Co-founder of Adobe who helped develop PDF passes away at 81

Charles “Chuck” Geschke, the co-founder of Adobe who helped develop the PDF format, passed away at the age of 81.

His legacy is considerable, especially when you consider these estimates:

* Over 2.5 TRILLION PDF documents are created each year

* More than 50% of files stored in the cloud are PDF files

* 60% of non-image attachments in Outlook are PDF files

Our condolences to this truly remarkable pioneer of the desktop publishing industry. Rest in peace.

Flattening a PDF file with Win2PDF

We recently stumbled across this article outlining a problem with 2020 tax returns saved as a PDF file.


Q: I’ve been using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC to fill-in and save PDF tax forms on my PC. But when I recently called up a stored tax form, the data I’d filled-in appeared for a moment, then disappeared, leaving just a blank tax form. I then called up other tax forms that I’d saved earlier, and found that they still had their data. I then tried using another PC, and found that some stored tax forms contained the data I’d entered, while others had gone blank. Adobe won’t help me with this problem because I’m using a free app. What’s wrong and what can I do?


In this case, there was a glitch in the PDF viewer where the filled-in data appeared to “go missing”, even though the information was saved in the file. This type of problem is caused by PDF layers, and it can be easily fixed by flattening the PDF file.

Basically, flattening the PDF means compressing all of the data onto a single layer. No data or information will appear to be missing — all of it will be visible at all times — so the problem experienced with the “missing data” in the tax forms will be eliminated.

While there are several ways to flatten a PDF file, one of the easiest is to just print the document from Adobe Reader (or any PDF viewer) to the Win2PDF printer using the PDF Image Only option. That will flatten it automatically.

After you print to Win2PDF, the resulting PDF will no longer be searchable. If you want the text in the flattened PDF to be searchable, you can download and install the “Win2PDF Desktop with OCR” add-on and select “Portable Document Format – Searchable” as the Win2PDF “Save As Type”.

How the Lowly PDF Played the Longest Game in Tech

Here’s an interesting article on why PDF has been the de facto digital document format for almost 30 years (with Win2PDF being available for more than 20 years of that time). One secret to the format’s success: “You only think about it when it doesn’t work. And happily, for PDFs, that’s quite rare.”

As the article notes, “the real key to the dominance of the PDF has less to do with its future than with its roots. From the start, it was meant to be lightweight and forward compatible, meaning the format would continue to be readable well into the future.” Even documents created with PDF version 1.0 continue to be readable today with the existing PDF readers.

So, hats off to the lowly PDF. It rarely garners the respect it should.

Win2PDF as a Replacement for Google Chrome’s Discontinued “Save To Google Drive” Feature

Google’s Chrome web browser currently has a feature called “Save to Google Drive”. It appears in the printer list when printing from Chrome, and allows the user to print and save a web page directly to the user’s Google Drive account (and store as a PDF).

This feature will be going away on December 31, 2020, as Google deprecates its Google Cloud Print feature.

Fortunately, you can easily replace this feature using Win2PDF.  Just follow these steps.

 1)  Install the free Google Drive for Desktop application on your computer. This will create a folder on your computer that will be synced with your cloud-based Google Drive account. On your PC, you will see a new folder named “Google Drive”.

2)  Print from the Chrome browser and select “Win2PDF” as the printer.

3)  Save the PDF file to the “Google Drive Folder”.

4)  [Optional] Select “Save as type:” to be “Portable Document Format – Searchable (OCR PDF)”. With this option selected, not only will the PDF file be saved to your Google Drive account, but it will also be converted to a searchable PDF file. Normally, printing from Google Chrome creates an Image-only PDF file, but this option will produce a searchable PDF file with selectable text. [Note: You’ll need to download the optional Win2PDF Desktop with OCR Download to access this save as option.]

Once the file has been saved to your Google Drive folder, it will be synced with your cloud-based Google Drive account and be accessible anywhere.

As a side note, I’ve used this feature frequently as a quick way to save recipes that I find online. If I want to save them, I just go to Print -> Save to Google Drive and then pop them into my recipes folder for future reference. Because they are a PDF file stored in the cloud, I can access them from my iPhone if I am shopping at the store, or on my iPad if cooking in the kitchen.

Now I can still do that and best of all, the Win2PDF solution is actually better because of the ability to create searchable recipes!

Bon appetit!

Win2PDF Plug-Ins Extend Features Specific to Customers’ Needs

Last month we introduced a new Win2PDF Plug-In for Slack, and this month we’re back with several new Win2PDF Plug-Ins.

A Win2PDF Plug-In is simply a small customizable program that can be created, modified, or installed that will give the user an option to automatically take some action with the PDF file after it has been created. It allows Win2PDF’s functionality to be extended to address specific customer needs or workflow integrations. For example, it has already been used by customers to upload PDF files to a content management system, automatically make archival copies of PDFs, store PDF in cloud-based services, delete blank pages, split PDF files into single page documents, use multiple watermarks, and send a PDF file to a specific email program.

Why use Plug-Ins? Why not just add these features directly to Win2PDF?

The Win2PDF Plug-Ins were created specifically to add capabilities that might be unique to each customer. Most of the new Plug-Ins were unique or very specific to a customer request, so they may not be useful to the user base at large. Rather than clutter the main Win2PDF program with these types of unique features, we allow them to be created, customized and added as needed for each customer.

As of today, there are 8 additional Plug-Ins available for download at our GitHub page. [GitHub is a central code repository for our Plug-In samples — you can download compiled Plug-Ins that are ready to use, or, if you are a developer, you can download and modify the source code to build your own Plug-Ins specific to your needs. These examples show what can be done with Win2PDF, and provide a template for future solutions.]

The new Plug-Ins are:

  • PDF Send To Outlook – Add a “Send To Outlook” option to Win2PDF File Save window to automatically attach a PDF to an Outlook email message.
  • PDF Duplicate File – Automatically make a duplicate copy of the newly created PDF file in a designated duplicate file folder which may reside on a shared network location or in a cloud based folder (OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive).
  • PDF Print Logger – Automatically log files created by Win2PDF to the Windows Event Log.
  • PDF Archive File – Automatically archive newly created PDF files created by Win2PDF in a designated archive file folder which may reside on a shared network location or in a cloud based folder (OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive). Files are appended to an archive PDF named based on the current date.
  • PDF Delete Pages – Automatically deletes extra pages from a newly created PDF.
  • PDF Split Pages – Automatically splits a multi-page PDF into separate one page PDFs.
  • PDF Apply Multiple Watermarks – Automatically apply different watermarks to separate sections of a PDF [Requires Win2PDF Pro].
  • PDF Image Only Flattener – Automatically merge watermark layers into a single layer Image Only PDF [Requires Win2PDF Pro].

A few other notes:

  • The samples only allow one Win2PDF Plug-In used for each instance of the Win2PDF printer.
  • If you wish to remove a particular Win2PDF Plug-In, you can use the Windows Add/Remove Programs feature to uninstall.
  • All of the Win2PDF Plug-Ins hosted on this page can be used at no charge. Some only work with licensed versions of Win2PDF. Contact [email protected] for a 30 day evaluation license.
  • An evaluation version of Win2PDF can be downloaded for free at https://www.win2pdf.com/download/

If you have any requests for Plug-Ins, let us know. We’re interested in building out this capability with more examples, so if you have a particular integration or special need, send an email to [email protected] and tell us about your requirements. If it’s something we can assist with, we’ll be happy to help.

For now, hop over to the Win2PDF Plug-Ins page and take a look.

NEW! Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-In

One of the requests we get is how to take some action after a PDF file is created, and do it automatically. The most common example is to take the PDF file and attach it to a new email message. While Win2PDF has supported this feature since the beginning, many customers want to expand this capability to integrate the PDF files with other applications. And since these processes may be unique to each customer, we’ve expanded our support into a flexible new feature called Win2PDF Plug-Ins.

A Win2PDF Plug-In is simply a small customizable program that can be created, modified, or installed that will give the user an option to take some action with the PDF file after it has been created.

Here’s one example we’ve created for our own internal software development team using the Slack business communication platform. When we download and install the Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-in, it allows our users to check a box on the Win2PDF file save window and automatically send the PDF file into a specific channel in Slack.

Slack allows teams of users to share comments, images, files, etc. in different channels. [A slack channel is simply a topic-based message board that allows any team members who are subscribed to that channel a way to share and exchange information related to that topic. Examples might be channels like #features or #support or #sales.]

With this Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-In installed and configured, it gives our Win2PDF development team an easy way to share PDF files without using email, and they will all be archived in a common channel for all team members. There are a few one-time steps to configure this Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-In to work with your specific Slack workspace and channel.

This is just the first of many Win2PDF Plug-Ins we have in development, and we’ll also be providing more details in future posts on how users can create their own Win2PDF Plug-Ins, or modify ones that we’ve created.

Researchers Say PDFs Are ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’

We just stumbled across this Vice article titled Researchers Say PDFs Are ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’. It references a new paper published by the Nielson Norman Group outlining the problems with the PDF format that still exist.

“The format is intended and optimized for print. It’s inherently inaccessible, unpleasant to read, and cumbersome to navigate online. Neither time nor changes in user behavior have softened our evidence-based stance on this subject,” the article reads. “Even 20 years later, PDFs are still unfit for human consumption in the digital space.”

Ouch!

While it is an interesting read and does outline some very real limitations of the Portable Document Format as well as strategies to make them more user-friendly, it is, after all, a document format. The primary function of PDF is to make files universally available on all platforms and to preserve the formatting and layout of the original documents.

Court filings, for example, require a consistent and universally accepted standard for submitting electronic documents. Most companies require standardization of company forms across their business practices. Government agencies like the IRS need standard forms and documents for processing. So do hospitals and clinics working with patient medical records. Many electronic texts require a specific layout of images and text in order to be understood correctly and in context. So many examples in just about every industry. And to accomplish this, you really need a standards-based document format.

Having said that, it’s certainly appropriate to make some information available in other formats, especially if the information needs to be dynamically formatted to different sized screens and for different users, but it’s hard to fault PDF because it doesn’t work for all users in all situations.

Also, it should be noted that there really aren’t any viable alternatives to the Adobe PDF for enterprise users where these types of considerations are paramount. Microsoft did try to gain support for its XML Paper Specification (XPS) but it never took hold as a replacement to PDF.

While PDF files do have limitations, especially for users reading the files on small screens like phones or tablets, they still provide the best technology for creating, archiving, and sharing electronic documents. Adobe’s blog gives many reasons why PDFs are better than other proprietary formats.

How to Create a Non-Searchable PDF File

When you create a PDF file from most applications, the result is a PDF that contains both text and images. The text can be searched from PDF viewers like Adobe Reader, can be cut & pasted into other documents, and it can also be indexed and searched by search engines like Google or Bing.

However, some people want to create PDF files that are NOT searchable for a variety of reasons.

We posted an example some time ago where some sensitive documents were redacted in the PDF, and even though they displayed correctly (where the text appeared blacked-out), the actual text in the PDF file was searchable and selectable. Whoops!

There are also situations where lawyers litigating cases need to share documents with the opposing side, and they have an interest in dumbing down the PDF file. That is, making it very difficult to search through the documents.

Whatever the reason, the easiest way to create non-searchable PDF files is to use the PDF Image Only file save option with Win2PDF. This will save all text in the document being printed as an image, so that it can’t be searched or indexed by search engines. You can save the output as either a monochrome image, or a color image depending on your needs.

One caveat with this feature is that it will make the file sizes larger, which is usually not desirable.

Unless, that is, you’re a lawyer litigating a case…

Win2PDF Release 10.0.72 Now Available

A new version of Win2PDF (a free update to existing Win2PDF 7 or Win2PDF 10 users) is available now at the Win2PDF download page. In addition to bug fixes and stability improvements, it adds several new features to Auto-Naming PDF files, command-line options, and the Win2PDF Desktop App. Win2PDF 10.0.72 includes the following new features:

  • Adds a Configure Win2PDF Auto-Name shortcut to the start menu to make configuring the Auto-name features easier.

  • Adds Send File and Print File actions to the Configure Win2PDF Auto-Name menu to automatically email or print a PDF. See How to Automatically name and send PDF files by email for an example of automatically naming and sending invoices to email recipients based on the contents of the PDF.

  • Performance and stability improvements

Again, if you have a license for Win2PDF 7 or Win2PDF 10, you can download this new version at no charge.

Can Win2PDF be used as a Shared Printer?

We get this question a lot, and it’s worth discussing.

First, what do we mean by a shared printer?

Typically, a shared printer refers to a paper printer that is attached to a print server and then shared to multiple workstations on the network. It is very useful for a paper printer because it allows one physical resource (the printer) to be accessed and utilized by many users. Each workstation can print files, and then that printer file data is sent to the shared printer where it is queued up with other print jobs until each file is printed.

If you’ve ever worked in an office setting with many users sharing a printer, you’re probably familiar with the line of people waiting for their printouts because ‘that coworker’ sent a 200-page manual ahead of you. It has its drawbacks.

The primary advantage, of course, is cost savings since one printer can be utilized by many users.

So, back to the original question: Can Win2PDF be used as a shared printer?

The short answer is it can be used as a shared printer, with limitations, in some configurations, although we don’t officially support it. The reasons for this are likely true for just about any virtual printer. Win2PDF, like most virtual printers, simply works differently than a paper printer:

  1. There is no cost savings as in the case with the paper printer. The licensing for Win2PDF is ‘per workstation’, and the Win2PDF TSE license does not allow you to share the Win2PDF printer to an unlimited number of workstations. One license is needed for each computer, whether it is using the locally installed Win2PDF printer, or accessing the Win2PDF printer over the network. The price is the same in either configuration.
  2. There is no performance advantage like a paper printer might have. A shared paper printer may accept print jobs from multiple workstations, and then do further processing on the printer. But this isn’t the way Win2PDF works. Since Win2PDF converts files directly to PDF, it doesn’t offload any of the processing capability to the print server. The workstation does all of the processing.
  3. Win2PDF relies on some Windows operating system components to work correctly. When you run the Win2PDF setup program, the setup program checks for the existence of these needed Windows components, and then installs them if necessary. If Win2PDF is only installed on a print server, and then shared over the network, this check is not performed. Other workstations on the network may be able to access the shared Win2PDF printer, but the printing may fail if their specific machine is missing components.

When it comes to virtual printers, since there are no inherent cost benefits or processing speed gains, what most customers really want is an easy to deploy and manage PDF solution for a large number of users.

And that can be addressed in other ways that make more sense for a virtual printer. For larger numbers of users, we provide a volume license installer that can be used to push licensed copies to each workstation. And that, coupled with our silent install options, makes it easy to get Win2PDF on each desktop so that users can create PDF files hassle-free.

More details on this issue can be found at our online support FAQ.