe Acrobat. Adobe Acrobat is a suite of tools developed by Adobe Inc. for creating, editing, and managing PDF documents. Adobe Acrobat Pro provides advanced features for manipulating PDF files, such as adding interactive elements, creating forms, applying security settings, and more.
In summary, PDF is the generic term for the file format, while Adobe PDF refers to PDF files that are associated with Adobe's software suite, particularly Adobe Acrobat. However, both terms are often used interchangeably.
Four different methods for creating PDFs result in four different types of PDF
- Print to PDF process emulates printing to a physical printer. It essentially captures what you see on the screen using the active software. A PDF file created this way is flat, meaning no interactivity such as links, bookmarks, metadata, or accessibility tags are created. Comments created in a Word document appear in the resulting PDF literally as they are seen on the screen and no comments are converted to usable Acrobat notes. It is basically one big raster image.
- Save as PDF is a native MS Word (or other Microsoft Office applications) conversion process, and it depends on a built-in function made available starting in MS Office version 2010. It allows to create a PDF without any additional software or plug-ins installed. The resulting PDF preserves more functionality than a printed PDF, but it still lacks full interactivity and structure. Although the latest version of MS Word 365 (version 2305 from June 2023) expands conversion choices to include bookmarks, document metadata, and document structure tags for accessibility, you must remember to select these options each time the file is saved as a PDF. A serious limitation is that this process does not preserve any comments used in the reviewing cycle between MS Word and Adobe Acrobat.
- Export to PDF/XPS feature expands the format selection options to PDF or XPS (XML Paper Specification). PDF Options dialog box is the same as Save As PDF (read above). XPS Options refine an XML-based page definition. XPS was developed by Microsoft as a competitor to PDF. It preserves the visual fidelity of the document, but it does not support advanced interactive features of PDF. You can view an XPS file in MS XPS Viewer. If you didn’t know any of that, no worry, few people do.
Options available when selecting Save as PDF or Export to PDF/XPS in MS Word document
- Convert to PDF using PDFMaker gives you the richest set of controls to preserve interactivity and accessibility of a resulting PDF. PDFMaker is a plugin developed by Adobe that integrates with Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It offers tighter integration with Adobe software, allowing for more sophisticated PDF creation and manipulation. PDFMaker converts hyperlinks, comments, bookmarks, and metadata to PDF, and allows optimizing the PDF for specific purposes.
Options available in PDFMaker when selecting Acrobat | Preferences in MS Word document
In summary if you need more control over PDF settings or want to utilize advanced PDF features, the PDFMaker plugin from Adobe provides many options to customize the PDF and the conversion process.
To explore more details, check out Chapter 3: Converting Microsoft Office Files to Adobe PDF Using PDFMaker in Adobe Acrobat Ninja book. Interesting isn’t it?