The best freeware virtual PDF printer: a comparison

80
6724

PDF Virtual printers are a convenient way of creating PDF files. These programs can save any kind of printable document as a PDF file; all you need to do is to select ‘print’ from your favorite program, then select the virtual PDF printer and get a PDF file.

PDF Virtual Printer Comparison

There are many excellent free virtual printers. We have tested 15 of these and selected 10 of them to evaluate and compare. These (in alphabetic order) are: Bullzip PDF Printer, doPDF, Doro PDF Writer, PDF Printer (PdfSvg), PDF reDirect, PDF24 Creator, PDFCreator, Perfect PDF 7 Master, Print2PDF Free and qvPDF.

The virtual printers that we tried but decided to exclude from the comparison were Bolt PDF Printer, CutePDF Writer, ImagePrinter, pdf995, PDFlite and Primo PDF, mainly because they were inferior by functionality, configurability, or ease of use. Some (e.g. Primo PDF and CutePDF) were removed from the list for privacy considerations as they contain adware/spyware components.

[Note: this post was written by Freewaregenius contributor Priit L.] Last update: 6/21/2011.

PDF is one of the most widespread formats for document exchange on the internet. PDF (Portable Document Format) was once an Adobe proprietary format but was accepted in 2008 by ISO as an open standard. Everybody can create PDF files and there are hundreds of programs available capable of doing that. Many document editors can save PDF, and there are programs that convert documents like Microsoft Office DOC, DOCX, XLS etc to PDF, as well as a number of online converters are available to do this job. However, virtual PDF printers have emerged as one of the most reliable (and common) solutions for creating PDF documents. This post aims to evaluate the various freeware options out there and identify the best.

PDF printers can differ in functionality; however, we have identified some of the essential features as follows:

  • The user interface: varied greatly, from no user interface at all to complex interfaces cluttered with configuration options. We came to the conclusion that a good interface needs to be as simple as possible for inexperienced users while offering some flexibility.
  • Quality settings: ability to create lightweight files for web upload or big files for high quality printout;
  • Watermarking and stamping: add Your identification watermark or stamp like ‘sample’ or ‘top secret’;
  • Encryption and passwords: protect Your document by encrypting it and require password in order to open or change it;
  • Print aggregation: ability to merge several documents into one PDF file.

Some programs offer additional functionality like:

  • Output other file formats beside PDF: convert whatever document or web page to JPEG/TIFF/etc image;
  • Append another PDF file as background image;
  • Rotate the output image;
  • Digitally sign PDFs;
  • E-mail: send the created PDF by opening an e-mail program or even use a built-in SMTP client to send the file.

Of course, different people need different functionality so the division between ‘essential’ and ‘optional’ can be argued about.

The comparison: introduction and user interface

In this section we introduce the various PDF printers and address the user interface.

#1: Bullzip PDF Printer

Bullzip PDF Printer

  • The interface: Easy interface. Configuration sets can be saved.
  • Score for interface: 5/5

#2: doPDF

doPDF doPDF-Printing Preferences

  • The interface: Simple interface with novaPDF ads and minimal settings. Printer Preferences (right) let to change DPI settings.
  • Score for interface: 3/5

#3: Doro PDF Writer

DoroDoro-page2

  • The interface: Very simple and intuitive interface.
  • Score for interface: 5/5

#4: PDF Printer (PdfSvg)

PDFSVG

  • The interface: Simplistic interface with preview.
  • Score for interface: 5/5

#5: PDF reDirect

PDF reDirect PDF reDirect-pref-general

  • The interface: Main page too complex (cluttered) for beginners. Preferences (right) have sufficient number of configuration options.
  • Score for interface: 4/5

#6: PDF24 Creator

PDF24 PDF24-save-as

  • The interface: Balanced interface with enough basic options. ‘Save as’ selection (right) includes huge possibilities to configure.
  • Score for interface: 5/5

#7: PDFCreator

PDFCreator PDFCreator-options

  • The interface: Simple interface, with complex configuration hidden under Options button, a bit dull :). Configurable Options are a bit cluttered.
  • Score for interface: 5/5

#8: Perfect PDF 7 Master

Perfect PDF 7 Master Perfect PDF 7 Master-PDF settings

  • The interface: Simple and essential main interface. Settings are available under ‘PDF settings’ button.
  • Score for interface: 4.5/5

#9: Print2PDF Free

Print2PDF Free Print2PDF Free-more options

  • The interface: Simple for beginners, can be expanded several times for advanced configuration (‘More >>>’). On the right screenshot the fully expanded interface with quality options is shown.
  • Score for interface: 5/5 *** Editor’s favorite interface ***

#10: qvPDF

qvPDF qvPDF-configuration

  • The interface: Simple interface. The configuration module (right) is accessible through Start Menu. Additional configuration is available through Printer preferences/Advanced (some in German).
  • Score for interface: 3/5

Essential functions and settings

Here is evaluated the list of functions and settings that are mostly common to virtual PDF printers:

Name Quality settings configurable Print aggregations (append to existing file) Watermarking; stamping Encryption; password protection
Bullzip PDF Printer Yes: screen; printer; ebook; prepress Yes Watermarking Yes
doPDF Yes: Small size; High Quality Images. DPI settings can be set manually via Printer Properties - - -
Doro PDF Writer - - - Yes; master/limited access
PDF Printer (PDFSVG) - - Watermarking: No -
PDF reDirect Yes: High; very good; good; low Yes Watermarking: No Yes
PDF24 Creator Yes: low/medium/good/best No (Editor included allows to merge existing PDF-s) Watermarking: No Yes
PDFCreator Yes: screen; printer; ebook; pre-press; custom Yes Watermarking (needs corresponding script) Yes
Perfect PDF 7 Master - - - Yes
Print2PDF Free Yes: High quality print; Smallest file size; manual settings Yes Watermarking and stamping Yes
qvPDF Yes. From printer preferences/Advanced. Yes; append; prepend Watermarking and stamping; from PDF file Yes


Other interesting functions

Here is evaluated the list of functions that are a bit less common to virtual PDF printers:

Name Output file formats Digital signature Other features
Bullzip PDF Printer PDF (PDF/A); PS; EPS; BMP; JPEG; PCX; PNG; TIFF No Append background or foreground layer to the printout

Append if output file exist

Open destination folder after completion
doPDF PDF only No
Doro PDF Writer PDF only No
PDF Printer (PDFSVG) PDF only No Preview of output
PDF reDirect PDF only No Output preview. Options to change viewer's behavior: Windowed/Fullscreen; Hide toolbars etc

Rotate Output
PDF24 Creator PDF (PDF/A; PDF/X); PS/EPS; PCL; PNG; JPEG; BMP; PCX; TIFF; PSD Yes Email PDF. Merge and split; extract pages in PDF24 Editor. Support for PDF/A; PDF/X.
PDFCreator PDF; PNG; JPG; TIFF; BMP; PCX; PS; EPS Yes Autosave – save all PDFs to a certain folder with increasing file name

Send e-mail
Perfect PDF 7 Master PDF only No Options to determine viewer's behavior: Windowed/Fullscreen; Hide toolbars etc
Print2PDF Free PDF (PDF/A; PDF/X) Yes Presets: Confidential/High quality print/Smallest file size/Standard

Add timestamp to PDF. Add file attachment to PDF. Merge PDF-s. Send e-mail by integrated SMTP client.

Rotate; web view etc.
qvPDF PDF only


Licencing and technical details

At last here is the information about licencing and some technical details like 64-bit Windows support and GhostScript requirements. (Note: GhostScript (GS) is a common development tool that is used as a part of PDF conversion process, some virtual PDF printers contain this software or need it to be downloaded and installed separately.)

Name License Free of ads; popups; sponsor software 64-bit support GhostScript needed
Bullzip PDF Printer Free for personal or commercial up to 10 users Yes Yes Yes; GS Lite is included in the installer
doPDF Free for personal and commercial use No. Almost half of the main interface is under NovaPDF ad. Yes No
Doro PDF Writer Free for personal and commercial use Yes Yes? Insufficient information Yes; installs its own GS
PDF Printer (PDFSVG) Free for personal and commercial use Yes Not sure; insufficient documentation Yes; included in the installer
PDF reDirect Free for personal and commercial use Yes Yes Yes; included in the installer
PDF24 Creator Free for personal and commercial use Yes Yes Yes; included in the installer
PDFCreator Free for personal and commercial use Yes. The installer includes Pdfforge Toolbar; but this is optional. Yes Yes; included in the installer
Perfect PDF 7 Master Free for personal use. Contact the authors for commercial use. Yes Yes No
Print2PDF Free Free for personal and commercial use Yes Yes No
qvPDF Free for personal and commercial use Yes Yes Yes; included in the installer


Conclusion

Putting it all together – here are the overall scores for the evaluated virtual PDF printers:

Name Strengths Weaknesses Rating
Bullzip PDF Printer Excellent functionality Interface a bit dull 🙂 41399
doPDF Small installer size; no need of GhostScript or .NET Only very basic functionality. Interface contains ads. 3.5/5
Doro PDF Writer Simple and intuitive interface Mediocre functionality 3.5/5
PDF Printer (PDFSVG) Simple interface with preview No configurable options at all. Help is not working; no FAQ; forum or additional info. 41338
PDF reDirect Good functionality The main interface is a bit cluttered; some options could be hidden. 41369
PDF24 Creator Powerful functions; easy interface - 5/5 *** Editor's choice! ***
PDFCreator Rich functionality A bit dull interface 🙂 41399
Perfect PDF 7 Master Simple and fast Mediocre functionality. Needs registration. Needs to unpack several files to a folder before setup. Needs restart after installation. 41369
Print2PDF Free Excellent interface and functionality. Excellent help and support Maybe missing JPEG/TIFF image file output? 41399
qvPDF Good functionality. Development is shutting down. Configuration is cluttered. 3.5/5

There are several excellent virtual PDF printers that offer good functionality and have a balanced interface – simple intuitive basic interface and complex settings hidden from beginner or casual computer user. Four PDF printers got 5/5 and choosing between them was a bit difficult.

  • The editors choice is PDF24 Creator.
  • Almost equal candidates are PDFCreator and Bullzip PDF Printer (although the latter is only free for commercial use for up to 10 users).
  • Print2PDF Free had what we thought was the best interface, although it did not offer output to image formats (download link above).