What You Lose When You Print to PDF

Most businesses and industries have come to rely on PDF documents. They use PDF software to create technical manuals, e-books, white papers, brochures, instruction manuals, fillable forms, and even digital copies of random documents.

Since the file format is so popular, many applications provide users with the ability to Print to PDF as an option. With this feature, users can easily create a PDF version of whatever they want simply by telling the computer to “print” a file. Instead of putting ink to paper, the Print to PDF feature saves a copy of the file with the .pdf extension. This file behaves, essentially, like we would expect a document created with PDF software would. It’s portable across any computing platform so people can share the file. This is, however, where the power of the PDF gets lost in translation.

Lost features

When you choose to Print to PDF you lose a great deal of the features that PDF software has to offer. For starters, you’re limited in how you lay out your document. Printing to PDF simply takes a snapshot of the file and renders it exactly as it looks in its native format. You don’t have the option to rearrange or resize text and images as you would with your own PDF software.

Print to PDF typically does not provide options such as supporting the PDF/A standard for archiving, including attachments, creating bookmarks, or outputting to a PDF portfolio.  Professional PDF software will include these capabilities when creating PDF.

Without a fully featured PDF software solution, you also lose out on the ability to create fillable forms. Printing a document as a PDF file may give you the option to include text boxes where a person may write in their responses, but they won’t be able to fill the form out on their computer.

Embedding multimedia files into a document is another area where printing a file to PDF comes up short. Using your PDF software, you have the option to embed images, video and audio files into your document. Printing limits you to only the images included in the original file.


Another area where printing comes up short is in securing the document. PDF software allows you to protect a document from editing, printing or even viewing if the recipient doesn’t have the right permissions. Merely printing a file out with the .pdf extension doesn’t give you this ability. The only protection this offers is the ability to prevent people without PDF software from making changes to the file.

Document encryption and digital signature features are also absent in a printed PDF file. These are easy to apply when using the right tool, however, your computer’s print capabilities will not offer this.

So why use Print to PDF?

Some people use the Print to PDF method because their application already provides this function. Others may not be aware of the feature set that comes with a professional grade PDF editor such as PhantomPDF.

If you’re creating the occasional PDF file, printing may be an option. If, however, you’re creating professional, business documents then using the print option just won’t do.

25 thoughts on “What You Lose When You Print to PDF

  1. Atomy

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  2. www.ichoosedrone.us

    Great blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of any
    community forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article?

    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get advice from other experienced people that share the
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  3. Ao gio Uniqlo

    My eyesight is starting to go, yet as a master’s student, I have to read scholarly papers (in PDF format) on a regular basis.
    These scholarly papers have small print due to their two-column format, and it’s a pain to read them on the screen. I’d like to be able to print each 8-1/2″x11″ page across two pieces of paper – printing one half of each page on its own sheet of paper, followed by the other half on the next sheet of paper, zooming the print to 200%, thereby giving me a larger font which should be easier to read. Any idea how to do this? The print drivers I’ve seen are set to cram multiple pages on a single sheet – I want to do the exact opposite. In case it’ll help, I have foxit reader so if creating a PDF as an intermediary step is part of the process, that’s not a problem.

      1. Peter Hallman

        It would be helpful if you provided a link with detailed instructions on how to perform the procedure otherwise your answer is without proof or basis and of no use to anyone who has not done the procedure before.


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