Going Green: Don’t Print It – PDF-It!

As our earth continues to be taxed for more and more resources, everyone has the responsibility to make changes in their daily tasks to help alleviate the strain we put on the planet.  As a computer user, you can make an effort by reducing the number of trees it takes to produce paper.

As computers become a more integral part of our daily lives, there is a need to have printed documentation of things such as receipts for online purchases, bill payments, or news articles and web/blog pages.  Printing all this information uses an unnecessary amount of trees, as a lot of this information is stored away, maybe never to be seen again until it is time to consolidate or do spring cleaning to alleviate the amounts of clutter we have accumulated.

So instead of printing it, let’s learn how to PDF-It!

PDF stands for Portable Document Format, and was created by Adobe as a electronic portable document standard.  Almost everybody who uses a computer should be familiar with .pdf files.  PDF’s make it very easy to send electronic documents and/or forms through email, and also restrict the editing of the document to the creator.

PDF’s are a great way to replace sending Word or Excel files, which can be edited by the recipient.  PDF files also eliminate the need for the recipient from having to have the native program that the non-PDF version of the file was created in installed on their computer.  All that is needed is a PDF reader, of which there are many freely available for download on the internet.  Most PC’s come with Adobe Reader (previously Acrobat Reader) already installed.

Creating PDF files is a very simple process.  Whatever you can print from your computer, you can create into a PDF file.  There are many PDF creator programs to choose from.  Some cost money, some are free.  I will be introducing a free program called CutePDF Writer.

CutePDF Writer (and many others) work by installing as a printer driver on your computer.  By doing this, anything you can print from your computer can be created into a PDF file.  I chose CutePDF Writer (from many I tested) because it did a great job at reproducing graphics included in my text documents.

After downloading and installing CutePDF Writer, a new printer listed under Printers and Faxes called CutePDF Writer will be created.  Any time you want to print something that you absolutely do not need an immediate paper copy of,  from the File | Print menu,  choose CutePDF Writer from your printer list.  Instead of printing a physical document, you will be prompted to choose a folder where you want to save your printout as a .pdf file, as well as name it whatever you want.  (hint: do not use a programs Print button as it usually defaults to printing on your physical printer.  Use the File | Print menu option.)

That’s it!  You’re now contributing to saving trees!

I have been doing this for many years.  I make 95% of my computer and electronic purchases online, and I save every purchase receipt as a .pdf.  The same is true of all my bills.  I pay everything online, and I save the payment receipt webpage to a .pdf file.  This has proven to be exceptionally smart many a time that I had a payment dispute with a online retailer.  All I had to do was email the .pdf file of my transaction to correct the situation.  Additionally, web pages also print the URL and the date in the header & footer of every .pdf page.

I organize my .pdf’s in My Documents in a folder I call Online Transaction Receipts.  This is further organized by folders for each year, as well as folders for commonly used online retailers and bill payment entities.

To view .pdf files on a computer, you need a PDF viewer installed.  Adobe Reader is the most common viewer.  Personally, I find it to be on the ‘bloated’ side.  I.e., the program uses a lot of system resources just to view a .pdf file.  An alternative that I like very much is Foxit Reader.  Foxit uses very little RAM, and it has a nice tabbed feature when opening multiple documents for viewing.

See.  Going green isn’t that hard.

As always, remember to have all your files backed up to an external device, service or the cloud.

(note: if you are in a business setting and/or use software that generates PDF files on the fly, you may be required to have Adobe Reader installed and set as your default PDF program.  Please contact your IT professional.  And always abide by your company’s policies regarding installation of software on company computers.)