Skip to main content

How do I create PDF files on UNIX?

PDF files can be created using Acrobat Distiller on the IT Services managed desktop or directly on the UNIX systems. However on UNIX you need to have a postscript .ps version of your file, to start with (you can save as .ps from MS Word). Students should use primrose staff mimosa.

PDF is the Portable-Document-Format, from Adobe. It is used on the web for documents which are long or difficult to convert to web pages.

ps2pdf - the `Acrobat Distiller' work-alike

ps2pdf is a program which comes with the latest (> v5) versions of Aladdin Ghostscript (which we have installed on the ITS UNIX Systems). It works in a similar manner to the `Distiller' component of Acrobat. In summary, it takes a postscript file and `distils' it into a PDF file.

There are some limitations with the ps2pdf command, but which may well not affect you.

The most serious is that text in any font other than the fourteen Adobe base fonts (Courier, Times, and Helvetica families, Symbol, and Zapf Dingbats) is converted to bitmaps. ps2pdf also may convert strings to bitmaps if the string is in one of those base fonts but contains a character that uses a non-standard encoding.

Using ps2pdf is very simple. You just need to run

primrose > ps2pdf input.ps output.pdf

to convert the postscript file input.ps to PDF and put the result in the file output.pdf. It really is that simple. If you just run

primrose > ps2pdf input.ps

then the PDF file will be created as input.pdf, with the same basename and with the extension changed.