Select Page

009: How can I view and create Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files?


Adobe Corporation invented the Acrobat File Format, also known as the PDF or “portable document format” standard, to allow the easy exchange of complex documents with formatting and graphics intact.

Adobe provides a free version of Adobe Reader (formerly Acrobat Reader) for Windows, Mac OS X, and Android ( In addition, free third-party PDF viewers are available for each operating system, including Linux and iOS. However, the Adobe Acrobat program used to create PDF files is not free. Adobe Acrobat must be purchased by individuals or departments through third-party resellers. Educational discounts and bulk-license discounts are available. There is no school-wide license for Adobe products and campus Computing, Communications, and Information Technologies (CCIT) does not supply or sell Adobe Acrobat.

Alternatively, many “office” program suites on many operating systems, including the free LibreOffice (, now have PDF-creation tools built in. Look in the File menu for options like “Export as PDF” or “Save in PDF format.” If available, this is a convenient way to create PDF files. 

The Mac OS X TextEdit program can save files in PDF format. And Linux users have many free, built-in PDF-viewing or -creation tools, such as Ghostscript and GSView. In addition, third parties have reverse-engineered the PDF standard and provide free tools for creation of PDF files. These tools may not be as full-featured as the Adobe product, but are generally serviceable. For instance, Cute PDF Writer ( and PDFCreator ( are available free for Windows users. 


Why would you want to save a document in the PDF format? For instance:

  • You need to send or distribute an important document to others.
  • You want the document to be viewable or printable exactly as you have formatted it.
  • You want to distribute a document to people with different operating systems and word processors.
  • You don’t want the document to be altered easily by anyone but you.

Note that a small number of computers in the Computer Commons (CTLM 156) have the full version of Acrobat installed for public use in creating PDF documents.