There’s a right way and a wrong way to make a PDF. Based on an unscientific survey of the PDFs I get from others, a lot of you are doing it the wrong way.
The wrong way: print the document on paper and scan it to PDF.
The right way: convert the document directly to PDF.
How to convert directly to PDF
Windows (Office apps)Click File and then Save As. From the file-type popup menu, select PDF (*.pdf). Click Save. The file extension will automatically be changed to .pdf.
Windows (other apps)Issue the print command. You’ll see the Print dialog box. At the top of this box is a popup menu listing the installed printers. Select the Microsoft Print to PDF driver. Set other options as needed and click OK.
Mac OSIssue the Print command. The dialog box that appears has a button at the lower left labeled PDF. Click this button. From the menu that appears, select Save as PDF. In the next dialog box, enter a filename and click Save.
“What’s the difference? Either way, you end up with a PDF.” True. But one PDF is much better than the other.
When you print a document and then scan it to PDF, you’re defeating most of the benefits of using a PDF at all. Essentially, you’re making a series of photos of your document and packaging them inside a PDF. These photos occupy a lot of disk space, they’re slow to view or print, they have to go through OCR to be searchable, and any care you’ve put into typography will be diluted by the reduced quality of the scan.
But printing directly to PDF stores your document in a compact, high-resolution format. Instead of a series of photos, the document pages are stored as highly compressed digital data. These pages take up very little space on disk, are fast to view or print, are searchable without OCR, and preserve your typography with perfect fidelity. (If you have bitmap images in your document, like JPEGs, they will still be stored in the PDF as bitmaps.)
“But I need to combine several documents into one. How am I supposed to get those into the word-processing document?” You don’t. Print the word-processing document to PDF as described above. Then combine them into a single file using Acrobat or another PDF-editing tool.