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PDF files are a convenient and easy way to save documents for viewing almost anywhere. If you can print a document, you can create a PDF of it.

Some time ago, I decided to go as paperless as I could. My recommendation of the ScanSnap document scanner was a big part of that and it allowed me to completely empty three drawers of my four-drawer file cabinet, saving documents digitally instead.

Once you're in the habit of creating PDFs from paper documents, the ease with which PDFs can be used, saved, searched, and, perhaps most importantly, backed up becomes readily apparent.

As a result, I've also cut down on the amount of actual printing that I do by changing my default printer to the free Cute PDF Writer virtual printer.

It's not at all uncommon to want to save something, say a sales receipt from an on-line purchase, by printing it. But it's rare that you actually need to save it on paper. Instead, I print to the Cute PDF Writer printer which creates a PDF of the printed output that I save on my computer. If I need to actually print it to paper, either now or sometime in the future, I can simply load up that PDF in a viewer, such as Acrobat or Foxit, and print to my real printer from there.

Here, you can see the printers that I have installed on my desktop computer:

Installed printers

While you can see that there is a "real" printer installed for when I need it, the default printer is CutePDF Writer.

Now, when I print something, say a web page that I'm viewing in Firefox, the Print dialog first shows me that Cute PDF Writer is the printer:

Print dialog, showing CutePDF Writer as the default

Once I actually press OK to print, Cute PDF Writer displays the Save dialog so that I can specify the location and file name of the final PDF:

Cute PDF Writer save dialog

You can then open your newly created PDF document in your PDF reader:

Example PDF being viewed in FoxIt Reader

It's as simple as that. And the beauty is that any document that you can print can also be printed to PDF. Save receipts, archive email, collect web pages for research, share whatever you find ... whatever you can think of, Cute PDF Writer might well be a useful and tree-saving tool.

I recommend it.

(This replaces my original recommendation PDF Creator published May 5th 2009. Due to "foistware", I can no longer recommend PDF Creator.)

Article C4831 - May 30, 2011 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

May 30, 2011 10:32 AM

I have used CuteFDF Writer for a number of years and find it extremely useful for just the reasons you cite. Rather than going out to "fax" a letter to someone, you can print it, sign it and scan it back in to your computer; then make a PDF of it to attach in an Email.

A companion tool I find very helpful id PDFill Tools Free - which lets you create PDFs from images, turn PDFs into images and break PDFs apart. Try it and you will see its value.

Nancy Clinton-Ross
May 30, 2011 12:29 PM

Just installed CutePDF caution. When you install it, they try to sneak and toolbar on you...also want you to make Ask your search provider. You must uncheck the boxes before installing the writer software. If you choose to use, no problem. Just a warning......
I don't know about everyone else, but I'm getting tired of installing software (sometimes just for experimental purposes) and ending up with "extras".

It seems common, and annoying, but I understand that it's a potential revenue source that keeps the product free. As long as they allow me to opt out on install, I'll tollerate it.

May 30, 2011 12:54 PM

I should have commented on the potential sneak. I have learned to always choose "custom" install just to get a look at what will be installed.

You might want to consider getting Revo Uninstaller. This is recommended by many sources and the think I particularly like is that it DOES NOT install itself (it is portable).

Try it you will like it. One of the options is to display installed programs in date order so you can check from time to time to see if something you did not want has installed recently.

May 30, 2011 10:29 PM

I am working to convert toward paperless also. I use PrimoPDF and have for several years. It does not require Ghostscript.

My problem with paperless is finding a method of organizing the files. What method do you use?

Thanks for the article.

Richard Tapp
May 31, 2011 4:36 AM

I second PrimoPDF as excellent free PDF creating software. An important aspect of PDF creation is the quality / size tradeoff. PrimoPDF has web, print and press presets that I find invaluable.

May 31, 2011 9:06 AM

I believe that it was Leo who recommended PDF Creator (free) which has worked nicely for me. (In fact, there's an ad for it right next to the article for Cute PDF Writer.) However, since Leo now recommends Cute PDF Writer (also free), I will download it and try it out. But I have to ask, what does the new recommendation offer that the previous one didn't?

In the fine print at the end of the article you can see that I stopped disrecommending PDFCreator because it begain to install additional unrelated software without the option not to.

May 31, 2011 9:37 AM

Lest we forget....don't overlook the PDF options in the excellent open source (OO.o). I've begun using PDF docs in the last month, and I absolutley love the format and its many options.

May 31, 2011 9:50 AM

Re: Easy Doc Scanning. (perhaps a little off subject, butt....) Using an HP all-in-one to scan paper docs is....well, a pain. HP's bloated software usually hangs, and is frustrating. Even with updates it's a total dog. It's the only that stands between paper docs and saved PDF docs. What a shame. Other functions work fine.

James S
June 1, 2011 1:58 AM

Having used pdf995 since 2003 and got tired of the nags, I switched to CutePDF in 2007 and have never looked back.

And if it irks you to take enough care to decline extra stuff that might earn the software author a copper or two, then I suggest you shop elsewhere.

Gershon Rothstein
June 1, 2011 9:46 AM

I as other commenters have used other PDF printer drivers such as Bullzip PDF and DocuCom PDF printer. Have you looked at these and other PDF printer drivers, and if so, can you tell us about the trade-offs and why CutePDF might be the best? Thanks, Gershon

Mark J
June 1, 2011 11:04 AM

@Gershon: A great website for comparing the pros and cons of freeware is Gizmo's Freeware
I get most of my freeware based on their recommendations. Just remember, there's usually no all around best. Just what's best for your needs.

Carlos R Coquet
June 6, 2011 3:50 PM

I also scan everything but . . . for my own reference only. You still need to save originals because computer copies may not be admissible in court. (They can be doctored. As a matter of fact, the AZ Registrar of Contractors will not accept digital pictures in their proceedings. The must be negative supported pictures.)
Finding originals will not be a problem if you "file" them in "chronological order", a euphemistic way of saying throw the most recent on top. With a date, you will be able to work your way very quickly to the right box and depth.
There is another compelling reason for scanning everything: many receipts nowadays totally fade with the passage of time because of the inks and paper being used.

June 8, 2011 9:47 AM

I use the PrintPDF add-on in FireFox3. It shows up as a line under the file menu rather than as a printer. I isn't as capable as CutePDF but is very quick and very convenient.

July 9, 2011 3:57 AM

What if the document you are trying to print (to pdf) has a link to another person, place, or thing?

Mark J
July 9, 2011 9:43 AM

Unfortunately, that's one of the shortcomings of free pdf creators. They don't preserve links. In order to get that functionality, you may need to invest in a for pay pdf converter. Do any of you readers know of any free pdf creators which copy live links into the pdfs they produce?

August 4, 2011 9:10 AM

How do I change the default path of Acute?

Lenny Endover
October 17, 2011 9:15 AM

After requesting that not be installed you need to check it. Seems that it installs and runs an updater even when asked not to. It also embeds itself throughout the registry.

October 31, 2011 9:23 AM

I use and like CutePDF but I have not been able to resolve one particular issue. I occasionally have need to create anonymous documents but everytime I create a PDF using CutePDF, the software attaches my name and the file address to the document property. Is there anyway to make it stop doing this?

Mark J
October 31, 2011 11:54 AM

According to what you are writing, I'm not sure whether Cute PDF is actually saving this information, or if the properties are just indicating where the file is located on your computer, and the owner field is referring to who has permission to access the file. This is not necessarily information stored in the file.
If it is saved information, I don't know how to prevent CutePDF from saving it in the PDF it creates, but if you are using Windows 7, and this might also work with Vista, you can right click on the file, and click on Properties, then click on the Details tab then click on Remove Properties and Personal Information and that should create a copy of your file without any identifying information. With XP, you might need a third party utility.

November 30, 2011 8:30 AM

My PDF files on my desktop are shown as files not recognized even though I have Cute PDF Writer installed. How do I make the Cute PDF Writer my default PDF reader? I would like not to have to write click the files in and chose which application to open them with.



CutePDF Writer, as its name implies, is a PDF *writer*. You need to install a separate application to read PDFs, like Adobe Acrobat Reader or FoxIt Reader.
November 30, 2011 9:25 AM

Set your file associations and then your computer will know which default program you wish to use to open files. The following article is about the Vista operating system, but also has the keystrokes for XP, and a list of related articles at the bottom.
Setting File Associations in Windows Vista

January 21, 2012 4:52 PM

For some reason when I hit the cutepdf print button in firefox 9.0.1 (latest) to print a long web page, it only prints p.1 even though the print all pages box is ticked.

Similarly when I click print preview for my non digital Brother printer, it only finds page 1.

I have a new computer, Windows 7 Home Premium Acer Aspire 5750G 32/64.

I wonder what is happenning? Many thanks.

January 21, 2012 5:15 PM

Hi, Sorry. I have fixed the "not printing all pages" problem. I right clicked on the page to be printed. saw a word in the context menu that said "frames". I moved the cursor to the right and saw various options including "Show this frame only" (or similar), which was underlined. Clicked that to turn off, and now all 29 pages are printed by cutepdf. But now when I right click the web page the word "frames" and its options is no longer in the context menu. Oh well, at least all pages show and can be printed!

Frank D
March 20, 2012 9:44 AM

To those who commented and asked about how to either copy or create and then print PDF documents while retaining all the clickable links --for free -- here is how I do it using a number of optional workarounds.

When I see an article on the Web that I want to save and keep in PDF format *with active links*, I use:

(1) the free PDF converter service at which supplies you with a bookmarklet for the purpose, or
(2) the free PDF converter service at, or
(3) the free PDF converter service at

If the page I want to save as a PDF has too much extraneous data (ads, images, etc.) for my taste, then I select and copy only the pertinent data, including the links, and paste it into the free _LibreOffice Writer_ ( as "HTML format" (using the "Edit > Paste Special" option). After doing any needed "doll-up" work, including highlighting, adding notes, deleting unwanted text or objects, I then click on the "Export as PDF..." button, or use "File > Export as PDF...", to create and save the file as a PDF -- with all the links active.

To view and print the file I use the free _PDF-XChange Viewer_ (, but any PDF viewer can be used.

I would appreciate any comments if there are other viable workarounds.

Frank D

March 20, 2012 3:30 PM

Great article about CutePDF Writer. I just want to say that this is a great program that I've been using for years. Works great and is a lot more affordable than paying for paper and ink. Remember it helps to save our environment to go this route.

July 18, 2012 5:28 PM

My problem is somewhat different. From time to time I need to convert a PDF to Word. I don't want to spend a bunch on a utility since I only have a need occasionally. I've searched but have not found a free or cheap utility.
Any suggestions?

July 18, 2012 9:03 PM

Converting pdf back to word is much more complicated. Very likely you won't find a good free program to do it.

October 19, 2012 8:22 PM

I would suggest that you should try some of the free online services for this. Just Google 'free pdf to word' and you'll find a couple of them. I also just need this function occassionally and I have found "Some PDF to Word" to be a reasonably good, free program for doing this. Google it and you will find reviews, as well as spots where you can download it. It's not the end-all of PDF converters, but for casual use it does the job.

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