(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY The PDF is the lingua franca of the business world, but it remains -- all these years after its conquest of universal document sharing -- infuriatingly difficult to create. It has only been in recent years that Microsoft got around to letting you save Word docs as PDFs, for example, and Adobe's full PDF creator -- Acrobat -- starts at well over $100. But what if you only occasionally need to create or edit a PDF?
That's the situation I recently found myself in. A few months ago, I moved to southern California, and I'm in the process of trying to buy a house. After having our offer accepted, my bank provided me with the loan paperwork in the form of a 150 page PDF document on its website. That's right, 150 pages. And my bank doesn't use convenient technology like DocuSign - they asked me to print it, fill it out, and fax it back, as if we were all cavemen.
To print and fax it back was impractical (I'd have to visit a business center and pay over $1/page), complicated by the fact that my wife, who needed to sign everything as well, was in another state. I decided to use the annotation tools in FoxIt Reader to paste images of our respective signatures and to enter various bits of text.
After completing the form, I discovered to my dismay that annotations are only visible if you view the PDF on a copy of FoxIt -- if you look at the loan document in Adobe Reader, the form looks blank. I needed a plan B.
That's when I remembered doPDF, a free PDF converter that works exactly as advertised, with no hidden adware or other unexpected junk. doPDF installs itself as a printer driver, so you can create a PDF from any app just by printing your document. In my case, I opened my edited and annotated loan document in FoxIt (so the annotations were visible) and then printed it to doPDF. The resulting PDF was perfect, and just what the bank needed.