Fast Foward

Help File: PDF Output in Windows, Installing Internet Explorer 8

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, May 3, 2009

QHow can I save a document as a PDF on my Windows PC?

AIf you want to hand out a copy that will look just as it did on your screen, without font mismatches or layout glitches, your most reliable options are paper or PDF -- and paper doesn't work well if it gets wet.

Adobe's Portable Document Format is a digital equivalent of that paper printout, preserving every detail of a document -- whether or not the recipient has the same fonts, applications or even operating system as you.

Mac OS X includes this helpful option, as do a few Windows programs. For example, Corel's WordPerfect and the free, open-source ( both let you save a file as a PDF, and last week's Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 update ( adds the same to Microsoft's productivity suite. But in most cases, you'll need to add software to Windows to save your work as PDF files.

The easiest such option I found was the free CutePDF (, which adds a "CutePDF Writer" entry in any print-dialog box; select that, pick a folder on your computer, and you'll get a PDF copy of your document a moment later.

Its "Save As" dialog includes a small text ad for Newport News-based developer Acro Software's CutePDF Pro. For an ad-free, but more complex option, try the free, open-source PDFCreator (

Microsoft is now pushing out Internet Explorer 8 as an automatic update. Should I let Windows install it?

Yes. IE 8 has some issues, but it still offers a big step up in security and capability over IE 7 -- much less the gruesomely obsolete IE 6.

Any Internet Explorer install involves non-trivial changes to Windows and, therefore, involves some risk. But so far, I haven't seen or heard of major compatibility issues with this version.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Visit for his Faster Forward blog.

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