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Creating PDFs

Why PDFs?Archival PDFsHow to Create "Gotchas"Help Available at KU

Why PDFs?

PDF (Portable Document Format) preserves the layout and formatting of your original document (including fonts and special characters, like formulas) while allowing anyone with the free Adobe Reader software to access your content.

PDF also makes it easier to maintain archived documents, helping ensure that those documents can continue to be read years from now, despite changes in software used to create them.

Archival PDFs for Long-Term Preservation

PDF format allows many features that are not recommended for long-term preservation. If you are creating a PDF that will be archived on a long-term basis, such as a thesis or dissertation, or a document that will be placed in KU Scholarworks, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not embed audio or video files in the PDF document. If you wish to include audio or video in an ETD or KU ScholarWorks submission, include them as separate files during the submission process.
  • Do not embed JavaScript or other executable code, or create links or other actions with the PDF that will launch executable files (programs).
  • Embed all fonts, and be sure the fonts you use are legally embeddable for unlimited, universal rendering (that is, check your license for the fonts you use to ensure legal use).
  • Specify color spaces in a device-independent manner.
  • Do not use any encryption.
  • For an introduction to Adobe Acrobat and creating and editing PDF files and then link to:

How to Create a PDF

Using Acrobat 9 (or Acrobat CS)

Acrobat software is available in several public computing labs on the KU campus. For details, visit the lab information page, and filter listings by Software.

Acrobat is also available for sale through retail outlets, and you can download a free 30-day trial at

An online demonstration of how to create a PDF using Acrobat 9 is available from Instructional Services.

To create a PDF using Acrobat 9,

  1. Open your dissertation file in the application in which you created it (Word, WordPerfect, etc.).
  2. Click the File menu, choose Print, and select Adobe PDF as the printer. (If Adobe PDF is not on the list of available printers, reinstall Acrobat 9.)
  3. In the Print dialog box, click Properties, click the Adobe PDF Settings tab, and choose Standard in the Default Settings drop-down box, then click OK.

    Note: Selecting Standard in Default Settings will result in a PDF file with all fonts embedded, created at 600 dpi resolution. These are the correct settings for KU electronic theses and dissertations.

  4. Click OK in the Print dialog box. When prompted, type in the file name and choose where the PDF will be saved, and click Save.

For a more detailed tutorial on using Acrobat 9 to create PDFs (including instructions on combining multiple files in a single PDF), see

Using Mac OS X

Mac computers are available in the Budig Media Lab (10 Budig Hall) and in the Herb Harris Lab (Kansas Union, 4th floor)

To create a PDF using Mac OS X,

  1. Open your file in the application in which you created it (Word, WordPerfect, etc.).
  2. Click the File menu and choose Print.
  3. In the Print dialog box, click the Save as PDF button.
  4. In the Save to File dialog box, type in a file name, choose where to have the file, and click the Save button.

Online PDF Creation through UMI

For student submitting theses or dissertations, UMI ( offers up to 5 conversions per user. Users are notified by email when the conversion is complete.

Note: Only Word and RTF documents can be converted using this resource.

Online PDF Creation through Adobe

Create PDF Online services provided by Adobe online at When using this method, choose Print Optimization in Optimization Settings (this will embed fonts and save your PDF at the proper resolution).

This service allows 5 free conversions per user. Users can wait online for the PDF to be created, or choose to be notified by email when the conversion is complete.

Note: Not all file types can be converted using this resource. See Adobe's site for acceptable file types.


Microsoft Equation Editor and PDFs

Scholars using Microsoft Equation Editor to create equations for their documents may encounter problems when creating PDF versions of those documents; those equations may appear garbled onscreen or when printed out from the PDF.

Here are two ways to avoid potential problems:

  1. Use a different equation editing tool.
  2. Use Microsoft Equation Editor to create the equations, but then create a screenshot of each equation, and insert it as an image in your document. (Screenshots can be created using utility programs like SnagIt; or by pressing Alt + Print Screen on your keyboard, pasting the screenshot into an image editing tool, then cropping the image to show only the equation.)

Notes for LaTeX Users

LaTeX documents can be problematic when distilled into PDF files, because by default, fonts are frequently saved as Type 3 fonts, rather than Type 1. Text in the resulting PDF may look fuzzy and difficult to read onscreen.

LaTeX users without Acrobat

To avoid this problem, LaTeX users without Acrobat can use the package dvipdfm to translate LaTeX documents into PDF, which embeds type 1 fonts by default. For details on this package, see

LaTeX users with Acrobat

LaTeX users with Acrobat can use the package dvips, and specify the option that forces the use of Type 1 fonts. (In MikTeX, use the flag –Pcmz with the dvips command.)

These notes are based on recommendations from The Berkeley Electronic Press. For more information, see

PDF Creation Help at KU

IT Customer Service Center - computing assistance by phone (864-8080) or email (

Instructional Services - offers instruction and assistance on Acrobat and other software applications, technology, and research tools. (Look for PDF: Power Hour on their workshop schedule.)