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Creating PDF Documents in Linux

written by: jlwallen•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/11/2009

If you work in a business you know PDF documents are a must-have for a number of reasons. There are a number of PDF applications in Windows, but did you know there were just as many in Linux? In this Bright Hub Linux tutorial PDF guide we look at three different ways to create PDF documents.

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    Why you want PDF Documents

    PDF stands for Portable Document Format. What this means is that a document you create as a PDF will look the same on anyone's computer. This is important when you are using any formatting (especially fonts) outside of the norm. If you were to create a Word document or OpenOffice document with non-standard fonts that document will not look the same on another computer unless that computer has the exact fonts installed. To get around this you should create PDF documents instead.

    In Linux, there are numerous ways to create PDF documents. From command line conversion to full-blown desktop publishing applications, Linux can create PDFs from the simple to the complex. In this article we are going to highlight the creation of PDFs with the CUPS printing system, with OpenOffice, and with Scribus.

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    CUPS

    CUPS (Common UNIX Printer System) has a very simple means of creating PDF documents. To use this ability, you will need to have installed cups-pdf on your machine. This is simple to do. Go to the Add/Remove Software utility and do a search for cups-pdf. Select the cups-pdf entry and apply the changes to install. (You might have to give the root user password for the installation.) Once cups-pdf is installed you can take advantage of this simple system.

    When you go to print a document (from any application) you will see the option, under "Printer Name", for CUPS/Cups-pdf. What this option will do is export and save the document as a PDF file. This is the simplest method of creating a PDF document.

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    PDF Option for CUPS

    Once you select CUPS/Cups-pdf select print.
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    Another very easy means of creating PDF documents is by doing an Export to PDF from the File menu in any OpenOffice.org document. When you select this option, a new window will open allowing you to configure options for the document. There are five tabs in this window: General, Initial View, User Interface, Links, and Security.

    The General options include:

    • Range: How much of the document do you want to export?
    • Images: This allows you to compress images to keep the document down to a manageable size.
    • General: This section offers a number of PDF-specific options.

    The Initial View tab includes:

    • Panes: Do you want to include bookmarks and thumbnails on your initial page?
    • Magnification: How much magnification to use on your initial page.
    • Page Layout: Single page, two-page, continuous page, or continuous facing pages.

    The User Interface tab includes:

    • Window options: How you want the initial window to open (full screen, centered, etc.).
    • User interface options: Hide menubar, toolbar, and window controls.
    • Transitions: Use transition effects.
    • Bookmarks: All or visible bookmark levels.

    The Links tab allows you to configure how the document will handle links and targets.

    The Security tab includes:

    • Encryption: Set an encryption password for the document.
    • Restrict Permissions: Give users certain permissions (read, write, etc) for the document.

    Once you click the Export button you will have to define a location and a file name for the document.

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    OpenOffice Export to PDF

    The OpenOffice Export to PDF window.
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    Scribus is the Mac Daddy of PDF creation in Linux. Unlike the CUPS system or OpenOffice export, Scribus is a true desktop publishing application. You can compare Scribus to Adobe Pagemaker or QuarkXPress.

    Scribus handles layers, transparency, CMYK colors, separations, ICC color management, and offers press-ready output.

    You can install Scribus from your Add/Remove Software utility, do a search for Scribus, select the application for install, and apply the changes. Once Scribus is installed you will find it either in the Office or the Graphics menu.

    Scribus can save in its own native formate, PDF 1.3, 1.4, or 1.5 format, or PostScript format. Scribus can also import PDF documents, as well as many other formats, for editing.

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    Final Thoughts

    If you ever thought leaving behind Windows and QuarkXPress (or Adobe Pagemaker) would leave you lacking for PDF creation/editing you thought wrong. Linux has many options for the creation of PDF files. The three mentioned here are three of the easiest and/or best methods for creating outstanding PDF documents. Hopefully this Linux tutorial PDF guide provides you with the formats you desire.