LibreOffice makes it easy to create PDF files. LibreOffice is a free office suite which includes Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation programs – it can read and write documents used by Microsoft Office and other Office applications.
It also has more options than the ‘export to PDF’ process available in MS Office and is therefore better at configuring PDF output. If you don’t already have LibreOffice, see our guide to download, install and configure it.
Alternatively, there is a portable version available at PortableApps. Portable means that you can try the program without installing – so it’s easy to just delete it afterwards if you wish. Tip: LibreOffice requires Java for a few of its more advanced features – the latest version of Java lets you disable it for all browsers for best security but still use it for offline apps like LibreOffice.
Assuming you now have LibreOffice, we’ll review how to create a PDF file from a Word document – the principle is the same if exporting from a Spreadsheet etc.
- Open the Word document in LibreOffice Writer.
- From the menubar, choose ‘File’ then select ‘Export as PDF’ to open the PDF Options window.
This window has five tabs to configure optional settings of how the PDF will be created. If the PDF is for your own use and the document is basic (i.e. just text) then you can probably ignore these and just press the ‘Export’ button – the default settings do a good job in most cases. However, we’ll review each of the five tabs in case you want more granularity in the creation process:
1. General Tab – lets you choose which pages you want included in the PDF and the type/amount of compression of any images in the document. You can also insert a watermark on the PDF which is handy for adding copyright information.
In the General section, PDF/A-1a is a specific type of PDF format for documents intended for long-term storage – only select this if the recipient of the PDF file specifically requests it.
2. Initial View – includes settings for how the PDF file will appear when it is first opened/viewed e.g. you may want Bookmarks such as Chapter Headings to be displayed as well as the page content.
The Magnification section determines the zoom and fit of the PDF in the reader’s window whilst the Page Layout lets you choose between continuous (scrolling) or single pages and even double faced pages.
3. User Interface – let you choose which Reader features are available to the user e.g. whether to hide the menubar, display bookmarks or open in full screen mode.
4. Links – deals with how hyperlinks within the document are treated e.g. links to webpages and links to other LibreOffice documents. If the document contains links to other documents, selecting ‘Convert document references to PDF targets’ will generate PDFs of those documents too, at the same time as this one.
Note that by default these links will be in absolute format e.g. C:\users\roy\other-doc.PDF – fine on your own computer but they will not work for anyone else. To avoid this problem, make sure that you also choose ‘Export URLs relative to file system’ if converting links to PDF targets for use by other people.
5. Security – you can create a password to encrypt the PDF file so that no-one can read it unless they have the password. You can also add a password to configure permissions – once set, the permission settings in the right hand side of the tab will become un-greyed so you can choose whether the PDF an be printed, changed, copied or form fields filled in etc.
Don’t go overboard here without considering the impact on the user – do you really need to prevent them printing the PDF (they could screenshot and print each page anyway, it would just take longer).
Export to PDF – Once you have completed configuring options, press ‘Export’ then choose where you want the PDF to be saved, edit the filename if required and press ‘Save’.
The PDF (and linked PDF targets if applicable) will now be available in your selected location – open with Adobe Reader or with an alternative free PDF reader such as our favorite, PDF-XChange Viewer.