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Creating PDF Files with PDFCreator

Product: PDFCreator
Class: Utility, pdf creation softwae
License: Free, open-source, GPL license.
Operating Systems: Windows
Version Reviewed: v0.9.8
I’ve written a number of times that I often Click2PDF, a PDF creation program, to create .pdf files to document the purchases I make on the Internet. Since Click2PDF is a commercial program (it’s $19.95, and is well worth it), I often look for an alternative that can do the same things — since I don’t want to buy a copy for the computers on which I will seldomly use it.

Tech Tip
What’s a PDF file? That’s the file extension of that is used for Adobe Reader files. By the way, there are other reader files besides Adobe Reader — and which are not as slow or intrusive.
This time, I’ve found PDFCreator, which is a free, open-source program for Windows. PDFCreator sets up as a printer driver do that it is recognized by your computer as a printer. Any program that prints from Windows can print to PDFCreator.
Most pdf creation programs will create a pdf file when you "print" to its "printer." The feature missing in them is the ability to combine multiple diferent print tasks into one file, e.g., saving the description web page of something you’re going to buy, the invoice page as you buy the item, and the receipt / purchase acknowledgment, all in the same file. Most programs make you save each in a separate file.
PDFCreator, though, is a free program that solves that problem, too.
In the next two articles, I’ll show how to create single "print" PDF files and how to create PDF files that include multiple prints. But, first, let’s look at one of the other aspects of PDFCreator, from pdfForge.
The left image below shows the initial setup screen of PDFCreator — there’s nothing surprising on it.
The image on the right, though, is about halfway through the license document and is NOT the license for PDFCreator (that was the first license shown). This license is for the toolbar that PDFCreator wants to install in Firefox and in Internet Explorer. I suggest that you read it very carefully and decide if you want the pdfForge Toolbar to be installed (I didn’t want it).

(click on the image for a larger version)

(click on the image for a larger version)
The next screen defaults to Standard Installation, and unless you’re installing the program on a server to be accessed by other computers, that’s the selection you need.
The image on the right shows a very important screen. Pay close attention to it — I did not on my first installation of PDFCreator.
On it, you can pick whether you wat Yahoo to be your default search engine — I don’t and unchecked this box. That’s how I learned that PDFCreator sets up uninstall options in Windows Add/Remove Programs for both PDFCreator and pdfForge Toolbar.
Initially, I thought that unchecking the Use Yahoo… checkbox would also prevent the pdfForge Toolbar from being installed — it does not. Notice the line that I have circled in red — the PDFCreator Browser AddOn is the pdfForge Toolbar.

(click on the image for a larger version)

(click on the image for a larger version)
If you do not want the pdfForge Toolbar, you must check it on the Select Components screen. I also unchecked the "COM Samples" item, as it seemed to make no sense.
For now, let’s follow through my first installation and see what happens when pdfForge Toolbar is installed.
The image on the right (Select Additional Tasks) has defaults that were fine for me, so I didn’t change anything. I clicked Next and finished the installation process.

(click on the image for a larger version)

(click on the image for a larger version)
At that point, WinPatrol immediately gave me three program alerts warning me of system-level changes. That’s how I realized that I had accidentally installed the pdfForge Toolbar.
The first image warned me that there was a new program SearchSettings.exe that would start up every time I started my computer. I like to minimize the number of things that run automatically, so this was a great warning.
Tech Tip
When WinPatrol warns me of a new auto-starting program, I usually tell it "Yes" to allow the program to auto-start. Then, I open WinPatrol and use its Startup Programs tab to Disable the item.
I could remove it from the list, but Disable is a safer choice — if I make a mistake, I can Enable the item again.
On the right, we see the warning from WinPatrol telling me that the Widgi Toolbar from the pdfforge Toolbar has been installed as a toolbar for Internet Explorer.

(click on the image for a larger version)

(click on the image for a larger version)
In the image on the left below, we see another warning from WinPatrol telling me that same thing as the last message.
However, as we can see in the WinPatrol image on the right, there were two warninngs because the WidgiToolbarIE.dll was set up twice — once as a Browser Helper Object (BHO) and once as a toolbar. We also see that SearchSettings.dll was set up as a BHO.
Notice WinPatrol’s Remove button. All I had to do was to select an item and click Remove, then the second one and then the third.

(click on the image for a larger version)

(click on the image for a larger version)
In the image below, you can see that WinPatrol shows me that the SearchSettings program is set to start automatically when I start (or restart) Windows.

(click on the image for a larger version)
At this point, I uninstalled pdfForge Toolbar and PDFCreator, using the Windows Add/Remove Programs dialog box. Since I intended to install them again, and to skip the toolbar this time, I rebooted.
Tech Tip
If you ininstall and plan to reinstall, always reboot between those two steps. Sometimes Windows has added some of those files to the operating system that’s running, and can’t delete those files. It marks them to be deleted when the computer reboots.
In the two related articles, we’ll look at using PDFCreator to save individual print tasks as individual PDF files and to save multiple print jobs as a single PDF file. 

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