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Free Programs to Create a PDF Document in Linux

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http://linux.bihlman.com – Free Programs to Create a PDF Document in Linux By Alexey Titov Since the invention of PDF format in 1993 PDF documents have become extremely popular tool for exchanging information across the Web. Even now PDF beats more recent DJVU and various e-book formats in terms of popularity. This article is a quick (and hopefully, a useful) note about 3 free programs for creating a PDF document in Linux (first of all, in Debian GNU/Linux, but in other distributions the situation is much the same). This note is by no means a complete guide to PDF handling in Linux, and should be viewed as a simple road map for PDF lovers and self publishers, looking for a free open-source alternative to commercial applications. OpenOffice.org (OOo) Editor The easiest way to create a PDF from a text file is to export it as PDF in OpenOffice.org Writer. All you need to do is to put your text in OOo Writer and hit “Export as PDF” in “Files” menu — and you will get a nice PDF version 1.4 file. Creating a PDF with OOo is an extremely straight-forward and easy-to-learn process, even an absolute beginner can make a PDF just in seconds. But the simplicity of the process is its main disadvantage: do not expect to achieve a high printing quality through this method. On screen or on paper your PDF document will look just like an OOo document (or like a MS Word document, if you can imagine that) and nothing more. TEX and its derivatives A typesetting system designed by Prof. Donald Knuth in 1978, and greatly developed in the following years by the TEX community allows you to create PDF documents of much higher printing quality than those created with OpenOffice.org editor. A document made with TEX looks like “a real book” and even today TEX and its derivatives are used by several widely known publishers. But higher printing quality of TEX has its price: you will need to invest some time and effort in learning TEX commands and mark-up language. Fortunately, a lot of tutorials on TEX and its derivatives were published during last 30 years, and a complete beginner can learn TEX basics in a couple of weeks. Scribus Scribus is a relatively new (first released in 2003), but rapidly developing desktop publishing application. Like TEX, Scribus allows to create PDF documents of very decent printing quality, but its process of creation differs from that of TEX. Preparation of a document in TEX resembles programming, while in Scribus it looks more like designing on canvas. If you ever worked with Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress — Scribus will look familiar to you. Scribus is very proud of its PDF handling features and claims being able to produce a “high quality, ‘press-ready’ PDF including advanced PDF 1.4 features, ISO compliant PDF/X-3 and ICC color managed PDFs.” Unfortunately, you will need to spend a good amount of time to learn even basics of Scribus, and Scribus tutorials are not so readily available as those of TEX. Conclusions: If you want to make a simple PDF document fast and cheap — your choice should be OpenOffice.org. It is possible to make simple PDF books by using OOo’s formatting, styles and image embedding. If you want to make a well-structured document, with cross-references, sections, subsections, index, etc. — you should stick to TEX (and its derivatives like LaTEX, ConTeXt and others). And if you have a lot of mathematics in your document — TEX may be your only possibility. If you want a fancy layout, a lot of collage illustrations like in glossies, and other flashy staff — you will probably need Scribus. Check my website Free PDF Books for some examples of PDF documents created with TEX. Alexey Titov is an amateur self-publisher and webmaster of PDFreeBooks.org website. (General)