Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Sunday, March 31, 2002


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How to create PDF files without Adobe Acrobat - Part II

In this article:

1. PageGenie Pro
2. PStill
3. Doc2PDF
4. simplePDF
5. Konvertor
6. Batch2PDF

PageGenie Pro
Convert text files into PDF, WYSIWYG HTML, RTF, and more
= worth knowing
PC only

PageGenie Pro is a user-friendly advanced desktop document-capturing, page recognition/color OCR tool for capturing scanned images.

PageGenie Pro is also a multifunctional desktop document processor with an embedded PDF generator for unlimited PDF conversions.

In other and simpler words this PageGenie is a tool that works exceptionally well for those institutions and offices that have a great need to convert paper documents in electronic "editable" versions of the same while obtaining highly "portable" (read "small", "compatible") PDF files.

PageGenie will indeed convert almost any scanned page into many of useful exchange formats including PDF and HTML without any technical intervention by the user.

It's an ideal companion for color scanners for daily document capturing and processing. It offers users the most advanced color document processing functions for Desktop OCR and document conversion, capturing legacy documents for PDF publishing, archiving, or for publishing to HTML web pages.

PageGenie Pro has a high accuracy production grade OCR engine which supports 10 European languages. With this tool it is indeed possible to create editable text from printed originals without retyping.

Minimum System Requirements
Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT 4.0
64 MB RAM or higher
100 MB Disk Space
Color scanner (300-600 dpi) recommended

Page Genie offers a free 15-day trial.
Download it at: prodpgptr

Full registration is $99.99 or $49.99 for academic institutions.
To order go to: prodpgporprt

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Convert PostScript into PDF files
= worth knowing
PC & Mac (also Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and more)

PStill is a PostScript/EPS to PDF converter. It is a very basic tool that allows you to convert eaqsily Postscript or EPS files into PDFs. Since you can easily generate PostScript or EPS files from mostly any application, this tool allows the final step required to create PDFs at no cost from many applications.

To create PostScript or EPS files from any application you need to setup an extra printer in Windows or on your Mac, and must make sure that the one you select is indeed a PostScript model. One that is certainly so is for example the Apple Laserwriter II.

Once you have added this printer to your computer configuration (even though you do not have this printer actually installed), you can easily create PostScript or EPS files by asking through your standard print controls to make a print-to-file. This is an option available through most print dialog boxes that allows you to redirect the stream of commands that would normally go to the printer to be redirected to a file that will be saved for you. This file is normally referred to as a print-to-file or print-to-disk file. If the printer driver utilized in this process was as in our hypotethical case a PostScript one the file obtained will be a PostScript print-to-disk file which can then be easily converted by PStill into a PDF.

The name PStill (spoken p- still) derives from 'Pot Still', a device to concentrate spirits usually to create whisky. PStill is named this way because it does the same in the digital world, only it processes and concentrates PostScript data to create PDF.

For the more technically prepared among you PStill can also act as a server-based PostScript flattener, capable of rewriting an existing PostScript file so that it becomes placeable as an EPS, or to turn its color space to CMYK or RGB, or to embed fonts as subsetted versions.

CONS: Not ideal for non-technical users.

It requires some working knowledge and understanding of what PostScript is, what a print-to-disk file is and how to add an extra printer to your set-up.

Cost and license
PStill is commercial software and some versions are distributed as shareware which gives you the chance to 'try before buy'. Other versions are completely free (as 'free beer') for private use but must be registered for commercial use. The MacOS X version is a fully supported 'shrink wrap' product and exclusively distributed by Stone at:

This program costs $20, and the unregistered version prints a small mark on each PDF page.

Download it at:

Click here to go to the top of this page !

= breakthrough tool
PC & Mac

While researching free solutions for creating PDF files, I came across Doc2PDF. Doc2pdf is an email robot that converts Microsoft Office attachments (.doc, .ppt, and .xls) to PDF. The next time you email a Microsoft Office document, Doc2pdf will convert the attachment to .pdf, and send the .pdf file as an attachment in a reply to the sender and all recipients.

To try this excellent conversion tool, simply email a Word document as an attachment to Within a few minutes, you will get an email with the converted PDF file. is a free pop3 email account provided by to let you try out this technology on a free basis.

We should be grateful to the author and to Hotpop for providing us with this valuable free tool and a real possibility to try it out and use it. Neither the robot that services such Hotpop mailbox nor the mailbox offered by Hotpop itself is intended for production use. Remember this is basically an opportunity to try out this service for yourself. In this light please be considerate and limit the size of the attachments you send to be converted.

If then you find it indeed useful and reliable for your work or production needs, you really should install Doc2pdf on your network with a local mailbox.

To do this find an unused low-end Windows machine -- not a very difficult task in most organizations. Download and install the free Microsoft Office viewers (see the download page or installation page for links). Download and install AFPL PostScript for Windows. Set up a "print-to-file" printer using any PostScript enabled print driver. Set this printer as your default printer. Install the Doc2pdf application. Run the Doc2pdf application. Click the set-up button and supply the run-time and mailbox information. Press the start button and leave the Doc2pdf machine alone.

The first thing Doc2pdf will do is poll the POP3 mailbox for messages. If no messages are waiting, Doc2pdf will sit idle for a couple minutes before polling again.

History Doc2pdf was created primarily because the software author who wrote it, personally hated getting Microsoft Office attachment in his email. As many others technical people he did not use a Windows machine, and as a consequence did not have an easy time when needing to print or edit those Office document attachments.

Especially if you are a Linux/Unix developer, you may seldom if ever touch a Windows machine so it is a real pain to have to find someone in some other office or department who actually runs Windows and have them print documents for you.

The fine and clever strategy utilized by Doc2pdf is quite interesting as it attempts at creating PDFs out of Microsoft Office documents without requiring the need to have any of these commercial software to do this.

How does Doc2pdf work?

Doc2pdf periodically polls a designated mailbox and replies to all recipients of email messages that show up with a Microsoft Office attachment. Doc2pdf uses the services of the e-mail protocol called POP3 to download email messages and saves all Office attachments to a "spool" directory (where files that are in a print queue are normally stored).

Smartly then Doc2pdf utilizes Microsoft's own "viewers" (these are small program that are made available for free by Microsoft in order to allow people who do not have their applications to still see documents produced by Word, excel or PowerPoint - that is why the word "viewer" is used to describe these small applications that are available from Microsoft for free redistribution) to render and print the Microsoft Office documents as PostScript files. These PostScript files are then converted to PDF format using AFPL PostScript for Windows, reattached to the original message, and sent to all recipients of the original email using SMTP.

Simple but very effective. Doc2pdf's job in all this is to act as the controlling agent (or robot). You can get more information by looking at the code, but basically Doc2pdf consists of a rudimentary POP3 client, MIME email parser, Microsoft viewer controller, and an SMTP e-mailer.

There are a few drawbacks to the way that Doc2pdf is currently implemented -- most of them are trade-off that result when you create a piece of software that can be completely functional without requiring any expensive commercial software.

Doc2pdf should not be disturbed while it is working (downloading, converting, or sending email). Clicking around the desktop with the mouse can change the input focus in ways that will screw up Doc2pdf to the point that it will have to be restarted. This point cannot be overemphasized enough.

The program is very sensitive to keyboard input while it is working, therefore I strongly suggest to NOT touch Doc2pdf unless the status display shows "Idle" or "Stopped". If the status display says "Idle" then you can click "Stop" to stop Doc2pdf operation.

You have to basically reserve an unused Windows machine to the use of this tool, or utilize a PC that sits idle somewhere in your office and that it is not utilized by other people for normal tasks. The problem with Doc2pdf is that it tends to dominate the machine it is running on and limits it to being a Doc2pdf robot mostly PC.

Fonts: The machine that services the mailbox does not have installed all the non-English versions of the Microsoft fonts. This means that some special characters of certain non-English languages or specialized fonts may not be converted correctly.

As a solution to this problem you can download Doc2pdf and run it on your own machine where those fonts are installed. Then it will convert also your non-English documents correctly.

Try out for free a conversion to PDF by sending an email with a Microsoft Office attachment to:
Within a few minutes you should receive your original attachment converted into PDF.

Download the application Doc2PDF at:

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Your personalized ebook machine
= interesting, promising
Online service + Software

Though it takes an investigator attitude and some very good eyes to find this out I can safely say that simplePDF is both a standalone software that you can download and install on your PC as well as a Web-based WYSIWYG (WhatYouSeeIsWhatYouGet) tool that enables you to collaborate on PDF project work.

Interesting features include the ability to collect information nuggets into "snippets," which can contain text, image, animation and sound content, which can then be published in your documents.

What is really unique about this tool it is the way it is designed and as a consequence the way you need to work through it. Most other PDF making solutions are either "dedicated print drivers" which convert the print output of any of your software applications into a PDF file or they are specialized conversion utilities which do a similar job through a different route.

In the case of simplePDF you actually design the document with the same tool that will produce the final PDF file. This is different from the traditional set-up in which one first prepares the final work in a standard office or graphics application and then simply converts the final work into a PDF file. Here simplePDF takes on the role of the authoring or editing tool and opens up therefore a new approach to PDF making which is particularly suitable to writers, researchers and Web scouts who collect info and image snippets as they search for specific content and information.

simplePDF enables the user collect information nuggets into snippets, which can contain text, image, animation and sound type content. These snippets can be laid out at any location, while composing your document on a user-friendly interface.
Each document can have multiple page sizes, and can be used to generate several PDF files. Thus, you can preserve your PDF file while the document evolves over time.

In simplePDF, embedding of any multimedia files is done directly through a simple drag-and-drop command which allows to include any movie or sound file you may want to integrate in your final PDF file.

One very interesting and useful functionality of simplePDF is called "streams". This function monitors the editing of any 'stream' or any text content that are collected by you. These text blocks are saved as boilerplate components and can be efficiently called back for usage in your simplePDF-generated PDF files. In simplePDF you can also collect content streams automatically from different web sites. Alternatively you can type out your own streams or paste it from your machine. The nicest thing about streams is that they are stored independently of the actual PDF file. Hence they can be reused across many PDF files when needed.

With the online version of simplePDF it is possible to collaborate on your project work by adding colleagues, friends, and controlling their access rights through a user-friendly browser interface. Your team-mates or clients can access your PDFs from any location as long as they have a web-based access to the Internet. Page-wise redlining and commenting of PDF file by colleagues and team-mates are also provided.

No software to install. You need not download and install software.

No worries over upgrades. All additional functionalities of simplePDF will be directly available to you as they become available.

The service and tool are relatively new and need more time to mature. I encountered many bugs and was really unable to take advantage of this tool innovative design and features.

Unfortunately the simplePDF web site and its online version of the tool, are not that easy to navigate or understand as they should rightly be.

I personally advise who wants to try out this tool to go directly for the download of the standalone version of the software, which can be done with extreme ease and at no cost (see info at the end of this review). This appears indeed simpler and more straightforward to use than its online counterpart.

The online version is hard to understand and access due mostly to bad usability design of the web site and online system supporting it. Too bad.

Access to the online free version tryout is cumbersome and actually confusing for me, even after the many times I have forced myself into trying to understand it.

The online tool requires some configuration steps related to the use of the Java Runtime Environment which could be time consuming and certainly not welcome by the average user.

In the evaluation offer available on line you must first register yourself as part of Tangent World and then you are allowed to access the online Simple PDF service.

For customer service you get access to an Instant Messaging system connected to simplePDF server and staff. While the content on their site states that this should allow you "contact directly our support executives.... one to one" in reality when I tried to ask how I could spend some dollars by adding more Tangent credits to my account, none of the people listed on their instant messenger where available to reply.

Also the pricing system adopted (Tangent credits that must be prepurchased in order to use the online service) and the automatic calculator available for simplifying this task make life for most users a bit more difficult than really needed.

The use of the standalone downloadable version also resulted in several bugs and error messages. I therefore do not recommend the use of this tool as of this version 2.0.2. I actually look forward to be able to utilize and take full advantage of this tool myself.

Try out Simple PDF online for free at:

Better yet, download a fully working evaluation version of simplePDF at:

Price for the full registered standalone version is USD $35.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

= must have
PC only

Konvertor is a multimedia viewer/converter supporting conversion among 407 image, animation, audio, video and text formats quickly and easily. Konvertor is able to convert among nearly all file formats conceivable.

More than 350 graphic file formats (bmp, pcd, k25, psd, targa, hp-gl, pdf, gif, jpeg, jpeg 2000, vrml, etc.), and more than 50 audio, text and video formats (asf, wma, mp3, dalet, wav, txt, voc, mod, avi, mpeg. etc.) are fully supported.

Further the program can create HTML pages and wallpaper for your PC.

As such Konvertor can be considered an official alternative tool to convert at least some specific graphic file formats and files (mostly bitmaps graphic file formats) into PDF files.

There are also 40 image filters that can be utilized to process the image files while being converted from one file format to another one. Among these there are filters to resize, blur, add visual noise, convert into a charcoal drawing, and more.

The evaluation version has no limitation. All future versions are free for registered users.

System requirements:
64MB RAM (or more) and a Pentium 300 (or more).

Download Konvertor at:
[.ZIP 6.7 MB]

The evaluation version is free.
The registered version costs USD $22.

For advanced users:
Konvertor - batch versions

The batch versions of Konvertor can be called from another program, from another batch (.bat), from the Start button, from the Explorer, from the Dos prompt, from Winfile...

These versions have no interactivity with the user. They use their own initialization file. This file can be modified either with a word processing (notepad, Winword, Wordpad ...) either with the GUI interface delivered with each software.

Environment: Windows 9x, Me, NT4, 2000, XP.

All these programs are limited, in their evaluation version, to 50 tests of 7 files simultaneously converted.

Among the many batch convertors available I list two significant ones as they can render automatic your process of converting any of the file formats listed below into PDF at the press of a button:

Konvertor_tif2xxx for W9x, Me, 2000, NT -
English version batch conversion from TIFF to BMP, EPS, JPEG, PCL, PCX, PDF, PNG, PSD, TGA, TIFF and GIF

Konvertor_xxx2pdf for W9x, ME, 2000, NT -
English version batch conversion from AI, EPS, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, PCX, TIFF... to PDF

To see what the interface of a batch Konvertor looks like before you download it go to:

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Batch conversion to PDF from .doc, html, text and .rtf files
Batch conversion to PDF from .doc, html, text and .rtf files
= worth knowing
PC only

Automatic batch conversion to PDF from doc, html, txt and rtf is something that if you need to do, it can take up a lot of tedious time.

This new tool comes in handy as it allows you to completely configure this process in automatic mode by simply organizing all of the files that you need to be converted in separate folders/directories.

Batch2PDF will convert entire directories of .doc, .html, .txt and .rtf files according to your preset specifications.

To use Batch2PDF you need to have Win2PDF and Microsoft Word installed on your PC.

Cost. The whole set of requirements (having Win2PDF) plus its own registration cost set you back at least USD $100 in the best case. Still that maybe worth its price many times if you need to convert autonatically a very great number of documents into PDF. In that case I would actually consider it as godsend.

The application doesn't print in the background.

If Win2PDF is set to print to a static file name, Batch2PDF will print the whole batch to that name.

System requirements (please note):
Must have Win2PDF (see review further down in this issue)
Microsoft Word 97 or Word 2000

Windows XP, Windows 2000, or Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or above.
No support for Windows 95, 98, Me, or the Macintosh.

Batch2PDF is US $65.

Current version is 1.10.

Download Batch2PDF for free at:
[.EXE 1.5MB]

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posted by Robin Good on Sunday, March 31 2002, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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