How to Print to PDF

Here's how to quickly convert anything to PDF for free

Illustration of a PDF printer
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To "print" to a PDF just means to save something to a PDF file instead of to a physical piece of paper. Printing to a PDF is usually much faster than using a PDF converter tool, and is helpful not only for saving a web page offline but also so that you can share things in the very popular and widely acceptable PDF file format.

What separates a PDF printer from a PDF converter is that the a PDF printer actually appears as a printer and is listed next to any other installed printers.

When it's time to "print," just choose the PDF printer option instead of a regular printer, and a new PDF will be created that's a replica of whatever it is you're printing.

There are multiple ways to print to PDF. If the operating system or program you're using doesn't support PDF printing, there are third-party tools that can be used instead that will install a virtual printer that saves anything to PDF.

Use the Built-in PDF Printer

Depending on the software or operating system you're using, you might be able to print to PDF without even having to install anything.

Windows 10

A built-in PDF printer is included in Windows 10 called Microsoft Print to PDF that works regardless of the program you're using. Go through the regular printing process but choose the PDF option instead of a physical printer, after which you'll be asked where you want to save the new PDF file.

If you don't see the "print to PDF" printer listed in Windows 10, you can install it in a few steps:

  1. Open the Power User Menu with the Win+X keyboard shortcut.
  2. Choose Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners > Add a printer or scanner.
  3. Select the link called The printer that I want isn't listed.
  4. Click or tap Add a local printer or network printer with manual settings.
  5. Under the "Use an existing port:" option, select FILE: (Print to File).
  1. Choose Microsoft under the "Manufacturer" section.
  2. Find Microsoft Print To PDF under "Printers."
  3. Follow through the Add Printer wizard and accept any defaults to add the PDF printer to Windows 10.

Linux

Some versions of the Linux OS have a similar option as Windows 10 when printing a document.

  1. Choose Print to File instead of a regular printer.
  2. Select PDF as the output format.
  3. Pick a name for it and a save location, and then select the Print button to save it to the PDF format.

If your Linux operating system does not support PDF printing by default, you can install a third-party tool like is described in the next section below.

Google Chrome

  1. Hit Ctrl+P or go into the menu (the three horizontally stacked dots) and choose Print....
  2. Select the Change button under the "Destination" section.
  3. From that list, pick Save as PDF.
  4. Click or tap Save to name the PDF and choose where to save it.

Safari on macOS

With the web page open that you want to print to a PDF file, follow these steps:

  1. Invoke the print function through File > Print or the Command+P keyboard shortcut.
  2. Select the drop-down menu in the "PDF" option on the bottom left side of the print dialog box, and choose Save as PDF....

    Other options are available here too, like to add the PDF to iBooks, email the PDF, save it to iCloud, or send it through the Messages app.
  1. Name the PDF and save it wherever you like.

iOS (iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch)

Apple's iOS devices have a PDF printer available too, and you don't need to install any apps or pay for anything. It uses the iBooks app, so install that if you don't already have it.

  1. Open the web page you want to have in the PDF format.
  2. Use the "Share" option in your web browser (Safari, Opera, etc.) to open a new menu.
  3. Choose Save PDF to iBooks.
  4. The PDF will be created and automatically inserted into the iBooks app.

Google Docs

No, Google Docs isn't an operating system, but considering how widely used this word processing tool is, we'd be remissed not to mention its PDF printing abilities.

  1. Open the Google doc you want to print to PDF.
  2. Choose File > Download as > PDF Document (.pdf).
  3. The PDF will immediately be downloaded to your default download location.

Install a Free PDF Printer

If you're not running an OS or software program that supports PDF printing by default, you can install a third-party PDF printer. There are numerous programs that can be installed to create a virtual printer for the sole purpose of printing anything to a PDF file.

Once installed, the virtual printer is listed next to any other printer and can be selected just as easily as a a standard physical printer. Different PDF printers have different options though, so some of them might immediately save the document to PDF but others might invoke the PDF printing software and ask how you want to save it (e.g. compression options, where to save the PDF, etc.).

Some examples include CutePDF Writer, PDF24 Creator, PDFlite, Pdf995, PDFCreator, and doPDF. Another is TinyPDF but it's only free for 32-bit versions of Windows.

Note: Be careful when installing some of these programs, particularly PDFlite. They might ask you to install some other unrelated programs that you don't need to have in order to use the PDF printer. You can choose not to install them, just be sure to skip them when asked.

In Linux, you can use the following terminal command to install CUPS PDF:

sudo apt-get install cups-pdf

Saved PDFs go into the /home/user/PDF folder.

Use a Conversion Tool Instead

If you just want to print a web page to PDF, you don't have to worry about installing anything.

While it's true that the methods above do let you convert web pages to PDF, they're unnecessary since there are online PDF printers that can do that.

With an online PDF printer, you just have to plug the page's URL into the converter and instantly save it to the PDF format. For example, with PDFmyURL.com, paste the page's URL into that text box and then hit Save as PDF to download the web page as a PDF.

Web2PDF is another example of a free website-to-PDF converter.

Note: Both of these online PDF printers save a small watermark on the page.

This doesn't count as a no-install PDF printer, but the Print Friendly & PDF add-on can be installed to Firefox to print web pages to the PDF format without having to install a system-wide PDF printer that applies to all of your programs.

If you're on a mobile device, you might have better luck with a dedicated PDF converter instead of trying to upload the PDF through a website. UrlToPDF is one example of an Android app that can be used to convert web pages to PDF.

Keep in mind that there are also PDF converter programs that can convert files to the PDF format. For example, Doxillion and Zamzar can save MS Word formats like DOCX, to the PDF format. However, in this example, instead of using a PDF printer that requires you to open the DOCX file in Word first before you "print" it, a file converter program can save the file to PDF without it being open in a DOCX viewer.