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Mac hints and tips

Create PDFs for sharing and preview printouts

Adobe's PDF file format was originally created just for it's Acrobat application, but it has become a standard that is widely used for documents across all popular operating systems. It has really taken off since the company made the basic format an open standard that anyone can use.

When a file is saved as a PDF you can think of it as an exact copy of what you would get if you output it to a printer. It has exactly the same layout, identical fonts, the same design, images, positioning of items and so on. What you see on the screen when you view a PDF file is what you would get on the printer.

One of the biggest advantages of PDFs is that anyone can view them. Some operating systems need a free viewer application, but OS X has one built in and you can simply double click a PDF file to see it in Preview.

When you receive documents from people as attachments to an email message or download documents from the web you often find that they can't be viewed because you don't have the priginal application. With PDFs you don't need the application that created the document - you can just view it by opening it.

Create PDFs in OS XIf you need to send someone a document or post a document on the web you can create PDFs yourself and this will ensure that everyone can view it without the need for any special application.

To do this you select File, Print in any application that can print. A standard OS X print dialog is displayed and in the bottom left corner is a PDF button. select Save As PDF and save it to disk if you want to keep a copy, write it to a CD or DVD, or upload it to the web. If you want to email it you can select the Mail PDF option - this creates the PDF, creates a new email message, and automatically adds it as an attachment.

There is an option on the menu to open the PDF in Preview and this is actually useful for seeing what a document will look like when it is printed. By previewing documents before you print them you can save paper (it's not the cost that's important, it's the rain forest!) by spotting and fixing problems. Use the Open PDF in Preview option to ensure that everything is OK before printing and you'll only need to print once because it will be perfect the first time.

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