Thursday, March 10, 2005

Create Easy PDF's

As much as Autodesk tries to get everyone to jump on the DWF bandwagon, it's just not meeting PDF. I use DWF and I like it. Some of the customers I have that frequently mark up drawings I send them have purchased the DWF Composer and love the mark up capabilities. The rest of my customers use the free viewer that they can download from the Autodesk website.

I've talked to a number of Autodesk clients about why they continue to use PDF and the answer is fairly simple. In most cases their clients have specified that they must provide finished drawings in PDF format. This is written right into the specifications and/or contract. So they are forced to use PDF. Why is this? Because for some time now PDF has been the standard for sharing documents electronically. Virtually everyone has Adobe Acrobat Reader now. And PDF can be plotted fairly easy.

One example that I was given is that Kinko's had large format plotters, but does not have any capability to plot .dwg or .plt files. I did check with Kinko's and found this to be true. So if someone wanted to have an AutoCAD drawing plotted they would have to go to a more expensive plotting service. I've used these services for a couple of years before I had a plotter and still have occasion to use one for a customer who is traveling and needs something plotted remotely. Prices range from $12-20 per sheet if you send a .plt file and can be more if you send the .dwg file and someone has to open it in AutoCAD to plot it. (I guess you're being charged extra since someone has to be trained how to use AutoCAD.)

So, I see the place for PDF in our CAD world. Now the question is, how to get it in PDF format?

Well, what many users seem to do is purchase the full Adobe version which can be a bit pricey.

I've seen Bluebeam advertised on the AUGI website and in AUGIWorld magazine and HotNews, both AUGI publications. The Sept/Oct issue of AUGIWorld contained a feature on Third-Party Applications. You can read that issue here, but you'll need to be an AUGI member. There are other PDF applications out there. Some are free. Since Bluebeam supports AUGI, I chose to support them and try their product.

Bluebeam Review
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with what an easy program this was. I've never really used a PDF program. I have used built-in faxing in which you choose the fax from your printer list. Using Bluebeam was the same. You use your pull-down list of printers and choose it as you would another printer. You are then prompted with a dialog box that is very intuitive should you wish to change options.

Upon installation, you will notice a small toolbar appear in AutoCAD and MS Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel). The toolbar allows you to use other features such as Batch printing to PDF. I have a library of standard details that I'd like to distribute to customers so I'm going to try that one soon. I'll let you know how it works when I do.

I have used the basic PDF printing and it really works great. I can set resolution very fine and have a lot of control. It also works with LT (many applications don't) and supports full and half-size paper which is pretty amazing.

I'm preparing to teach a class next week and am organizing and writing training materials. I normally have several different pieces of material that I like to include in my classes and often times one document gets missed. I think I'm going to test this out by creating one PDF of all my material so only one document will need to be printed. I also could more easily share this document with students.

You can try Bluebeam free for 30 days to see how you like it. So far the customer service staff has been really outstanding too. That's hard to find today.


BrianMyers said...

Bluebeam has a very good product.

Personally I use AcroPlot Pro by CADzation. Its a great program as well for those that like to create PDF drawing sets. We've used it for several thousand drawing sets with no problems.


BethPowell said...


There's a slew of products out there. I have no way of knowing which one is
best and wouldn't be about to try to pick one. Thanks for your comments though.

I have never used .pdf. I just found a new feature today that tickled me.
It's a stapler that allows you to drag all sorts of things into a .pdf and
arrange their order. I just wrote some training material for a customer and
had a number of other resource documents and some .pdf's that I wanted to
include. Rather than opening 8 different files, I was able to combine them all
into one .pdf.

I get excited over the smallest of things!


marco_w_ said...

Instead of using an actual program to get my PDF files I like to use a PDF printer. This can be chosen as plotter/printer in Autocad and every other application that can print.

I have reviewed several utility's that can do the job, and found CutePDF quite suiting for my needs.
FREE for personal and commercial use. No watermarks. No Popup Web Ads. You can find it at

BethPowell said...

Thanks for your recommendation of Cutepdf. I have heard it mentioned in the AUGI forums and seems to have a good following.

I agree that if you're creating .pdf's should be as pain-free as possible. That's one of the things I liked about trying Bluebeam. It is a .pdf writer, or maybe has one built in would be more accurate. When I plot to .pdf in AutoCAD, all I'm doing is selecting a printer. I would assume that all the .pdf programs work the same way, but I don't know that for a fact.


R.K. McSwain said...

I agree with your observations regarding providing what the client wants.

When a client says "send me a PDF", we don't argue with them. It's not our job to promote the DWF format.

On the other hand, if a client were to inquire about the additional functionality that DWF provides, we would have no problem sending them one. But, this has yet to happen.

Tito Maury said...