how to make a PDF

There’s a right way and a wrong way to make a PDF. Based on an unsci­en­tific sur­vey of the PDFs I get from other law­yers, just about all of you are doing it the wrong way.

The wrong way: print the doc­u­ment on paper and scan it to PDF.

The right way:print” the doc­u­ment directly to PDF.

How to print directly to PDF

Win­dows Install a printer dri­ver that out­puts PDFs instead of send­ing a file to a phys­i­cal printer. If you have a com­mer­cial ver­sion of Adobe Acro­bat (not just the free Acro­bat Reader), the ‹Adobe PDF› dri­ver should already be installed. If you don’t have Adobe Acro­bat, numer­ous third-party PDF printer dri­vers are avail­able. When you 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 your PDF printer. Set other options as needed and click ‹OK›.

OS X You don’t need a spe­cial print dri­ver—print­ing directly to PDF is built into OS X. Issue 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 opti­cal char­ac­ter recog­ni­tion (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.

But my doc­u­ment has exhibits. 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 add the exhibits to the PDF using Acro­bat or another PDF-edit­ing tool.

Got it? Good.